Is Nintendo pulling the old switcheroo in their messaging again? David looks into how the Switch is merely a shell for the Big N’s usual anti-consumer ways.
Nintendo makes some of the best games and most unique platforms to play them on. It would honestly be very difficult to imagine a gaming industry without them as a major player. That’s part of the reason why we all still to this day get excited when a new console by the “Big N” is revealed, in this case the Switch.
It’s also a major reason why we get so frustrated at Nintendo settling into their old, archaic ways time and time again.
Switch on the Surface
On the surface level, it may seem that the new handheld/home hybrid Switch console is a nice change of pace for the company. The Nintendo name was ubiquitous with video games throughout our childhoods, yet the handheld market has been stronger for them lately, and gaming on devices like smartphones and tablets has become very prominent. Combine that with the desperate need to move away from the Wii name, and you got the Nintendo Switch.
A change was certainly needed, however, after the botched marketing right from the start for the Wii U. The average consumer (and even a fair amount of hardcore fans) originally thought that the console was the tablet controller itself, or simply an extension of the pre-existing Wii. That confusion lead to a slow start, which in turn lead to a common theme in Nintendo’s modern history – lack of third party support.
When the Switch was initially revealed with that promising trailer featuring millennials playing Zelda on the plane and other situations, a graphic was proudly displayed (above) showcasing the third party companies who would be backing the console. It seemed like Nintendo finally got their act together in this regard. The latest showing in Japan told a different story, though. While we are seeing the usual intriguing first party titles such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, there’s considerably more ports of old titles we have either played before or can easily access on existing platforms.
Third Party Support
Looking through the lineup of games announced, there’s Disgaea 5 (released 2 years ago), Rayman Legends (released over 3 years ago), and Skyrim (originally released over 5 years ago). Not only that, you have EA – one of the biggest companies in the industry today – only bringing FIFA to the Switch. Nintendo actually had EA Executive Vice President Patrick Soderlund fly in to Japan simply to announce the one title on stage. Where’s Madden? Where’s Battlefield? And where’s Mass Effect? It feels Nintendo (and consequently its fans) are getting the shaft with hand-me-downs.
Not since the SNES days has there been a wealth of third party support for a Nintendo platform. I remember a time when the likes of Capcom, Konami, and Squaresoft (now Square-Enix) made Nintendo consoles their primary home. Funny enough, all three of those companies are supporting the Switch, but with games that feel like afterthoughts.
The only exception to this is Square-Enix revealing Dragon Quest XI (along with 2012’s Dragon Quest X) and the highly intriguing Project Octopath Traveler. Other than that, Konami surprisingly revealed a new Bomberman game that looks pretty fun, but is insanely priced at the full $60 and seems to suffer from long load times. Also Capcom’s Ultra Street Fighter II at first seems like an old school throwback with a fresh coat of paint, but does suffer from feeling like “more of the same” with the HD Remix visuals and lazily added Evil Ryu and Violent Ken characters.
One thing that Nintendo has never particularly been good at is online play and services. Remember the debacle with friend codes instead using standard usernames? Or the lack of trophies/achievements? Or how about overpricing digital games with laughable sales? At the very least, the Switch does seem to be following the trend of PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live offering free games with a paid online service. Even this plan, however, gets the typical anti-consumer treatment that Nintendo has unfortunately been known for lately.
This is taken directly from Nintendo’s site:
Subscribers will get to download and play a Nintendo Entertainment System™ (NES) or Super Nintendo Entertainment System™ (Super NES) game (with newly-added online play) for free for a month.
What I want to focus on is at the very end where it states “for free FOR A MONTH”. That is some sneaky wording that boils down to the games that will be free to Nintendo online subscribers during the month of March won’t be free in April, and so on and so forth. Sony and Microsoft allows their subscribers to always have access to previous free titles as long as you remain a subscriber.
Close but no cigar
You were so close, Nintendo, yet still lack the foresight to think what the average consumer would feel. NintendoFanboy69 gets a chance to play Super Mario World on their new Switch on the go with no additional charge because they are such a loyal fan. Then going into the next month, that same consumer suddenly loses the ability to continue playing unless they pay up. Nothing turns people off more than getting something only to have it yanked away and placed behind a pay wall. Speaking from experience, a similar tactic involving DLC characters is what took me out of Street Fighter V.
Speaking of greedy tactics, let’s dive into hardware pricing. To be honest, $300 for the console is on the high end of being reasonable. Most people were thinking between $250-$300 anyway. Going $50 cheaper, however, would have gone against Nintendo’s history of never selling their consoles at a loss. They have never shied away from trading the ability to build up a bigger user base for wider profit margins.
Unfortunately, that is simply how the company has been run for so long. This business tactic of selling at a competitive price made PlayStation and Xbox more adopted console brands than whatever Nintendo next pulls out of their sleeve. It’s the reason why third parties flock to those consoles instead. In relation, it’s also the reason why Nintendo has been playing second and third fiddle since the N64 era. They are no longer the leader in the industry they once saved over three decades ago, instead sliding in because of strong software brands and hit-or-miss hardware gimmicks.
The console pricing is hardly even the issue here compared to the cost of peripherals. If you’re looking to step up your game to the more traditional Pro Controller, that will cost $70 ($10 more than the competition). What if you lose/break your JoyCon controllers, or simply need extras for 4 player games? Prepare to fork over $80 for a new set. If you just need one, there’s that option too for the slap-in-your-face price of $50. Probably the most ridiculous of these is a new dock for the console at $90. This is literally just a charging station that allows you to play the Switch on your TV. All I can say is you better make sure you take good care of your Switch.
We will see throughout the year how much Nintendo shoots themselves in the foot over these decisions. It’s just disappointing to see what seemed like a “switch” of company policies (allowing no region lock for games, for example) only to realize the company that everyone wants to love pulling the same old shenanigans. Perhaps this will change just like when Microsoft changed stances on game ownership from when the Xbox One was first revealed, but don’t count on it. Nintendo is hardy and old school, but not necessarily in the good way.