Yeah, this is a smart idea: taking a breather from writing about video games to…write about video games. Hear me out though – this rant deviates a bit from my usual ramblings on Retronaissance. While those articles at least pretended to be somewhat professional, you’re going to be dealing with my full gaming id this time around. Not to mention the fact that I’m going to be talking about something that hasn’t even been released yet. This time around, I’m going to going into the things I like about what Nintendo’s revealed about the Switch at their event last month, as well as some doubts I have about it and ways they can avoid these problems in the long run. Of course, releasing this exactly one month before the system releases on a brand-new blog hat few people will likely read isn’t exactly the best way to get this kind of essential information to a big company like Nintendo, but to be honest, I’m mainly writing this for the catharsis.
Accentuate the Portability
Just going to start with something negative, because why not? During the big reveal in January, we finally got our first real look at the Nintendo Switch itself. Based on first impressions, a lot of people made a negative comparison to the Wii U due to the fact that it had a pretty much identical form factor to the Gamepad. However, some time after the event, we got to see the Switch properly scaled against both the Wii U gamepad and the New 3DS XL. People were impressed and it had a positive impact on my perception of the system itself: it was much smaller than people originally figured.
Likewise, it changed a lot of the perception about the Switch in general. Instead of being an underpowered console, figuring out the true size of the device turned it into a super-powered handheld. While Nintendo has been playing things safe when it comes to the Switch, downplaying the portability of the system has been a problem. I understand why they’re taking this strategy: if the Switch underperforms, they want to keep the DS line viable so they could pivot to a new iteration of their dedicated portable. Having said that, I think pitching this thing as a spiritual successor to Sony’s failed portable line would be the best thing for the Switch in the long run.
Steal the Vita’s Strategy
Now onto something a little more constructive. The PlayStation Vita had a weird strategy early on in its lifespan – one I still don’t entirely understand. For whatever reason, the Vita would receive a bunch of ports of major third-party PS3 games either with all of the DLC content included for free (bafflingly at a cheaper price point) or worse still, exclusive content that would never appear on any other platforms. It didn’t make sense back then, effectively scorning Sony’s larger console’s user base and more than likely led to some bad blood with the Vita itself.
Having said that, I’m completely in favor of Nintendo adopting this strategy with the Switch. Technically, we’re already seeing it with the announcement of Disgaea 5 Complete, which contains all of the extra downloadable content that was released on the original PS4 release. But if Nintendo’s going to rely on late ports at all, this is going to have to be a constant. Considering the fact that Nintendo’s already secured timed-exclusivity on the upcoming Specter of Torment expansion for Shovel Knight, this advice may be a bit redundant at this point.
Back to the negatives, might as well get this out of the way. Like the majority of people on the internet, I was pissed about Nintendo’s announcement that it would be charging for online play with the Switch. Granted, I’m not as angry about it as most people, but it’s still pretty terrible. Most assume that the price point will be similar to that of Sony and Microsoft’s online service – $60 a year. Couple that with the admittedly lame offering of a free Virtual Console game per month – and it’s still not clear how long you get to keep said game, whether it’s for just the month, as long as their subscription lasts or indefinitely. Factor in Nintendo’s fairly lackluster online offerings in the past, as well as the confusing nature of their companion app for said online service.
I see two solutions here – and neither of them will probably be comfortable for the Big N. First, and most likely, would be to sell their online at a much cheaper price point than the big boys. I’m talking like $20-$30. This seems more likely just because Nintendo seems to be avoiding direct competition with the other two companies. On the other hand, if Nintendo decides to go with a higher price point, they’ll need to improve on their online bonuses. Sony gives away roughly 6 games a month on PlayStation Plus that you can keep as long as you continue your subscription. Microsoft gives Xbox Live Gold Members 3 games per month permanently. By comparison, a single Virtual Console game seems pretty weak – online multiplayer or not. Ideally, Nintendo will split the difference on both of these suggestions: offering more than just the standard discounts and a single game.
(Psuedo-edit: Looks like Nintendo’s decided to go with Option A. Good show.)
Having gotten my biggest criticism of the Switch out of the way, let’s go back to something positive. This might be controversial, but I don’t care: I think the Switch’s launch strategy is good. One thing most people seem to forget about the Wii U is that it probably had the best system launch library since the Sega Dreamcast. That’s an intentional comparison: both systems had relatively-similar fates. What killed the Wii U was the post-launch drought that crippled its growth for roughly a year since its initial release. If the price we have to pay for a gradual but constant support for the foreseeable future is a relatively weak launch-day lineup – which, mind you, includes Breath of the Wild, which could have probably have sold the Switch alone – I’m more than willing to pay the price.
That image I posted above shows off everything that has been announced for the Switch thus far. Nintendo’s done a damn fine job making sure that there are major releases scheduled for pretty much every quarter of 2017 – and that’s not even including games set to release in 2017 that currently lack release windows. Nintendo has said that they’ve learned from the mistakes they made with the Wii U and the Switch’s announced line-up tells me that they definitely learned to compensate for one of the Wii U’s major Achilles’ heels.
One of the recurring rumors that everyone took as gospel before the big Switch reveal event in January was that the system would be home to several enhanced ports of Wii U games, as a way to both bolster the Switch’s launch library and reintroduce some of the quality titles that people may have missed out on, due to the Wii U’s poor sales. The only one that actually ended up being real was Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which is also improving the Battle Mode and adding 5 new characters.
Admittedly, I had mixed feelings about these rumors: I liked the concept of re-releasing Wii U games that people had missed out on, but the choices the rumors suggested didn’t really excite me. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U with additional characters and the exclusive content from the 3DS version seemed like a pretty decent concept, if only for the fact that it would create a definitive version of the game. But Splatoon and Super Mario Maker? I’d rather just have sequels.
Having said that, I’m completely in favor of some unlisted games being ported to the Switch: specifically Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. It was a good game that was ironically marred by the Wii U’s gimmick: players had the choice of working blind while enjoying the visuals on TV, dealing with lower-quality visuals while totally being able to see their stylus in action or constantly looking up and down, which definitely works a lot better something like the 3DS. A Rainbow Curse remaster with the ability to choose between playing the game as intended on the Switch’s touchscreen or playing it on your TV using the JoyCon’s motion control would be a freaking boon to me. Alas, I think this concept is a lost cause.
Speaking of re-releases, I’m going to go a little bit off-topic here: railing against Nintendo as a whole instead of strictly giving suggestions for the Switch. I fucking hate the way that the Big N has been handling their Virtual Console releases, especially every time the service is relaunched on a new platform. Every single time, they start with the same assortment of anemic “launch titles” – I swear, if they start with just the original Super Mario Bros. one more time, I’m going to scream. Nintendo recently got a bunch of games re-rated by the ESRB for the NES Classic Edition, so those had better be on any Virtual Console launch line-up.
I mean, I understand why Nintendo has to start from scratch: the ESRB necessitates a new rating every single time a game is re-released on any new platform, regardless of how recently its previous release was. I mean, I’d just allow for a cheap, expedited re-rate system for that kind of thing in general, but that’s a rant for another day. There is one thing that Nintendo can’t be absolved for and it’s the fact that normally, after a few solid months, Virtual Console output slows to a trickle. Granted, said trickle is that of molasses in January, which makes things especially hard. I guess Nintendo’s logic is that they don’t want to devalue big releases, but the Virtual Console should be viewed as an asset, not a failing. There should be at least one major Virtual Console release – and when I say major, I mean something big and something we haven’t seen re-released a thousand times before on earlier platforms – every single month of the year, and smaller releases shouldn’t scare Nintendo as much as they have in previous generations. The point of the Virtual Console should be to keep any and all perceived dry periods to a minimum, so start building a decent roster of re-releases now. The fact that Nintendo of America didn’t focus on VC entirely during their dry Summer periods is an abomination in its own right. So this time around, work to make a Summer of Virtual Console that never ends!
(Slightly off-topic: put DS games on the 3DS eShop. I fucking hate the concept of playing DS games on the Wii U, whether it’s both screens on the gamepad or split between TV and gamepad – which I’d like to reiterate, is moronic. And if you decide to put them on Switch, try to aim for a 2DS form factor with any dual-screen VC titles. That’s just the smart way to lay things out.)
It’s the Exclusives, Stupid!
If there’s anything I’d like to make clear to Nintendo, if one statement in this entire rant doesn’t get lost to the ether, it would have to be this: when it comes to third-party development, focus way less on getting late ports and focus more on securing exclusive titles. Actual exclusives. Not “first on Switch” exclusives. Not the aforementioned Vita strategy of getting exclusive content on Switch. I mean “this game would literally not exist if not for Nintendo’s involvement” level of exclusivity. One of the biggest draws the Wii U had during its entire lifespan was Bayonetta 2. Zombi U was considered one of the most impressive titles in the Wii U’s launch library. Granted, that hit PC and other systems last year, but they had to drop the unique touch-screen mechanics which makes me wonder what the point was. Then you’ve got Pokken Tournament and The Wonderful 101: games developed by industry powerhouses Bandai Namco and Platinum Games exclusively for the Wii U. These were the games that captured my imagination, not a re-release of Arkham City with weird touch-screen functionality thrown in. And don’t get me started on what happened with Injustice: Gods Among Us.
Gamers like the Wii for No More Heroes, not Call of Duty with waggle. The few people who liked the Wii U liked it for stuff like Hyrule Warriors, not Madden NFL ’13 with touch screen controls. If you want people to buy the Switch, you need way more stuff like the form and less stuff like “FIFA for Switch”, which appears to be based on the 360/PS3 versions of the latest game, which are still inexplicably being made. It’s time to dig deep into your war chest and secure some major exclusives that are going to make every snide arrogant hardcore gamer simultaneously jizz themselves, cry about how the game of their dreams is tied to “Nintendo’s latest babby console for big dumb babbys” and shell out three-hundo to show the world that they too are a stupid babby. I cannot understate the importance of this – choose your exclusives strategically, choose stuff that Sony’s too arrogant and Microsoft’s too stupid to pick up, but clearly have dedicated niche fanbases. Just do it. The fact that you’ve secured a third No More Heroes game has already secured my loyalty for the time being, but don’t rest on your laurels. I get that you’re going for the “secondary console” strategy – don’t get me wrong, it’s a smart strategy – but in order to achieve this, you’re going to have to make your system indispensable, and unfortunately, your solid first-party line-up just isn’t enough to solidify this position. Say it with me now: “it’s the exclusives, stupid.”
And with that, I think I’ve gotten pretty much everything I have to say about Nintendo out of the way. Of course, I like Nintendo, so there have been kid gloves. If I remember anything I may have missed, expect a follow-up. I’m planning on doing hitpieces on both Sony and Microsoft, though since I’ve missed the PS4 Pro release by a wide margin, Sony will be coming a little later. As for Microsoft, I’m going to wait and see how the Scorpio reveal goes. Unless it’s amazing, I’m planning on tearing into Microsoft big-time, which is kind of ironic – given the fact that I hate Sony the most of the three.