Nintendo Switch: Highs & Lows

Last night Nintendo showed off their brand new console, the Nintendo Switch, at a glitzy live press conference in Japan. Streamed worldwide, it was an opportunity to display the hardware and show off the launch lineup for the console launching in just less than two months.

Super Mario Odyssey

As a longtime Nintendo fan, I was positively thrilled to see 3D Mario return to his exploration based platforming, a brand new Splatoon 2, and another look at the beast that is Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild. And yet, despite all that, there are some troubling signs for the new console that came out of last night’s conference.

Expensive Extras

The Nintendo Switch retails for $300 in the US, and I would argue it’s a fair value for what the unit offers (console gaming on the go), but looking a little deeper, that price tag starts to tick up. The unit only includes 32GB of storage, which means if you decide to buy Zelda digitally (13.4GB), literally over a third of your storage is gone on day one. The console supports Micro SD so that will cost you $40 for 128GB. Adding to the costs, Nintendo announced their previously free online service for games like Splatoon and Mario Kart will be a paid ecosystem, which has yet to be priced.

$80 for an extra set of Joycons

Accessories prove to be even more expensive as Pro controllers retail at $70, and an extra set of Joycons at $80. That’s prohibitively expensive for a console touting itself as multiplayer friendly.

Even more, an extra Switch dock costs a ludicrously high $90. Mind you the dock isn’t the console, it’s a plastic HDMI-out.

Nintendo can’t afford to be perceived as an expensive gaming option. As the PS4 and Xbox One hit their stride three years into their lifespan with a large catalogue of games, Nintendo needs competitive pricing to earn itself a spot on gamers shelves. $300 for the Switch is reasonable, but with hidden storage costs, prohibitively expensive controllers, and new online subscription rates, it may be a paywall too high for consumers, especially in a crowded console market.

Confusing Game Announcements

With the Switch launching on March 3rd, Nintendo needed to definitively tell gamers what they would be playing alongside the console release, but during the presentation we were shown a collection of game trailers with no clear list of what was available on day one. Additionally, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, was notably absent from the conference despite having a new battle mode and new characters.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and a concrete launch lineup were strangely omitted from the Switch conference.

The launch lineup and a trailer for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was eventually posted after the event, but it was a move that left gamers scattered and confused across multiple media sites wondering what exactly they would be playing early March and beyond. This, coupled with an anaemic third party showing of games, Nintendo seemingly has a lot of work to do to signal to consumers and developers alike that the Switch is a worthy investment.

Low Battery Life

Nintendo’s first reveal of the Switch back in October showcased the main hook of the system. Play a console game and take it wherever you go. That’s quite the enticing pitch if the battery can keep up with long play sessions, but last night, Nintendo detailed the Switch’s battery life at a laughably vague 2.5–6 hours, with Zelda supposedly lasting three hours on a charge.

Console gaming on the go sounds great if the battery can support it.

There are many factors that create variable battery performance such as brightness and WiFi use, but sub three-hour battery life included in the range proves worrisome for a machine designed to be grabbed from the TV and out the door on a whim. If there is any consolation about charging, the Switch’s USB-C port is a welcome addition considering Nintendo’s historically proprietary charging solutions for hardware devices.

In Summation

The Nintendo Switch press conference last night encompassed both exciting and perplexing announcements.

Splatoon 2

Games like Zelda Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Splatoon 2 grabbed my attention and my preorder, but the company needs to prove to the industry and consumers alike that this is a console not just for Nintendo fans.

Unusually expensive controllers, a less than concise initial launch lineup pitch, and a concerning battery life all stand in-between mass market buyers and the Switch in an already competitive console market. Despite all these concerns, will Nintendo’s efforts convince busy consumers to make the switch? I certainly hope so, but only time will tell.