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I'm going to come right out and say it: I have a weakness for new Nintendo consoles. Even in their darkest moments, I always feel like they can turn it around. Sometimes I'm right.
That I'm already speaking in these terms in a column about the Switch speaks to how much the narrative around the system has turned. The news in the wake of last week's event has mostly been bad: The battery life is too short, the storage is too small, the online subscription plan doesn't offer enough bang for the buck. I wrote that the Switch's presentation was pretty much the worst case scenario for the system in light of its weak launch, higher-than-expected price, and odd messaging (a Wii redux?)
But do I think that the Switch is sunk? Absolutely not.
When I talked about how the Switch can keep its momentum in last week's column, I wrote, "Happily for Nintendo, the Switch has a much more compelling hook than the Wii U. Its utility as a hybrid console is immediately apparent, and rumors of games like Pokemon Stars has only bolstered its appeal. Where the Wii U launched to little enthusiasm, the Switch's launch figures to mirror the ongoing bedlam surrounding the NES Classic (for better or worse). All Nintendo really has to do is not screw it up."
Many would argue that Nintendo has in fact screwed it up. But in taking stock of the year ahead for the Switch, it's already apparent that it's in a much stronger position than either the 3DS or the Wii U during their respective launches. Cast your mind back to 2011 and recall that the 3DS had no true killer first-party games at launch. Pilotwings Resort, the forgettable Steel Diver, and Nintendogs + Cats were all it had besides a surfeit of ports like Super Street Fighter IV, The Sims 3, and one truly horrendous version of Madden NFL. The Wii U, meanwhile, had a number of credible triple-A releases including Arkham City, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Darksiders 2, Madden 13 (albeit without that version's physics system), and Assassin's Creed 3, but little in the way of support from Nintendo itself outside of New Super Mario Bros. U—what I would call a second-tier Mario series (though still good).
The Switch, for its part, is the diametric opposite of those two systems. Instead of focusing on triple-A third-party releases, Nintendo is bringing out top-tier versions of Zelda, Mario, and (hopefully) Pokemon. This is almost certainly the right move for a platform that relies more than ever on the appeal of Nintendo's first-party games.
At this point I'm sure you're saying to yourself, "C'mon Kat, you were just harping on Nintendo's lack of third-party support. You said it was even more important than having Zelda right at launch." But if you'll recall, I also said, "As long as it launches in 2017." Nintendo absolutely needs strong first-party franchises within the first few months of the Switch's launch—something the Wii U lacked for quite a while.
Moreover, third-party development won't do you any good if there's an initial burst at launch and nothing afterward. Nintendo consoles are known for their long content gaps in part because the third-party games dry up almost immediately after launch. What's needed is a sign that the Switch is a sustainable platform so that developers are more inclined to develop for it. A robust first-party offering at the outset, including system sellers like Zelda and Mario, will hopefully give the Switch the install base it needs to compete.
And if it doesn't work? If Switch sales prove just as sluggish as the Wii U? Well, we've seen how Nintendo reacts when its back is truly against the wall. Faced with the prospect of the 3DS not being able to compete in the new mobile market, Nintendo moved aggressively to slash its price while mollifying early adopters with an Ambassador Program consisting of a host of free virtual console games, a number of which were never again released on the 3DS. With Nintendo's presence in the home console market likely hinging on the Switch's success, they are unlikely to be as sluggish as they were with the Wii U.
But going beyond Nintendo's sales strategies, the Switch just strikes me as a console I want to own. I love the idea of being able to curl up before bed with Mario Odyssey or an interesting indie. It's the kind of console that I would happily take with me on a long trip; and when Smash Bros. eventually comes out, it'll be nice to be able to easily haul it over to a friend's house for some matches. I also happen to think that the Switch is the system that hardcore Japanese game development will ultimately adopt. As Jeremy wrote last week, "The Switch isn't for everyone, but's definitely for me."
With the Switch, Nintendo is also in its comfort zone. It will allow Nintendo to put out weird, quirky games and system sellers in equal measure. It will serve as a console home for Pokemon and Monster Hunter It will be different; and in an ever more crowded market, that's a good thing. Nintendo just needs the games. Hopefully the first-party titles released in the first year will set the stage in that regard.
But even more than all that, sometimes you just look at something and think, "I want that." I never really felt that with the Wii U, which struggled to sell itself from the outset with its clumsy second-screen gimmick. I don't feel that with the Switch. Its drawbacks may well end up outweighing its benefits; but for now, I think the fundamentally strong concept behind the Switch will end up winning out. That more than anything gives me hope for the future.
Next Page: Thoughts on the Switch's prohibitively expensive accessories, Ninja Gaiden's whereabouts, Sonic Mania, Farming Simulator, and more.