Saturday, October 22, 2016

A few more thoughts on the Nintendo Switch now that I've had a couple of days to think about it

If you read my most recent post, you know I was pretty excited by the unveiling of Nintendo's next games console, Switch. I wouldn't say the reveal blew me away, but it definitely interested and intrigued me.

Although I'm still interested and intrigued a few days later, I'm also a bit ... confused? I'm not sure that's the right word, but whatever. Basically, a number of questions have been bouncing around in my brain since Nintendo introduced Switch. Here they are, in case you're curious.

Is Switch really supposed to replace both the Wii U and the 3DS?--That Switch is supposed to replace the DOA Wii U is a given. Hell, Nintendo even chose to promote Switch using bulked-up ports of some of its best Wii U games, like Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon. I'm not entirely sure Switch is supposed to replace the 3DS, though. I assumed that would be the case before the system's reveal on Wednesday morning, but now I've got my doubts. That's mainly because Switch doesn't look like a $200 or even a $250 system at the moment--and, in my opinion, that's the price point Switch is going to need if it's going to take over where the 3DS and even the company's DS and GameBoy lines left off.

Maybe the Switch Nintendo unveiled this week is just the first in a planned line of systems?--What I mean here is, what if what Nintendo showed off in Wednesday's three-minute promo video is the "pro" version of Switch? And what if Nintendo later (six months down the road, maybe a year) releases a "standard" or "lite" version of the system that dumps the dock? In other words, what if Nintendo offers up a package that consists of just the tablet and two Joy-Cons? I'm guessing that would allow the company to sell Switch for a lot less than it's going to sell the docked version it introduced us to a couple of days ago. It also would allow the company to attract more of the mainstream (or maybe I should say family-friendly) audience that has supported its other portable systems over the years. And who knows? Nintendo may also produce a "plus" version down the line that beefs up the abilities of the standard Switch and costs $50 or $100 more.

If Switch isn't supposed to replace the 3DS, why is Nintendo replacing the Wii U first?--There's no question the Wii U bombed--right out of the gate, in fact. If Nintendo intends to stay in the home console space, it needs to be replaced. Most people (including me) would argue, though, that replacing the rapidly aging (and dying) 3DS line is far more important at this time. Nintendo and a few third-party game developers and publishers may continue to support the 3DS with software into 2018, but that isn't going to keep the handheld's sales from falling off a cliff at the end of this year or sometime early in 2017. Given that, why would Nintendo decide to replace the Wii U first? This makes me think either Switch will be cheaper than I'm imagining ($250 or less), or Nintendo is prepping a stripped-down Switch--à la the comment above--that the company hopes will be more appealing to the 3DS audience.

Will Nintendo finally offer up a real account system with Switch?--It's going to be really interesting to see what happens if Switch hits store shelves and doesn't include a modern account system that ties digital game purchases to the buyer rather than a specific piece of hardware. In such a situation, I'd actually expect a sizable portion of the Nintendo faithful to pass on the system. A lot of people are tired of being asked to buy the same games many times over--whether we're talking about retro Virtual Console titles or digital versions of current-gen or last-gen releases. I'm one of them, unsurprisingly. Does that mean I'll pass on Switch if it treats eShop purchases like the 3DS, Wii and Wii U did? I'm not sure. What I can tell you right now, though, is that if such a scenario were to come true, there's no way in hell I'd re-buy any game I already bought via my Wii or 3DS. I'd also continue to do what I've done for some time now, which is buy physical or retail games (rather than digital ones) whenever possible.

How is Nintendo going to handle backward compatibility this time around (if at all)?--Of all the console-makers, Nintendo is at the top of the heap when it comes to consistently producing backward-compatible systems. One of the few times the company didn't produce such a system was when it transitioned from the cartridge-based Nintendo 64 to the disc-based GameCube. With Switch, Nintendo's going the other direction--from a disc-based console (Wii U) to a cart-based one. Given that, it'll be hard to fault the company if Switch doesn't magically allow owners of physical Wii or Wii U discs to play those games on their shiny new systems. But what if it doesn't allow them to play previously purchased digital Wii or Wii U games? That could be as problematic as the possible lack of a real account system, if you ask me. Here's hoping Nintendo comes up with a solution that makes everyone happy.

Do you have any thoughts on the questions above? Share them in the comments section below.

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