My Second-First Impression of the Nintendo Switch

My Second-First Impression of the Nintendo Switch

A little frayed around the edges, for sure.

pocru by pocru on Jan 20, 2017 @ 01:24 PM (Staff Bios)
I already did a first impressions article about the Switch, but that was months ago, when we only had the most basic knowledge of what the Switch actually was, thanks to that masterfully-made trailer Nintendo put out. But last week, we got more than a second look: we actually got to see some of the hardware, the software that would run on it, the price, the specs… everything you need to be an informed buyer. So while that may have been my technical first impression, this is more like a ‘true’ first impression, of the console in fact as opposed to in theory.

I mean, I guess we could just call it a second impression… which saves time, so… that’s what we’ll opt for.


Anyway. I know this is a bit late, and that other people have already thrown in their two cents on the Switch, but heck, one more voice in the cacophony of wails can’t hurt, and I’d like to take a look not just at the console itself, but why it seems to be doing so well despite its many, many flaws.

Spoiler alert, I guess.

So let’s get down to it. To quickly review: the main console is a 6.2-inch 1,280 x 720-pixel touchscreen, controlled by two detachable Joy-Con controllers that dock to either side. It enjoys anywhere between 2.5 and 6 hours of battery life, depending on what you’re using it for. The console can be docked, and then played on a TV. Joy-Cons instead connect to Joy-Con Grip for wireless play, but that does not charge them: you need to buy a separate charge station for that. Joy-Cons can also be used separately for two-player play, as we saw in the trailer, although up to eight consoles can connect to each other wirelessly for local play. There’s only 32 GB of internal memory, and you need to buy memory cards yourself to expand that capacity. And, last but not least, you’ll have to pay a 5-buck subscription fee to play online, which comes with a free Virtual Console game every month, but you don’t get to keep it.

Initial thoughts? Not great.

  • Perfect for traveling
  • Great focus on local multiplayer, something the industry has been neglecting
  • Looks to have a good, albeit small selection of games
  • Nintendo promises 60 fps gameplay (but not for Zelda)
The thing with the Switch is that for however many cons it may have, the pros that it enjoys are so massive that they nearly balance the scales. The fact that the console is so mobile, and can connect wirelessly to other units, really makes it a must-have console if you’ve got a group of gamer friends. Have you tried dragging a PS4 or, god forbid, a PC to a friend’s house? It simply doesn’t happen. But the Switch’s ability to be taken on the go, and with that extra focus on local co-op, means I could really see the Switch being turned on every time there’s a social event or a shindig. Additionally, the games look great: Super Mario Odyssey looks fun, even if it’s a little too similar to Sonic 2016, and of course, The Legend of Zenda: The Breath of the Wild looks good enough to move consoles alone.


That said…

  • Not great battery life
  • Low resolution/graphics compared to competition
  • Surprisingly expensive
  • Online services are poorly incentivized
  • No proof of 60 fps gameplay yet
  • Lack of internal memory
  • That goddamn companion app
  • Where are the launch titles?
I’ll be the first to admit, I was suckered in when I saw the first trailers, and I was genuinely planning out how I’d pay for it. But the more time passed and the more distance I could put between myself and my hype, the less excited I’ve become. For one: how can the Switch hope to compare to the 3DS? Almost everything the Switch can do, the 3DS can do, but better: it’s got more games, a better battery and memory, it’s every bit as easy to connect to a friend’s 3DS for local gameplay, it’s got top-of-the-line graphics for mobile devices, it’s way cheaper (The Switch is ridiculously expensive, when you include all the ‘bonus’ hardware, like a freaking Joy-Con controller), it doesn’t cost to go online, and while Nintendo has promised 60 FPS gameplay, we have yet to see any proof of that. And, of course, there’s also the recently-revealed smartphone app, which is way more important than we realized and looks to be extremely annoying.

The Switch, compared to the 3DS, only has a few benefits: it can connect to a TV, it’s got motion controls (hooray!), better graphics, and it has Skyrim on it, maybe? From a hardware perspective, Nintendo actually hasn’t beaten their last mobile device. The Switch certainly has unique advantages, it’s a console I’d pick if I was going to a party, for anything between long train rides or just my daily commute, I would just as soon grab my 3DS and leave my Switch in its docking station.

What’s more, the system has a serious problem with first-party launch titles, something that’s always been the primary reason to buy a Nintendo console. I mean, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a crazy incentive, but that Mario game isn’t set to come out until the holidays, and while there have been rumors of a Pokemon game coming out for the console, we saw no sign of it last week: just a weird new IP and 1-2 Switch, their glorified tech demo. At least the Wii was nice enough to bundle its tech demo with the console itself.

Third-party launch titles include Super Bomberman R, Just Dance 2017, and Skylanders: Imaginators.

It’s a really weak launch line-up, which means you’ll have to buy the console in the faith that better games will be coming out… or, you’ll have to wait until there are more games worth buying before you do. Which seems like the strategy you may be forced to employ, as the console is already sold out.

Which baffles me. I get that hype for this console is real, but there hardly seems to be any incentive to pre-order it already: there are no bonuses, no games, no anything for securing your copy early, except… well… the big one.

I suspect the reason for the massive influx of pre-orders isn’t confidence in Nintendo’s device: it’s fear that if the device is any good, it’ll be off store shelves for years, so people want to ensure they get a copy now. And the sad part is, given Nintendo’s long history of faking sacristy to make their products seem more valuable, that’s a safe bet to make. I want to make this clear: the Switch is not going to sell as well as either the Xbox One, or the PS4. Yet, I would wager it’s still going to have availability issues, simply because Nintendo is a dick and it wants to fan the flames of consumerism.

And they have no reason not too, really. If they tightly manage the production of this console, they can save money on production, and they can practically guarantee that, at least for a time, every single Switch console they make will be sold. For a company who is, rightfully, preoccupied with the number of consoles it can actually sell, this is an amazing strategy, and it might have been their long game from the very beginning. Use history to scare people into buying the Switch way, way before they really should.

Here, Jim Sterling did a better job explaining it than I could:

All that said: while there’s a lot I don’t like about what we’ve seen from the Nintendo Switch so far; I’m willing to withhold any real judgement until the console is released. Right now, we have the word of the press and journalists who’ve gotten to experience it, and while that’s certainly useful, the most useful reviews come from the masses who’ll get their paws on it when it first comes out. Speaking for myself, I’m more than willing to wait to hear their reviews and opinions before I shell out for a Switch, even if it means I’ll have to wait a few months, if not a year or more, to get my hands on the console, thanks to Nintendo’s stupid and self-indulgent artificial scarcity.

And I will be listening carefully, because despite my brain’s skeptical take on things, my heart is still really excited for the Switch: I am genuinely pumped for it, and I really, really want it to be better than it sounds. I want it to be a hit, both for my sake, and so Nintendo can have some much-needed success… I mean, I certainly don’t like Nintendo’s most recent business and legal practices, it would be a stretch to call me a ‘fan’, but help me, I still really like them, and I’d like to become a fan again.


But, I’m getting ahead of myself. The Switch still has a lot to prove, just like the company behind it, and I won’t be blinded by good memories or bad experiences. I, like everyone else should, am going to take a wait-and-see approach to this.

The Nintendo Switch comes out March 3rd, 2017, for around 300 bucks.


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