Last night, Nintendo finally broke its silence on its new gaming console, and gave us an hour-long look into the technology and game lineup of the Nintendo Switch. My overall feeling, however, was that the presentation was solid but not spectacular, and I walked away feeling a little disappointed about the whole thing. The many leaks and rumors that have been thrown around in the last few months had built the Switch hype to such an absurd level that there was no way the console could meet them. (Matt Wieters knows this feeling well.)
Below are my specific thoughts on the various pieces of the presentation:
- The presentation was a bit dryer than we’ve come to expect from Nintendo, but it effectively conveyed the information that it needed to, and managed to slip in a little bit of humor along the way. There were a few awkward moments (that ‘2’ pose that the Switch presenter struck was cringe-worthy, and one translator was really struggling to keep up with their speaker), but things ran smoothly most of the time.
- My major complaint about the presentation was that despite it being an hour long, it was actually too short, and forced the company to push full trailers of some games to post-presentation releases. Relegating Mario Kart 8 Deluxe to a few stray clips during the presentation was about as boneheaded a decision as Nintendo could make.
- The March 3rd release date caught me by surprise, as the predictions I’d heard going in were leaning towards the 17th and 24th. Still, no one’s going to complain about getting a console sooner than they thought, right?
- The $299 price point was higher than the rumored $250, but was still within the window of what people were considering reasonable. (It does, however, make any potential Trump tariffs that much more painful.) Not having a pack-in game at this price was surprising, but considering all the tech Nintendo packed into the Joy-Cons, it’s understandable.
- Speaking of the Joy-Cons…is there anything those things can’t do? Seriously, they packed enough stuff if those things to make my iPad look cheap. I was a little concerned about the size of the Joy-Cons going in, but they seemed to fit comfortably in the presenter’s hands. (The positioning of those L and R buttons still worries me a little, though.)
- 1-2 Switch and ARMS probably do a good job showing off the many things the Switch and Joy-Cons can do, but they look really underwhelming from a gameplay perspective. These games feel like a naked attempt to recapture the casual audience from the Nintendo Wii, and I’m not sure folks in retirement homes are itching for online boxing matches and fast-twitch shooting minigames. (As someone who did not enjoy Wii Sports Boxing, I won’t be touching ARMS with a ten-foot pole, or a twenty-foot spring with a glove attached to the end.) Not including one or both of these as Switch pack-in games is a huge mistake, because while people might be curious about these games, I don’t see a lot of folks paying an extra $60 (or even $40) to try them out.
- The expected first-party games Nintendo showed off looked spectacular:
- Super Mario Odyssey featured intriguing locales, a surprisingly nimble Mario, and the most open-world design since Super Mario 64. The hat-spring mechanic is an interesting one, and I can’t wait to see what Nintendo does with it over the next few months.
- Splatoon 2 basically added everything that fans had been clamoring for, and then added some new maps and weapon classes for flavor. I’m a little ambivalent about the Smash Bros.-esque dodge rolling, but it appears to be limited to the ‘duelies’ weapon class. (Also, those specials looked hilarious, and players aren’t going to be able to use that jetpack flying one without shouting ‘Justice reigns from above!’
- Mario Kart 8 Deluxe added new characters, new tracks, and the actual battle mode everyone wanted. (A few old-school items, such as the Boo and the Feather, returned from the original MK games as well.) I cannot support the inclusion of Inklings in this game strongly enough. (Whoulda thunk Inklings would make it into Mario Kart before Smash Bros.?)
- What else can you say about Zelda: Breath of the Wild at this point? The clip Nintendo showed to end their presentation had the feel of a big-budget cinematic trailer, and it seemed to exceed the level of epicness that even hardcore fans were expecting. That said, I’m only a casual fan of the series, so the game didn’t move the needle for me very much. (More on this later…)
- The games that Nintendo didn’t show, however, really blunted the company’s momentum coming out of the presentation. This is where the leaks and rumors really hurt Nintendo: So many titles were thrown around as potential launch, launch-window, and first-year titles that not getting any information on some of them (or even an acknowledgement in some cases) was bound to annoy people. If you were looking for Smash Bros., Pokémon, Mario Maker, or Mario/Rabbid crossover information, you were out of luck.
- My biggest takeaway from this presentation was this: The Switch’s launch lineup is PAINFULLY thin. Zelda, “Wii Sports for Switch” (1-2 Switch), and…that’s it? No Mario Kart until late April? No Splatoon until this summer? No Super Mario Odyssey until the freaking holidays?! Okay, I was wrong earlier: THIS is the most boneheaded move Nintendo could make. Basically, if you’re not a Zelda fan, you have no reason to go out and buy the Switch on March 3rd. That’s definitely not the conclusion Nintendo wants its fans to draw.
It’s impossible to overstate how much Nintendo has riding on Zelda: Breath of the Wild right now. If the game succeeds, it kickstarts Nintendo hardware sales and returns the company to Wii-era levels of glory. If it fails, it throws cold water on the Switch’s release, spawns a bunch of “Is This The Wii U All Over Again?” hot takes, and casts a dark shadow over Nintendo’s future as a console manufacturer. (No pressure, guys.)
In short, while I’ll be racing to the mall on March 3rd, it’ll most likely be to pick up a copy of Brad Paisley’s Love and War, and not a Nintendo Switch. For Nintendo’s sake, I hope I’m in the minority.