I can’t stop thinking about the Nintendo Switch.
It’s now less than a month until it’s release and while I have a pre-order placed I am growing less and less excited for the thing as the date draws near. Zelda looks cool, but I have known about Zelda for years, and Mario also looks very exciting, but is a long way off. Other than that...there’s Snipperclips which seems like a neat little game, and everything else seems more ridiculously overpriced the more I think about it. I’m not even a particularly price sensitive gamer, but $50 for Bomberman and $40 for Street Fighter II in 2017 offends me on a philosophical level. The thought of spending that kind of money on games whose assets are literally decades old (or at least look like it) makes me feel taken advantage of and exploited. Arms seems like a $20 game, though maybe there’s hidden depth there, and 1 2 Switch is something I have no interest in and will never play. Beyond that there’s the full priced port of Mario Kart 8, the full priced semi-sequel to Splatoon (which admittedly could be worth if it there’s a ton of new content), and a whole lot of ports of old games and promises of more down the line.
When the launch lineup is significantly improved by ports of Little Inferno (which launched with the Wii U as part of a much more impressive lineup) and World of Goo (A [good] game so old I played it 4 apartments ago) you know things are dire.
I know there will be more titles later and eventually the system will likely have enough to justify a purchase, but I want to be excited now and I’m just not. Part of buying a new system is that feeling of excitement. PS4 had it with Resogun and shiny versions of current games like Battlefield 4. Xbox One had it with Dead Rising 3 and Killer Instinct. Breath of the Wild will likely be better than all those games, but it is surrounded by a whole lot of nothing.
It doesn’t help that Nintendo has stayed completely silent about its Virtual Console plans (something that could get an old gamer like me pretty revved up if there’s a good selection done right, and justify the purchase on its own) and that they’ve been unclear about exactly what they’re going to port over from the Wii U (Smash Brothers seems like a no brainer, but I’d also love to see Bayonetta 2 and of course Mario Maker make the leap.)
Switch defenders are like “There’ll be enough to play. Zelda will take you a month and then there will be Arms and other games…” but I remember the N64. That kind of release schedule only works if every game on the schedule is good and, more importantly, if you like them all. I like to have a selection of options as to what to play next, not be waiting for whatever game of whatever quality happens to come out.
Add in that using the Switch will apparently be, interface wise, way behind the curve (no achievement system, the social features not fully ready at launch and going through my phone rather than the system) and it just adds up to something I feel like I’m buying almost out of obligation or reluctant acceptance rather than excitement.
And the truth is I don’t need a Switch. I have a PS4 Pro and an Xbox One and an absolute ton of games to play on them. Hell I have PS3 and Xbox 360 games I still want to get around to, so it’s not like I’m hurting. But I want a Nintendo system that’s more exciting than the 3DS (which is seriously underpowered) and I’m into the Switch’s idea of a console you can play on the subway or in the back of a cab. I want to be excited by the Switch, and I’m an easy target with relatively deep pockets. I should be at least part of the demographic Nintendo is aiming for.
I guess fundamentally more than anything the problem is that I feel like Nintendo does not respect or care about its customers. It gouges them on price for games and accessories, it is always tight-lipped and secretive, it hates offering discounts and seems to go out of its way to avoid making things convenient (tying games to accounts rather than systems? That's unpossible), and while it makes some truly spectacular games it seems to do everything it can to make the experience around playing those games as hostile as it can.
So why keep the pre-order at all? I’m not sure. Part of it is nostalgia, since I grew up on Nintendo and its IP; part of it is true admiration for (some) of the software they produce, which really is peerless, and part of it is just hoping against hope that they’ll change and evolve.
A large part of it is just that I have the money right now and I do want to play Zelda (and hopefully some virtual console bangers.)
But if the disaster of the Wii U, a system that sold so poorly that they abandoned software development for it after 3 years, didn’t humble them and make them more consumer oriented, then nothing will. Nintendo is going to do what Nintendo wants. It's not going to start having a good e-shop with account tied purchases. It's not going to start putting stuff on sale like Microsoft and Sony do, or lowering prices as the generation goes on (An Xbox One can now often be had for about $200, and it was $500 just 3 years ago, AND it's the new improved S model.) It's not going to turn Virtual Console into what we all want it to be and it's not going to stop pushing half-baked features for its consoles that never get more than a handful of games. Buying an unexciting Switch is the price I have to pay to get at the good Nintendo games and I guess I'm willing. For now. But if money was tighter or I was just a little less invested in playing video games I wouldn't, and that's something Nintendo should think about. Though they definitely won'.t.