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Nintendo Switch Impressions and Future Analysis

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Posted by Ndolger on 03/07/2017 at 11:38 PM

Nintendo Switch. It’s here. I have it. Here are my thoughts.

The Hardware

Where to begin? There’s quite a lot to talk about here, let’s break it down to what comes in the box and then go into the plethora of accessories:

What do you get for $299?

  • Switch console

 

  • What is it?
    • Essentially a glorified 6.5″ tablet. This is the console.
    • If you’re familiar with Wii U (although not many people are…), essentially they just took the guts of the Wii U console and put it in Wii U’s tablet.
    • It comes with a kickstand and can be “played” table-top by using a controller.
  • Pros
    • It feels nice. It’s got some good weight on it. 
    • Looks nice. Nice big screen.
  • Cons
    • We’ll see, but I think the gimmick here won’t have legs. I already never see anyone in the wild with a 3DS, someone lugging around a Switch seems unlikely. The device is huge.
    • The battery lasts between 2-6 hours. For comparison’s sake 3DS XL lasts 3.5-6.5 hours. Many people reporting playing Zelda at full battery is wiped out in 3 hours. Ehh….that’s not very “portable”-ish to me…
    • No backward compatibility. At all. I guess this is somewhat standard for most Nintendo consoles, but…both the Wii and the Wii U had backwards compatbility.
  • Neutral
    • Haven’t played it enough to decide whether I like playing in “handheld” mode. I really did like Wii U’s tablet, but it did take some time to grow on me. We’ll see. First impression is that it’s not very comfortable.
    • It apparently has a touchscreen (multipoint!), but I had no idea. Nothing uses it. Which is kind of concerning…will we ever be able to play any DS ports on this at all? What happens to the entire DS lineup?
  • Docking station

 

  • What is it?
    • All this does is allow you to connect an HDMI cable and a USB-C charging adapter to it. 
    • The Switch console can “dock” by setting it into the cradle. The purpose of docking is to allow it to charge and play on whatever device your have connected via HDMI (presumably your television).
  • Pros
    • It charges your system! It lets you play on your TV!
    • Hides cables fairly well in detachable back panel.
    • This was originally going to be a con, in that, it’s not really conducive for entertainment centers, but…I actually confirmed you can orient the docking station vertically or horizontally. It’s a bit awkward inserting the console this way, but it’s really the only way I can fit the thing where my TV sits.
  • Cons
    • Not very aesthetically pleasing…essentially a piece of hard plastic.
    • Major bug:  While docked and in sleep mode, it randomly wakes up and causes your video source to change. This is #9 from this list of common Switch problems. This sucks. And I want it to stop. Right now, I have to turn off the system and not put it in the dock. Because if you dock it, it turns it on. I’m hoping this is fixed with a patch…
    • It has no Ethernet port. You have to buy this 3rd party adapter…that’s officially licensed by Nintendo (currently out of stock; no idea what MSRP is…$30?!), if you want to have a reliable connection. OK…to cut costs, and making this optional, fine, I can live with this…90% of people will be fine with Wi-Fi, but it still sucks.
  • Joy Cons (Left/Right) and Shell Controller

 

  • What is it?
    • This is how you actually control the Switch Console. Arguably, this is the patent / feature / gimmick of the system. This allows you to play in tabletop / handheld / TV mode.
    • The Joys Cons “attach” to the Switch Console and draw power from the console itself. Otherwise, in TV mode, well, they’ll be discharging…
    • The Joy Cons can connect to a “shell” which functions as a traditional game controller.
    • The shell has some LEDs it can display which show you if the Joy Cons are connected (but oddly…not the current battery status…at least as far as I can tell…).
  • Pros
    • They’re pretty sweet little things. I really dig the symmetry. Each has: an analog stick, four buttons, two triggers, a + or a – button, and a “Home” or a “Take picture” button.
    • Each can be used stand-alone; so essentially the console comes with two controllers.
    • The “HD Rumble” is something that’s not really talked about, but it’s pretty nice. It’s hard to explain…there seem to be multiple areas where the device can rumble / with different intensities. It feels kind of…weird…but in a good way? Apparently some games utilize this (I’m guessing 1 2 Switch), but I haven’t played any yet.
    • I’m guessing there’s a gyroscope of some sort in both of them. They basically emulate what the Wii Remotes did, but without the need of an IR Bar. However it works…it can detect motion. For example, you can “aim” in Zelda by moving the controller. It works well. Unlike with Wii, I haven’t had any issues with losing position, so that’s pretty sweet!
  • Cons
    • There’s no “out of the box” easy way to charge these while in TV mode. It’s…actually quite ridiculous. If you, you know…what to be able to play in TV mode for a while, why…you’re in luck! Nintendo has this $30 glorified cable that will allow you to plugin a USB-C cable to another version of the Controller Shell! Whee! Why this wasn’t included as a default option is…again…ridiculous. The fact that you CANNOT charge them while undocked from the console is really, really stupid. I’m really quite mad about this.
    • Major bug: I think most people have encountered this problem…the Joy Cons, especially the Left one (most noticeable) will lose a signal while in TV Mode a fair bit. Why? The theory is that it’s using line of sight to the console in the dock. The farther away and anything obstructing you between the console can cause “lag”. For example, I have fallen off several cliffs playing Zelda. If this ISN’T fixed with a software update. This is a serious, serious, SERIOUS problem. I have never encountered issues with *any* controller in the history of gaming that has suffered “connection issues” while playing quite like this.
  • Other Things
    • Includes two Joy Con straps (never going to use…don’t fling your controllers…is this still really a thing?).
    • USB-C charging adapter
    • HDMI cable

Summary:

  • The controllers and the console itself are very nice. I think the Joy Cons are pretty comfortable; especially with the shell. I have zero issues with it. I played for 3-4 hours of Zelda with no complaints.
  • Concerns with battery life and charging…have to buy a separate $30 accessory to change the Joy Cons while playing. Crazy.
  • There are several major bugs with the system. And I hope they’re not irreversible hardware problems and can be fixed through software updates. In general, doesn’t seem like Nintendo put a lot of testing into the “TV Mode”. Which…makes no sense. We’ll see.
  • Recommend to buy right now? You just need to answer one question: How much do you love Zelda? If you answer that question in any way positive, buy it. Zelda is amazing. Amazing. Might do a separate review of it, but it’s game of the year. It reminds me of a mixture of Dark Souls / Monster Hunter / Zelda. All good things!! If not a Zelda fan, wait. There’s too much uncertainty and bugs / glitches. The Switch OS doesn’t even have Virtual Console support for crying out loud…

Concerns

  • I’m actually pretty worried. Very worried. This is a Wii U. It’s the same damn thing. It seems to have some initial hype, but this console is essentially a Wii U 2.0.
  • Now that said, I LOVED Wii U. The problem was software / marketing / lack of 3rd party support. And…a botched launch. But…Nintendo doesn’t seem to have learned much in that: the launch lineup is pretty abysmal, Zelda is great, but it’s no Wii Sports. Wii worked because it had a software hook that everyone could understand, and it was free. What does one buy on Switch right now other than Zelda…?
  • The lack of any real online strategy (what happened to Miiverse? no StreetPass either….?) out of the gate hurts. Nintendo has never been known to have seamless, hell even coherent, online functionality. I’m very concerned over this.
  • There still appears to be NO ONLINE ACHIEVEMENTS / TROPHIES. Why…?! WHY?! This is something that should have been implemented years and years ago. What the hell is taking so long? What’s the reason for not having this?? People little BUY games for this. It’s a selling point! What does Nintendo not get about this?!
  • The system is hard to come by right now, and that’s intentional and expected. Don’t pay $400+ for this. Just don’t. It should be generally available in a few months. This isn’t another Wii scenario. You will be able to find it. Let the kinks be worked out (there’s actually more hardware issues than I have ever seen for a 1st release Nintendo product; their hardware has always been rock-solid!). There’s kinks.

Future Predictions

  • It all comes down to software. It always has. Since, like, the middle of the Wii-era Nintendo’s 1st party output just hasn’t been there. I don’t know what’s happening. And 3rd parties aren’t picking up the slack. There have just been too many dead spots (dead years!) where nothing is released.
  • I just see too many other headwinds that are hard to overcome (the price is too high; too many high priced accessories; overall, the system is kind of confusing…too many parts…I can see a parent or a child baffled at how this thing even works…) to expect any kind of sustainable interest.
  • Here’s something to look at…if this things flops…what then??! Nintendo has put all their eggs in this basket by presumably killing off the DS line and merging it with their home console. Are we going to get “DS”-style games? Will they be reasonably priced?
  • Wii U sold 14 million units…and I think was their worst selling system ever? I predict Switch will sell 15-20 million units in the same time span. I hope I’m wrong…I just don’t see the thing having legs. Unless somehow the convergence of their software teams helps them crank out software hit after software hit. They have the IP. They just need to actually do it. Color me skeptical though…I guess we’ll find out!
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