The 90’s were a time when you really had to nail your colours to the mast as far as console hardware went. Sony had yet to come along and make gaming an acceptable pastime for anybody above the age of 14 so the school yard featured kids who either had a Nintendo or a Sega machine underneath their fourteen inch TV. Anybody lucky (or rich enough) to get both certainly didn’t exist where I was from. From the Christmas when I received a NES bundled with Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles I was always on the side of Mario. The change in recent years however is that Nintendo’s console of the time is never my ‘main’ one. When I had a Xbox 360 there was a Wii beside it. Having a Ps4 now means the WiiU is still under the TV. Since the battle lines shifted from Nintendo and Sega to Sony and Microsoft it’s become clear that Nintendo don’t see themselves involved in direct competition anymore. As a company they’re happy to remain to the side and innovate on their own terms. It’s a feeling that permeated the recent presentation of the new Switch console.
I liked the WiiU. It probably had more playtime in my house than my Wii ever did. It dropped the continual need for motion control and instead started to look more like a Nintendo console of old again. Sadly, I seem to be very much in the minority for this. The Wii sold around 100 million units in its lifetime, the WiiU in comparison has only just about made it to the 13 million mark. There was certainly something to be said for grandmothers the world over waggling what looked like a TV remote about as they played tennis. With the Switch just around the corner Nintendo have something of a mountain to climb again. Whilst I want Nintendo to succeed I find myself looking on with a feeling that Nintendo’s ignorance of certain aspects may cost them. When Nintendo innovate for the better then other companies tend to copy them. When other companies push things forward though it’s often Nintendo that tend to be languishing behind. If they cannot ‘Nintendo’ an idea then they don’t really see it as worth doing.
Firstly Nintendo make reference to their online service which will become subscription based in the near future. This isn’t a radical move, Microsoft have always had a subscription based model for Xbox Live and Sony have slowly got Playstation Plus as the main method for their network. The benefits or paying your way in both of these services are discounts on downloadable games, access to multiplayer and free games each month. Nintendo have been remarkably coy about any details regarding what’s planned once their network starts charging. Despite having far more games at their fingertips than both Microsoft and Sony put together we’ve been told that you’ll be able to ‘borrow’ one Virtual Console title a month before you have to give it up. It seems incredibly half baked compared to what else is out on the market, almost as if Nintendo wants to guard the very thing that would probably get people to sign up in droves. Rather than releasing one retro game every week or so like the Virtual Console offerings on the Wii and and WiiU surely it would make more sense to give paying customers access to that back catalogue on demand? Imagine having a catalogue of Mega Drive, Master System, NES, SNES, N64, Gamecube and Wii titles available to play when you wished either at home or on the move. For whatever reason Nintendo seem happy to keep their back catalogue under lock and key.
Breath Of The Wild seems to have a lot of expectations riding on it as it’s really the only big hitter in the Switch’s launch library. It does look fantastic, pushing the series into vast open world territory, but development started on the WiiU to the point where Nintendo are still releasing a version for the older console. Apart from the ability to play it on the bus, how different will the Switch version be to warrant players buying the hardware for that version instead?
1-2 Switch appears to be the similar to Wii Sports in that it features a collection of mini games designed to show off what the system can do and bring players in who may not have tried any kind of game before. Wii Sports however was bundled with the console whilst 1-2 Switch is looking like being an entirely separate package costing around £35 here in the UK. Is this a price worth paying for the chance to look somebody straight in the eye whilst you both pretend to milk a cow?
Splatoon 2 is the sequel to one of the genuine surprises over the WiiU’s lifespan. Nintendo’s take on the first person shooter genre certainly had many fans and I’m hopeful that they can carry over to the new hardware. The demonstration of Splatoon 2 being played not only online but over a local network with Switch units linked together looked really good. It’s certainly Nintendo giving the player options to remain in the same room. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Edition looks like a smoother version of what came before on the WiiU. MK8 is a fantastic racing game and it’s wonderfully fun in multiplayer but I’d still question what exactly would make this so different to warrant another £50 purchase.
Part of the problem Nintendo had with the Wii and WiiU was the lack of third party support for the system. Many of the bigger publishers simply stayed away due to the lack of power in the hardware and (in the WiiU’s case) the dwindling user base. Electronic Arts have said that FIFA will be coming to the Switch though. It’s a big grab for Nintendo but it relies on the fact that, if you’re a fan of one of the biggest sports games in the world, you haven’t already got it on PS4 or Xbox One. Taking your Ultimate Team out on the road has to be the major selling point here. Bethesda were also at the presentation saying that Skyrim is on the way. Whilst Skyrim is brilliant I’ve already finished it back on my 360 and have the HD remaster on my Ps4. It’s not the reason I’ll be buying a Switch.
Today a story has broken that the Switch won’t support Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube or Hulu. It seems to be a backward step especially as Netflix and Amazon Prime have the ability to download shows for offline viewing later. With the size of screen on the Switch pad would loading up a few episodes of a show or a film for viewing on the morning commute not make sense? Whilst Sony and Microsoft have made efforts to make sure their machines are multimedia devices Nintendo remain rigid in the Switch being a games machine only.
I’ve probably railed enough about the company that introduced me to the joy of video games to start with. I’m still keeping my WiiU, I love playing Mario Kart, tearing apart levels in Super Mario Maker and wandering Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda. I really want the Switch to provide a complete jolt to the industry and be a marvelous success despite all the points above going against it. I recall people snorting in derision back in 2004 when the DS was announced as they wondered why touchscreens were needed. I also have a memory of the same thing happening with the Wii as nobody thought motion control would ever be anywhere near a best seller. Sony gave us Playstation Move in response, Microsoft ditched the controller altogether yet only Nintendo truly made a go of the hardware. When Nintendo gets it right and it all comes together then they are truly one of the best games developers in the world. I just hope the Switch can provide me with the same buzz I had from plugging in my NES for the first time all those years ago.