5 Things Nintendo Is Not Being Upfront About
Earlier last week I explored 3 Things Everyone is Ignoring About the Nintendo Switch Launch to lure out the burning questions we should have about the quality of Nintendo’s upcoming console effort. This week we sit in an unusual position, as Nintendo has clarified many of the unanswered questions about the Switch during last Thursday’s live presentation, but also introduced some more questionable details. Yes, along with a bevy of complicated messages came some gag-inducing announcements that only serve to remind of the Nintendo of old -- the one with the long-antiquated visions of what makes for a modern gaming device.
Whether you found it to be a disappointing or typical affair, last week's Switch Event was a contentious reveal of the Japanese company's future plans. I’d even go as far as saying that there were several things that were left unsaid or portrayed in an obscure manner, things that were strategically omitted to perhaps confound your hype with something greater than the Switch will ever hope to be.
Nintendo told us that they would introduce a paid service for online features, but what they neglected to clarify is if we can use voice chat features without their proprietary mobile app.
Nintendo told us the price of the console, but what they waited to tell us was the egregious cost of the accessories.
Nintendo told us how beautiful and expansive the next Zelda is, but what they tried to hide is the fact that their 2017 console can't handle running such games in full HD.
Nintendo told us that the Joy-Cons are capable of HD rumble, but what they didn't tell us is that we’d need to purchase a separate grip to charge the controllers without the main dock.
Let’s take a look at these and other ambiguous announcements during and after Nintendo’s Switch Event.
1. You didn't want the bulky gamer headsets anyway
Going the way of PlayStation Network and Xbox Live, Nintendo announced that they plan to offer a paid service for their online network. During the presentation they were very clear that they will offer the service free of charge for a period of time, but beyond that, they had little else to say about the reasons for adopting the new paid model. We had to wait until after the event to hear that select NES and SNES games would be playable by subscribers during a period of one month between releases.
While it’s not a stretch to believe that Nintendo was headed down this route, it’s rather disturbing that they were shameless enough to tell fans that there would be a cost involved while not being able to explore any further details. Instead, Nintendo did little but explain that a smart device app would be used for inviting friends to play online and use voice-chat features.
How about giving us more details about the games we’ve purchased on our Wii U? How will the online account system work? Details like this weren’t given, and many left the conference thinking that Nintendo simply muddied there messaging about the voice chat features -- surely Nintendo doesn’t think that players would be okay with using only their phone for voice chat, do they?
Unfortunately, it was confirmed, after the presentation of course, that players would have to in fact use Nintendo’s proprietary application to chat with friends. Even worse is how the news was broken. Apparently, as stated by Nintendo of America’s president, we don’t like to wear big, bulky headsets and will have an easier time using the smart devices we usually have on hand. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m quite happy with my Astros and uninterested in relying on my phone incapable of holding a charge, plus being forced to be tethered to another device.
2. Accessories will hit you right in the coins
While the price of the Nintendo Switch may not be all that stellar, Nintendo was upfront about it and decent arguments could probably be made about the need to price it at $300. What Nintendo failed to mention is how pricey the accessories are, and some them are necessary to have a decent playing experience with the Switch.
Unlike typical games consoles where devices often serve to enhance the experience, I’d say that some of the Switch accessories -- namely the Pro Controller -- are more like necessary requirements. Because the Switch makes use of nontraditional controllers, the Joy-Cons, it’s not unlikely that you’ll want a traditional configuration for more involved games played at home or competitively. And, of course, Nintendo didn’t announce the aggressively high pricing for the pro controller, the separate Switch Dock, or the dual pack of Joy-Con controllers until after the presentation.
At $70 I just don’t see how the Pro controller hopes to be competitive with the traditional offerings of its PlayStation and Xbox counterparts. Maybe it’s the gyro controls coupled with the NFC capabilities and the, perhaps, superior rumble features? I’m not sure that that alone is worth the asking price.
3. Zelda cries for sub-par HD
Nintendo was reluctant to speak of the power of the Switch during the presentation, and while I’d say that fans shouldn’t concern themselves entirely with tech specs when it comes to Nintendo hardware, it wouldn’t be outlandish to ask for power close to that of the base models of the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, consoles that are now over three years old. Perhaps it is.
Right up until the presentation, reports swirled that the face of Nintendo’s console wouldn’t be able to handle a resolution of 1080p, instead opting for a humbler configuration of 720 vertical pixels. While it’s not a deal breaker to have a less capable screen, since said screen is compact, it’s a bit frustrating that Nintendo waited until after the presentation to speak of it. And that doesn’t even touch the fact that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, as recently confirmed, won’t run in full HD resolution when in console mode.
There is no need to get up in arms over some titles dropping a few pixels in favor of performance, but I get a little wary at the fact that these issues existed with the Xbox One back in 2013 when it was a more understandable technological obstacle. Some gamers surely do care about performance drops like this.
Two things make the Zelda situation even worse; some industry experts have reported that Breath of the Wild didn’t run at a consistently smooth frame rate even with the pixels dialed down, and the latest Zelda game is in fact a Wii U title. If the Switch is unable to easily handle a title initially prepared for a predecessor console, what does that say about the power of the console going forward? Hopefully it’s just an inherent development hurdle of working to learn the architecture of new hardware.
4. The Switch grip that charges, and the one that doesn't
I had to keep this one separate from the unveiling of the accessory prices because it’s shocking enough to stand on its own. When Nintendo showed the contents of the Switch package, it was unclear if the Joy-Con Grip would charge the controllers within its housing, and it wasn’t mentioned until the next day of their event that a separate grip would be in need -- for probably copious Nintendo dollars -- to charge the controllers, the Joy-Con Charging Grip.
It’s fair to say that the dock charging method is good enough since the controllers have a long battery life, but would it have been that difficult for Nintendo to include a grip that charges? It’s infuriating that this wasn’t mentioned upfront. Nintendo certainly had me confused -- during the conference, I believed that the provided grip would come equipped with charging features, features separate from simply holding the two controller together.
5. The patience you'll need to play quality, original titles
This one really saddens me. As much as Nintendo tried to play up the launch lineup for the Switch and its subsequent months, there simply wasn’t enough clear messaging about third parties. And because I truly do enjoy gaming on Nintendo consoles, I’d hate to see the switch suffer from the same lack of 3rd party support fate that the Wii U did. Perhaps the poor showing of supporting titles is a clear indication that third parties refuse to take another chance on Nintendo.
Take a look at the launch lineup and you will quickly see that it’s barren. Aside from the annualized Just Dance title, not even Ubisoft is supporting the system at launch. Yes, Nintendo did try to highlight all the support coming, in the form of things like a new Xenoblade and Fire Emblem hack-and-slash game, but these games won’t be releasing for some time. And if you look beyond the scarcity of games at launch and beyond, you’ll quickly find that many of the offerings are older or watered-down experiences, much like the initial titles brought to the Wii U.
Skyrim for example, a touted game during the press conference, seems to be nothing more than a port of the original game. That is, it doesn’t look to be the recent Skyrim Special Edition version of the game. Nintendo and Bethesda tried to parade the game as if it were going to set the world on fire, but the truth is that taking a game, offering a subpar version of it, and boasting its ability to be taken on the go, is simply not good enough. If the Skyrim release is a sign of what’s to come, Nintendo is in bad standing.
Now that things have begun to settle, what did you think about the Nintendo Switch Event last week? Are you looking to buy one at launch, or have some of Nintendo’s messaging woes deterred you from a previously decisive position.