Tom Morris has his say on the divisive Nintendo Switch Conference.
Nintendo fans have been watching cringe-worthy conferences for years, every single one searing a fresh wound. 2008: Wii Music sees a “band” waggle Wiimotes for a few minutes, to an audience hoping for something that might actually improve on Wii Sports. 2009: someone who has never played Mario before is now in head of marketing, and utterly fails to demonstrate the new Mario. 2011: the great prototype moniker Project Café was given the release name of WiiU, and we knew right then that a name like that wouldn’t sell. The company itself sits inside this bizarre bubble of flawed lateral thinking, from outside of which Western gamers stare in aghast at what is going on, but willing to ignore the streams of ridiculousness to hope the next Zelda will be good at least.
The problem is, of course, that the next Zelda is always good. That alone plants in even the most moderate fan’s mind the miniscule thought of shelling out for another $300 toaster- that will see only one or two other half decent games grace its disc slot before it gathers dust forever more.
There had been promising noises coming from Nintendo HQ, including that Switch was thought up by younger developers who would have learned the industry from being a games consumer rather than their own innovations over the years. Now, that optimism seems a little foolish- who in their right mind is going to pay Nintendo, who have a track record of awful online play, for use of their online services? Imagine: six months after the release of Mariokart 8 Deluxe, the few people who did buy it (probably people who never got a WiiU) quite fancy popping on for an online race now and again, but when they have to pay for a month of online to do it, it’s not worth bothering. Anybody who buys a copy later on finds the servers empty.
Just about anything Nintendo gets up to nowadays looks like nothing more than a blatant cash grab- how long can fans sustain this indefinite exploitation? Furthermore why do it, when your company has about twenty years’ worth of spare funds left over from the Wii and DS, as well as some of the world’s best loved gaming IPs (see: the popularity of Pokemon Go and Super Mario Run)? Apart from paid online; Nintendo are still pushing Amiibo as if they’re anything other than a toy that locks up content of a game the player already paid for; two launch titles look like simple minigames which they’ll flog for £50 each; even the double release of Zelda: Breath of the Wild seems like theft of a title which was due to be WiiU exclusive.
I hate to sound so cynical, but the fact of the matter is Nintendo has tried their luck one too many times. The trailers for Zelda: Breath of the Wild continually knock my socks off, and I’d be lying if I said the Super Mario Odyssey trailer didn’t make me raise an eyebrow or three. I don’t want to have to buy the Switch because it mainly looks like a hunk of junk- but if playing Breath of the Wild on WiiU means playing an inferior version, I’ll definitely have to reconsider. Why doesn’t Nintendo go third party, I wonder- but then read the last sentence again and there is the answer
What might get punters to buy a Switch? I think what Nintendo is banking on is simple: it’s going to replace the WiiU, yes, but also the 3DS (probably). It’s (battery pending) both a handheld and a console. The line-up of series that found a place on the Game Boy and DS lines stretches far into the sunset: RPGs like Dragon Quest and Fire Emblem, story based games like Ace Attorney, puzzlers like Professor Layton and Picross, and weird games like WarioWare and Rhythm Heaven. I’d like to see these kinds of games keep coming out in the future, but there are obstacles: for many developers now it’s simply going to be more profitable to release them on iOS and Android, and also as the Switch is now a high powered console as well as a flimsy handheld, development costs will soar. As to whether this trump card aspect of the Switch will make it sell, it remains to be seen.