Friday, January 13, 2017

A few thoughts on 'Nintendo Switch Presentation 2017'

Before last night's "Nintendo Switch Presentation 2017," I was about 75 percent sure I'd buy Nintendo's next console-handheld hybrid upon release.

Although it pains me to say it, that number steadily plummeted as I watched the presentation in question--to the point that I'm now all but certain I'll wait until late in the year--at the earliest--to pick up a Nintendo Switch.

To help explain why that is, here are some thoughts on various aspects of the system and its launch that were touched on during this event:

The release date--Most rumors suggested the Switch would launch in mid or late March, so March 3 (worldwide, at that) sounded pretty darn good to me. Or it did before I decided against a day-one purchase.

The price--In my dreams, Nintendo would sell the Switch for $199. I knew that was highly unlikely, though, so my hope was that the system would initially sell for $249--without a pack-in game. So imagine my disappointment when company president Tatsumi Kimishima revealed early on during last night's presentation that the system alone (well, along with a dock, two Joy-Cons, an AC adapter and some cords) will cost $299.99. For me, that's too much. Not too much for me to afford, mind you; rather, it's just more than I'm willing to pay right now.

The pack-in games--1, 2 Switch and Arms are pack-in games, right? Wrong? What do you mean? Nintendo isn't including either of these newly revealed (and questionably interesting) Switch titles with the system, you say? That's bizarre, I say--especially when 1, 2 Switch looks like a $5 digital offering at best, in my humble opinion. In reality, it appears Nintendo's going to try to sell it for $49.99. Good luck with that. Oh, and I offer up the same comment as a reaction to Arms' $59.99 asking price.

The launch lineup--The most depressing element of "Nintendo Switch Presentation 2017" for me was that it became increasingly obvious as the event wore on that the hybrid system would hit the streets alongside a meager selection of games. The new Mario title, Super Mario Odyssey, which most expected would be available from the get-go? Actually a "Holiday 2017" release. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe? Late April. Splatoon 2? Sometime this summer. Even Arms won't be out on March 3. That leaves 1, 2 Switch, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the latest Just Dance, Square Enix's I Am Setsuna (now there's a head-scratcher--not that I'm complaining) and a couple of other third-party titles. Admittedly, Breath of the Wild looks astounding, and likely will be enough for most folks (especially outside of Japan), but I personally would've liked a few more first-party options on day one.

The first-party titles--I've got to say, I expected Nintendo to show off a lot more of its own in-development Switch games than it did last night. Most of the ones the company did present to the public--The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2, Super Mario Odyssey and Xenoblade Chronicles 2, in particular--looked great, no doubt about it (although I'm not in love with the new Xenoblade's character designs). When you consider that Super Mario Odyssey won't be out until the end of 2017, though, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 won't be out until who knows when, it's hardly a stunning first-year lineup from the company that's probably going to have to supply the bulk of Switch content.

The third-party presence--This isn't my first time at the Nintendo rodeo, so I went into "Nintendo Switch Presentation 2017" fully aware that third-party developers and publishers once are likely to give the cold shoulder to the company's latest piece of gaming hardware. I saw very little last night that made me think otherwise. That's not to say there weren't pleasant surprises. Square Enix's Project Octopath Traveler (being made by the same team that produced Bravely Default and Bravely Second) looks stunning and could single-handedly push me to buy a Switch if it proves to be an exclusive. Also piquing my interest: a new Shin Megami Tensei, No More Heroes 3 and Dragon Quest Heroes 1 & 2. Sadly, that's pretty much the extent of the third-party efforts that appealed to me aside from the promise of a new Taiko no Tatsujin title and the already announced Dragon Quest XI.

The price of Switch games--This has been one of my biggest worries since it was revealed that the Nintendo Switch would straddle the line between being a handheld and a console. Would its games be priced like 3DS games or Wii U games? At the moment, it seems like they'll lean toward the latter,  given what we know about 1, 2 Switch, ArmsBreath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. (All but the first title will cost $59.99.) That disappoints me. Still, I hold out hope that easier-to-swallow price tags will be attached to smaller Switch games.

The game cases--No joke: one of the highlights of the last two days has been finding out that Switch game cases look a lot like PSP game cases. I've always loved the slender profile and see-through appearance of the latter, after all. Plus, the few examples of Switch cover art I've seen so far (Breath of the WildMario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2) look really nice stuck inside of them.

The accessories--I don't know why, but it kind of surprised me when Nintendo revealed it would sell colored Switch Joy-Cons at launch. Even more surprising to me: the cost of extra Joy-Cons. A single Joy-Con will set you back $50; a pair will cost you $80. Want a second dock? I hope you have $90 burning a hole in your pocket. Oh, and the Pro Controller many Switch owners are sure to want? Each one will carry a $70 price tag. In the immortal words of the amazing Madeline Kahn, "woof!"

The operating system--In hindsight, I can understand why the bigwigs at Nintendo decided to gloss over the Switch's OS during last night's presentation, as it's not really the kind of thing that'll sell people on the company's shiny new console. At the time, though, I was sad to only get a glimpse of it. Thankfully, what was shown of the Switch OS looked clean, uncluttered and modern.

The paid online service--One of the stranger portions of the "Nintendo Switch Presentation 2017" for me saw Kimishima revealing that the company eventually will require paid subscriptions for online play. That in and of itself isn't terrible, as both Microsoft and Sony have done the same for years. Of course, Nintendo's track record when it comes to such things is far from great, so telling future Switch owners they'll need to pay to play on line--without explaining why it'll be worth the cost--seems more than a bit weird to me. Who knows, though, maybe the company has something great, or at least competent, in the works for Switch's online service.

The end of region-locking--Nintendo may have disappointed me in many ways with this latest look at the Switch, but one thing it did that brought a huge smile to my face was make it clear the system will be region-free. That's a huge deal for someone like me who likes to import games and, as such, has suffered (relatively speaking, of course) during the 3DS and Wii U eras.

The Switch's battery life--As rumored, the Switch's battery life--of two-and-a-half to six hours, depending on the game--isn't going to blow anyone away. It also shouldn't horribly disappoint anyone, however, considering the original 3DS and even the New 3DS offer up similarly anemic battery-life stats. Would I have preferred the Switch's battery to be more robust? Of course, but I'm also fine with what we're getting here.

The overall presentation--I had a really good feeling about things before the event actually began. The light show and DJ-sourced music that preceded Kimishima's entrance were cooler than what I've come to expect from Nintendo. Unfortunately, all of that faded into the background--literally and figuratively--when the company president started to speak. He's no Iwata, is he? Neither is Yoshiaki Koizumi, it has to be said, though he's definitely far more engaging than his superior. Their lack of stage presence wasn't responsible for the "Nintendo Switch Presentation 2017" being a bit of a snoozefest, though. No, the responsibility falls on the overall structure of the event, which at best made it seem boring and at worst made it seem like a train wreck.

In the end, although I still consider the Nintendo Switch to be a curious piece of gaming hardware, I'm currently not planning to buy one until either the price of admission comes down or a title is released that I can't live without.

How about you? Did you pre-order a Switch as soon as you were able after last night's presentation, or will you do so shortly? Or maybe you're in the same boat as I am, waiting to see how things pan out for the Switch before committing your hard-earned dollars toward one?

Regardless, let me and others know what you think about those questions as well as all of what I touched on above in the comments section below.

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