Tag Archives: skyrim

Nintendo Switch or Nintendo More of the Same?

636198636477072652-nintendo-switchSwitch. If you took a shot each time someone said that word during Nintendo’s press conference unveiling the latest device in console/mobile gaming you’re probably hung over right now. It’s obviously not just a name for the console/handheld hybrid, but also a marketing strategy. Nintendo is changing with the times, switching it up if you will, and making a commitment to something new and exciting. If that’s the main take-away from the Switch’s coming out party last night, then why did I feel like this was the Wii all over again?

Nintendo first gave the public a glimpse at its newest device back in October. Since then, the company has been virtually silent on the subject until last night’s big unveiling. Most of the pressing questions were answered either during the conference or shortly there-after. We know when the Switch is arriving at retail (March 3rd), we know how much it will cost ($299), and we know what games will be available (Zelda!) and have some idea of what we’ll be playing by the end of 2017 (Mario! Skyrim!). A lot of the other lingering questions from the Switch’s first public display were answered like that the system does indeed boast a touch screen, the joy con controllers do feature shoulder buttons, and Nintendo is going with a pay-t0-play online service in the fall.

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Hey, yo! Get a load of my colors.

The Switch’s initial unveiling had me cautiously excited. I expressed my interest in a true portable home gaming device and I was receptive to a lot of the software teased in that video. Last night’s conference, however, muted that excitement. I should get it out of the way, I still placed a pre-order on the device (actually two, with the first being an online one just in case I couldn’t land a pre-order at a brick and mortar) so obviously I wasn’t dissuaded from purchasing the Switch, but it was with significantly less enthusiasm.

Let’s get right to the price. Numbers had been thrown around leading up to the announcement last night with the consensus seeming to be for a $250 price point. On IGN’s pre-show, $199 was even floated as the “sweet spot” by one host which I thought was a pipe-dream. From the start, I had assumed $299 would be the price, but I still hoped for $250. I wasn’t really dismayed by the actual announcement on that front, but the price tags for the accessories is rather shocking. After the conference, Nintendo unveiled the price-point for many of these on its website. If you want a second set of joy con controllers, that will set you back $80! That’s the steepest investment of any standard controller I think I’ve ever seen. If for some reason you only desire a left or right joy con, that’s $50, but I can’t see much reason in doing that unless it’s to replace a broken unit. The two that come bundled with the system include wrist straps that have a plastic piece that thickens the controller itself and appears to make it more ergonomic. That’s not included with the stand-alone controllers so there’s another $20. If you prefer a traditional controller (what Nintendo refers to as its pro controllers) that will cost you $70. For comparison, a Dual Shock 4 costs $60, and Amazon routinely sells them for $50.

Extra docking stations, controller “shells,” and other such peripherals all carry pretty steep asking prices. Thankfully, the console supports standard memory cards since the included flash drive can only hold 32GB (purchasing the new Zelda title digitally will reportedly consume half of that), so I guess that’s one positive. All told though, you’re talking about having an entry price-point for the Switch at more than what it costs to get a PS4 or Xbox One, and those consoles both boast more robust software libraries and more raw processing power as well.

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Arms. Apparently we’re going back to the days of the NES when Nintendo titles were as bland as white bread. Can’t wait for Legs!

Nintendo unveiled two new IPs early in the conference: 1-2-Switch and Arms. Nintendo apparently felt the term “video” in “video games” was too burdensome so 1-2-Switch is a game designed to function without video input being a necessity. You basically waggle the joy con controllers amongst two-players in a Wii Sports sort of environment, just without the TV. They demonstrated two cowboys having a quick duel and I also saw people playing table tennis. The joy con controllers feature advanced rumble feedback and motion controls, and Nintendo is banking on those features being so intuitive that it can drive the fun factor for a game. 1-2-Switch sounds like a decent tech demo kind of game, like the previously referenced Wii Sports, but unlike its predecessor it’s not a pack-in title and is a full $60 MSRP game. I have zero interest in the game at that price point. Arms is essentially the next evolution of Wii Boxing, with more emphasis placed on being able to move the characters around with a more visually pleasing game. Each character has extendable, Inspector Gadget-like arms for punching. The input mechanics actually remind me more of Wii Bowling, with the twisting of the wrist to curve the punch being a central component, only now you’re striking an opponent instead of pins. Again though, this game would have made for an interesting pack-in game, but at full retail price it looks ludicrous. It’s also not available at launch and expected to arrive in April.

Nintendo also spent a considerable portion of the show bringing representatives from third party developers onto the stage to voice their support for the Switch. Unfortunately, ¬†virtually none of them had anything interesting to say or even games to show. Bethesda was one of the few to actually show some gameplay, in this case for Skyrim. I’m excited to have a portable version of Skyrim, but an almost six year old game arriving in the fall isn’t going to move consoles or convince the consumer that third parties are all-in on the Switch. Right now, it very much resembled recent Nintendo launches where third parties are only willing to offer ports of previously released games, or in the case of EA, port an annual title to the Switch. And the sad part is, if these ports don’t sell then third party developers will use that as an excuse to continue the narrative that Nintendo consumers are only interested in Nintendo products, when really it could be that they just don’t want to re-buy games they already own!

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Sir, it’s not polite to stare.

Nintendo, for its part, showed some of its own games to a mostly positive reaction. We now have a title for the new Mario game, Super Mario Odyssey, and we know it’s coming at the end of the year. It’s a true 3D Mario adventure with some levels set in real-world settings. It also features a Minish Cap sort of gimmick where Mario’s hat is apparently sentient. Some of the visuals, like Mario interacting with reality-proportioned humans, were bizarre, but I have faith that Nintendo will deliver a special game with their mascot. Zelda: Breath of the Wild was also confirmed as a launch game and follows in the foot steps of Twilight Princess before it, being a game developed for the old hardware that is now debuting on the new hardware. It looks pretty great, and it’s the only title I reserved with my pre-order of the Switch.

The other games Nintendo unveiled either during the show or after were less impressive. I already mentioned 1-2-Switch and Arms, but Nintendo also unveiled Splatoon 2, which looked exactly like the first game. It’s coming in June. The Mario Kart game we saw in that first teaser back in October was confirmed to just be an enhanced version of Mario Kart 8. I suppose that’s great for those who skipped out on the Wii U, but not so great for those who already have it. Missing was the true knock-out punch from Nintendo, something to really wow gamers with either a new IP or an old classic. Outside of Mario, there isn’t much to look forward to after launch and I fear there will be a pretty long software drought just like there was for the Wii and Wii U.

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This pretty much sums up the third-party support issue quite nicely.

Truth be told, the Nintendo brand and the presence of Zelda are going to be enough for the Switch to have a successful launch, but let’s not forget that the Wii U did all right when it launched too. The holiday season will be a real barometer for what the public thinks of the Switch. The fact that the Wii U ended up fairing so poorly may help sell the Switch since a lot of people will want to play Zelda, and won’t already have a Wii U to play it on (it’s being released on both consoles). I think the mobile aspect of the console won’t be a big factor for most gamers, even if it’s something that I am really interested in. People already have their smart phones and most won’t want to haul the Switch around in a backpack, especially if the battery life comes in at the low end of Nintendo’s prediction of 2 1/2 to 6 hours (a pretty generous range, Nintendo). I think Nintendo will also find its online service to be a hard sell when gamers may already have an Xbox Live or PS Plus membership. As part of the Nintendo package, gamers will get access to free, classic games each month (I’m actually not sure on the plural aspect, it might be something like one NES game and one SNES game), which is smart of them because it leverages one of their strengths. I think they’re making a mistake though by making the free titles only playable for a month, after that it requires a purchase. They should follow their competitors leads and just make the games free for subscribers for as long as their membership is active. It also would have been nice to hear they’re making all of those Virtual Console purchases gamers made on the Wii U and other platforms will be carried over to the Switch. At least in the case of Wii U owners, it would have been a nice “thank you” to those fans who stuck with the company during its darkest period.

Last night’s conference ended up leaving me more concerned than before about the Switch’s prospects. That cautious optimism has mostly been replaced with cynicism and an expectation that the Switch will follow a similar path as the Wii U. The conference, more than anything, re-affirmed for me what Nintendo is which is becoming more of a niche product. I think it’s very possible that the Switch is Nintendo’s last console, or that it’s marking the start of an era where Nintendo only creates portable systems that can also plug into a television set. I hope I’m wrong, but at least I know I’m getting some Zelda and Mario action in the interim, because at the end of the day, that’s still Nintendo’s biggest asset for selling consoles. The Switch will answer whether or not that’s Nintendo’s only asset.


Consoles, Handhelds, and Switch Puns by Nintendo

nintendo-switchIf you consider yourself an avid gamer then you are probably by now aware that Nintendo has unveiled its latest console/handheld: ¬†The Nintendo Switch. Previously known by the code name NX, the Switch was officially revealed in a short promotional video on October 20th. Prior to this promotional video, the Switch had only been seen via patent applications by Nintendo containing early drawings that gave some indication of what the console was going to look like. It’s design resembled the Wii U tablet, but with some notable distinctions such as a slot for cartridge based games not unlike Nintendo’s current handheld, the 3DS.

It’s no secret that the Wii U, Nintendo’s most recent entry into the console market, has been a commercial failure. If it weren’t for the abomination known as the Virtual Boy, the Wii U would represent Nintendo’s greatest failure. I was an early adopter of the Wii U mostly out of obligation. I’ve owned every Nintendo console and handheld at some point in my life, and I had the means to get a Wii U at launch, so I did. At worst, I expected to be able to play new entries in classic Nintendo franchises that would provide many hours of entertainment. The gimmick, in this case a tablet with a second screen, was essentially Nintendo’s way of bringing the DS experience to the home console, with a couple of twists. Being on a console meant being able to do different things with the second screen, like hiding information from those who could only view the television or playing the console strictly via the tablet with no TV required. Turns out, that last little feature ends up being the Wii U’s legacy as the Switch is essentially taking that concept of not needing the TV to play and running with it.

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What I assume comes in the box (minus the TV, of course).

Nintendo was never able to prove that the Wii U’s setup was conducive to innovative game design, so naturally neither were third parties. The Switch’s attempt at innovation is far more obvious as Nintendo wants to turn every console game into a portable experience as well. The Switch is fundamentally a tablet that just so happens to have a dock to make play on a TV seamless. Its design is quite similar to the Wii U tablet but noticeably smaller. It appears to be somewhere in size between a Vita and Wii U Gamepad, which is to say for a portable a bit on the large side. The Vita is already sizable for a portable and not exactly pocket friendly, so it goes without saying that the Switch is more of a backpack accessory than a pocket one. The edges of the Switch, which feature the button inputs, are detachable so you can play the Switch like a Vita or use the included kick stand and set it up on a surface and detach the controllers. Some games appear to only require one of these tiny controllers to play, meaning the Switch can natively support two players for certain games. For home use, it looks the Switch will come bundled with a controller “dock” that turns the two pads into something resembling a more traditional controller. The video also shows off a version of Nintendo’s Pro controller that likely will be an extra accessory. The dock also contains USB ports so existing controllers for the Wii U that utilize those ports may be compatible as well.

Nvidia is providing the architecture for the Switch. Some of the preliminary specs have been shared with the public, but just how powerful the Switch is remains a mystery. Given Nintendo’s track record, its likely the Switch will be competitive with the current consoles on the market from Sony and Microsoft, but will likely fall behind in raw power when their advanced models hit shelves over the next year. As long as the Switch is capable of handling ports from those machines, and given that neither Sony or Microsoft is going to ignore the original PS4/Xbox One, the power of the system should be satisfactory. It’s also unknown what the screen’s resolution and makeup is. LED? OLED? Can it support 4k? Is it a touch screen? The display of the Wii U Gamepad is nothing special, and if the promo video is showing actuall gameplay on the device then it at least looks like the Switch is superior to the Gamepad as far as resolution is concerned. If it’s on par with the original Vita then that would be fantastic.

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If you thought using the Wii remote was uncomfortable…

The system’s concept is an appealing one for me. These days I spend more time with my handhelds than I do my consoles because it’s hard for me to make time to actually play with my consoles when I’m home. A machine that functions as both offers a lot of potential. I had hoped to utilize the Wii U in a similar fashion when I first got it around the house, but its range is severely limited so I never took advantage of using the Gamepad as a dedicated console as much as I had envisioned. Sony has offered remote play for several years now through its handhelds, but it’s something I’ve never taken full advantage of. With the PSP, it just plain didn’t work very well. With the Vita, it seems to work fine, but the Vita has fewer buttons than a PS4 controller making some games pretty awkward as those features end up being mapped to the rear touchpad. The Switch is basically just a straight portable that’s convenient to play on a television, and it’s a bit surprising that no one has really done this before. The only thing similar is the NeoGeo X which was released a few years ago. The X is a handheld that has a console dock which resembles the original NeoGeo AES system and more or less functions the same, right down to the wired controllers. The X is actually pretty cool, but the quality is a little suspect. With Nintendo, I have few fears about quality so the Switch should provide for a better experience.

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A brief look at a game cartridge and headphone jack (take that, Apple).

Naturally, there are concerns with any new console, especially a Nintendo one. Third Party support has been a major issue for Nintendo ever since the days of the Nintendo 64. The Wii initially had a fair amount of support because it sold so well that publishers couldn’t ignore it, but there always seems to be the perception that Nintendo owners are fiercely loyal to Nintendo’s games and not as interested in others. So far, numerous developers are pledging support though none are confirming games (likely because of a non-disclouse agreement with Nintendo). Based on the video, it looks like the NBA 2K franchise is heading to Switch, and perhaps most exciting of all, Skyrim was shown as well. The video is likely a mock and what we saw of these games may not even be running on the Switch hardware, but it’s at least encouraging. I do wonder how a game as massive as Skyrim will fit on an SD card and what the costs will be. It’s possible the card in the video is a blank, and to play games on the go you have to transfer from an internal HDD in the dock to a flash style card,but that seems cumbersome. It also sounds like the type of thing that would make piracy easier and publishers hate that. Most likely games are going to come on these cards and I’m over-thinking it, but it will be interesting to see how this all works out. My fear is that the storage medium will compromise a title like Skyrim, and if I can’t have the full Skyrim experience on the Switch, then what’s the point?

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The “joy-cons” slide onto the side of the Switch. In order to preseve a traditional four button layout on each one, it looks like we have to endure possibly the world’s shittiest D-Pad.

The main concern I have, and probably most gamers have after viewing the video, is with battery life. A tablet plus two mini controllers seems like the type of thing that will drain batteries quickly. The Wii U’s Gamepad has horrible battery life, but how much of that is because the Gamepad has to constantly communicate with the actual console? Modern handhelds aren’t much better though, with 4-6 hours being the new standard. After owning both a launch 3DS and a launch Vita for a few years, I can say both of my handhelds are closer to that 4 hour lifespan than the 6 at this stage and it gets discouraging. How well the Switch handles that part will determine just how portable it truly is. Aside from that, the standard concerns apply such as how much will it cost and how does it feel to actually play it? I’ll admit, those little controllers (I think Nintendo is referring to them as joy-cons or joy-pads) don’t look optimal. My guess is they work in a pinch, but I suspect most will be buying a pro controller. The fact that they slide into the side of the tablet is a minor concern as well. Will they slide out during some intense gaming sessions? Probably not, but we’ll see.

I did find it interesting that the promotional video’s target audience clearly seems to be adults. There are no children at all in the video which is in stark contrast to Nintendo’s family audience we’re used to seeing. This probably all factors into the name, Switch, as the console represents a very different approach by the company to remain relevant. At this moment in time, I can’t commit to buying it without seeing more. The Wii U’s tech was never very interesting to me, but I purchased it largely on faith that Nintendo would deliver with excellent software. The Wii U never did, and even the first party titles from Nintendo have really started to suffer. This even goes back to the days of the Wii. Triple A franchises like Star Fox, Metroid, and Mario have really taken a hit lately and Nintendo needs to win me back in that respect. The company really hasn’t shown off any games yet. The video mostly appears to show off enhanced versions of Wii U games like Splatoon and Mario Kart 8 which leads me to believe the unveiling of the big titles is still to come. There is a glimpse of a new Mario game in there that appears to be very much in the style of Super Mario 64, and of course we know that the new Zelda game is likely to be a launch title with a simultaneous or delayed Wii U release (similar to what Nintendo did with Twilight Princess). A new Zelda game, even if it was largely developed with the Wii U in mind, might be all the Switch needs for a successful launch. After that, it will fall to Nintendo to provide reason for gamers to keep coming back. No one is really talking about it right now, but if the Switch is a failure it could mark the end of Nintendo as a console developer, and there’s no way to spin that as a good thing for gamers.


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