On January 13, Nintendo streamed a live event for its Switch console / handheld-hybrid. The presentation, which was beamed out of Japan, answered every question we had about the Switch, its games, and its online capabilities. Everyone who viewed the presentation came away completely reassured about the system's prospects and future.
Just kidding. The Switch's reveal event actually caused huge fissures to spider out across the industry. Opinions on the Switch range from "This is surely the end of Nintendo" to "Hey, this is a great idea." Even USgamer's small staff has very different takeaways about what we saw last week. But I guess if Nintendo gave us a straight presentation that satisfactorily answered all our questions and left us with few doubts, it wouldn't be Nintendo.
I attended the Switch reveal and hands-on in New York City alongside esteemed ex-parrot Jeremy Parish, so I was up close and personal with Nintendo's brave little toaster. The system itself feels good -- like a confident, solid piece as opposed to the Wii U's wishy-washy compromise between a console and a cheap plastic tablet.
Like most of planet earth, however, I left the event feeling happy (I didn't think I could become more stoked for Breath of the Wild, but here I am) but also a little confused and unsure. The Switch's sustained health has some road blocks that, while not insurmountable, are very significant.
Unlike Kat, though, I don't think the Switch's seeming lack of games is an issue. At Nintendo's Switch event, I went hands-on with lots of great games, and I was even surprised at how much fun I had with "gimmicky" titles like Arms. The room was buzzing with people having a good time with the likes of Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and a few third-party offerings like Sonic Mania and Ultra Street Fighter 2.
The Switch's first-year library (which undoubtedly has some yet-unannounced surprises) is bookended by two behemoths: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Super Mario Odyssey. Zelda will hype up the early adopters, and Mario's familiar face will draw in long-time Nintendo fans and younger players just in time for the holiday season. For a first-year line-up, the Switch could certainly do worse. Other Nintendo consoles and handhelds have done worse.
In my eyes, the Switch's biggest problems are its price and the distribution methods for the system's "showcase" games. First, the price: $299 USD. That's not cheap. Worse, that price soars like a Parakoopa on amphetamines outside of US borders. The Switch is £279.99 in the UK, and $399 in Canada. Those prices don't include taxes. They also don't include a game, or an extra Joy-Con controller unit (you'll need to pony up $79.99 USD for another pair), or a Pro Controller ($69.99 USD).
The Switch's price would make a little more sense if it had a pack-in game, even its 1-2-Switch mini-game collection. In fact, while 1-2-Switch offers up some goofy fun, I can't see it becoming the Wii Sports-sized hit Nintendo obviously hopes it'll be. The Wii became a phenomenon thanks to a perfect storm of good advertising ("Wii would like to play"), an interesting gimmick, and, ironically, a devastating recession that saw people buy affordable game consoles in lieu of family trips and other expensive treats. To buy into Wii Sports was to automatically buy into Wii, and vice-versa. Sure, Wii Sports was a glorified tech demo, but it was also a great ice breaker. At $250 USD, a Wii and a bundled copy of Wii Sports was not a regrettable impulse buy.
$299 USD for Switch, though, plus $40 USD for 1-2-Switch? Ehhhhhh. 1-2-Switch isn't likely to be a big seller amongst hardcore Nintendo fans, and a combined $350 is probably too steep for someone who just wants to show a cool party trick to grandma.
In a beautiful world, the Switch would be packed with 1-2 Switch and Arms (and in a perfect world Nintendo wouldn't even attempt to re-capture the glory days of waggle, but if wishes were horses, beggars would ride). Unfortunately, we live on a flawed planet where a charming, unique video game company named "Nintendo" has a subconscious yearning to learn lessons the hard way.
From this angle, the Switch is shaping up to be the Nintendo 3DS 2.0, both in function and legacy. Its launch lineup isn't fantastic, but its launch window is strong. Third parties appear to be on the fence, but they're by no means out. The system's most worrying aspect is far and away its price, and that's something Nintendo can fix. It's something it should fix, unless it's only concerned about the Switch's user base in Japan and the United States for some nutty reason.
Nintendo will loathe cutting the Switch's price, but it'll shave it to the bone before it lets the system tank (unlike Sony and the Vita, it won't just shrug and turn its attentions elsewhere. It doesn't have that option). The good news is, a price cut and / or a pack-in bundle will be a big comfort to the Switch's doubters. Its games are good, and the system is a long way from being irredeemable.
It's just unfortunate Nintendo will probably wind up cutting the price shortly after launch instead of before. If you're a Nintendo fan who already has "3DS Ambassador" on your résumé, get ready to write "Switch Ambassador" right below it.