Nintendo Switch: Six Months of Patronizing Consumers

It’s been just over six months since the Nintendo Switch released, and a couple of days after Nintendo’s most recent Direct featuring the latest flagship console and its games. Yet, even after several Directs featuring the console and its games, it feels like it’s falling flat.

Direct Breakdown

Since the announcement of the Switch, there have been 16 other Directs as of this writing. Granted, some focused entirely on 3DS releases. Still, that number dwarfs Microsoft and Sony’s press conferences featuring games for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Nintendo prefers the Direct format to the traditional press conference that Sony and Microsoft usually hold at E3 and other large events. Not only does it break up information into manageable bites, but it allows consumers to see what updates they have more often than they would otherwise.

And yet, despite the sheer minutes that Nintendo has packed into teasing games for the Switch, it feels lackluster. There’s no appeal to get a Nintendo Switch. There’s no fear of missing out on games that they’ve promised. This is, of course, leaving out hypothetical games. Of course Nintendo will use its larger franchises to push console sales in the middle of its cycle. Sure, games we’re waiting for will be announced, likely with special edition consoles and collector goodies. But what about now?

nintendo switch
via Thumbstick

It’s been six months.

Six months out from the console’s release, there is no compelling reason to buy a Nintendo Switch. That’s just the issue. There are no compelling games. No one actually wants to play games made in RPG Maker on Nintendo’s latest flagship console. In fact, I would argue that even larger titles, like Wolfenstein: The New Colossus and DOOM, launching on the Switch in 2018 and during the winter, respectively, aren’t compelling enough.

Why? Well, the Nintendo Switch is a gaming tablet with something resembling a full controller. If you’re in it for the pure graphics processing power, any gaming computer built recently will run DOOM. The same goes for Wolfenstein. Sure, the Switch will be able to run them, but it’s like comparing the 3DS’s graphics quality to an Ouya. Which, you know, died. A very long time ago. Sure, the Switch is HD, but it doesn’t hold up to something that graphically intensive games were already built for. Breath of the Wild, a game specifically designed for the Switch’s hardware, gets framey at times.

doom comparison
A comparison shot between the PS4 and Nintendo Switch. (via Gamepur)

It’s not going to be relevant.

Why play Wolfenstein when it launches in October when you can wait until it launches on the Switch, months later? Oh, and DOOM? If you haven’t gotten around to it, the Switch release probably won’t push you over that edge. Don’t mention Skyrim, that’s going to be running on DSLRs in three years.

Nintendo’s three hard-hitting releases from Wednesday’s Direct were all misses. By the time they release, they’re not going to be relevant. DOOM and Skyrim have already been glossed over after their Game of the Year spotlight, and Wolfenstein is due for it after this year.

This isn’t to say that all games are destined to fade into obscurity. It’s just that generally, games lose their relevancy. And trying to revive games that aren’t relevant, while it’s a noble effort, doesn’t always help them.

Above: An interactive Google Trends chart depicting search activity for “doom 2016” and its falloff after December 31, 2016.

Promising, but not Delivering

In the case of DOOM, specifically, Nintendo promised robust multiplayer between Switch consoles. I find the claim empty. The Switch has issues with Internet connectivity, is limited in the types of networks it can connect to, the security protocols it can process, and it still uses friend codes.

I might be overextending here, but multiplayer isn’t anything Nintendo should be promising unless it’s local and accessible. They simply don’t have the hardware to back it up.

Further, Nintendo doesn’t have the games to back it up. The games planned for the Switch from launch up until 2018 seem to pale in comparison to things that Sony had lined up, or at least teased in the PlayStation 4’s infancy. Even if Sony didn’t entirely deliver, at least the games were new.

Read the Room

Um, Nintendo? It’s me. You were my introduction to console gaming. And that’s great! However, I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of emotional labor lately. I remember a lot of the good times we had, you being a presence that watched over me as I walked through the electronics section of Target. You indirectly got me into coding and tinkering with computers, so that’s great. But now? I feel like you’ve changed. I feel like you haven’t paid attention to my desires. And while I want us to stay together, I just don’t see this working out.

Or, that’s what I would write in my breakup letter to Nintendo. Frankly, the Switch is a lukewarm sell. I only feel like I’m missing out because I feel like one of the only people I know who doesn’t have one. Not because of any exclusive games, but just because they’re everywhere. To the advertising team’s credit, they did a great job.

But, as I likened in a tweet, Nintendo is just pedaling snake oil at this point. There’s no real reason for the Switch. It’s fancy and new, sure. HD Rumble is at least interesting. It’s cool to have one. But the fact of the matter is, it has no games that I want, far less exclusives that sell the console. The target audience Nintendo looks like they’re going for is satisfied, but just because it’s a new Nintendo thing.

Fancy technical details (on a gaming tablet with controllers) aren’t a hard sell. Stacking a six-month-old console’s release calendar with 25 RPGs and 49 platformers (okay, yikes) isn’t a hard sell. Giving the indie market more of an ability to be seen and to publish games? That’s cool, but again, not a hard sell. I’d argue that it’s unique to the Switch, but Microsoft did it with Xbox last year. Steam, though not the best example, has been doing it since 2012. Nintendo isn’t ahead of the curve here.

nintendo indies 2017
A smattering of Nintendo’s first indie games, from February 2017.

Missing the Mark

On top of graphical concerns, Internet connectivity issues, and not having a compelling games library, the Switch has had plenty of screen time to get it right. Nintendo has had plenty of opportunities to convince people to get on board with this thing. And every time, they’ve fallen short.

Well, what do you want to see?”

I don’t know.

If you asked me right before E3, I wouldn’t hesitate to say Animal Crossing. I know it’s going to happen, eventually. Today would actually be perfect since it’s the franchise’s 15th anniversary. But as much as it would sell me on a Switch, I know Nintendo is biding their time. It’s too large of a market to ignore with the success of New Leaf. Ask me now and I’d say that I want to see acknowledgement of any other Nintendo IP than Mario, Zelda, and Kirby.

The Nintendo Switch is a perfect chance to rein in the GameCube audience that grew up and can afford things for themselves now (mostly). It’s the perfect opportunity to revive old franchises like Golden Sun and, yes, Mother, by reinventing them the way they did The Legend of Zelda.

What bothers me the most about the Switch’s first six months is that not only did Nintendo take a piece of criticism about the Wii U too far by oversaturating their console with, essentially, shovelware, but the air about the Switch’s release feels cold. It doesn’t feel like Nintendo really cares. It feels like they’re trying to throw anything at the wall to see what sticks. Maybe some things are sticking, and I can’t see that. The Nintendo Switch’s launch feels improper, unplanned, and most of all, patronizing.

Yes, you’ll buy this because you’re a Nintendo fan, aren’t you? If you have the Nintendo Switch, you’ll be a good Nintendo fan. Everyone loves Nintendo fans, and everyone loves Nintendo. Don’t you?


Cover image via Toon Barn.

Leave a Reply