Well, Switchmas has come and gone with many questions answered and leaving many new questions unanswered.
The presentation itself was evenly balanced between showing off new software and advertising the features. The “joycons”- the micro pads that attach to the sides of the console- come in standard grey, blue and red with a detachable wrist strap and include a motion sensor that can apparently accurately simulate an empty glass full of ice cubes, NFC capability and and an infrared camera that can measure real-time shape, size and motion of objects. During the Yamauchi era, Nintendo were apprehensive about online interactivity in gaming and only the Gamecube marked their first baby steps into the medium. Now they’re taking it in their stride- possibly even too far- with the capture button on the left joycon that can take still images of gameplay and upload them to social media.
Confirmed new franchises include Arms, a boxing/wrestling hybrid which utilises both joycons, and 1-2-Switch, a collection of party games. Shinya Takahashi said at the presentation that Nintendo took influence from all its prior home and handheld consoles to create the Switch, but 1-2-Switch goes further and takes influence from Nintendo products dating back to 1976 with its Wild Gunman minigame. 1-2-Switch will be a launch title (I can see it being a pack-in) and Arms will follow shortly after. The highly-rated Splatoon will be getting a sequel in the summer, and an all-new Mario platformer will be released in time for Christmas. Super Mario Odyssey again takes a cue from Nintendo’s past, harking back to the days where Mario was said to be from Brooklyn with a New York-influenced city in the real world- New Donk- as the primary setting. Unfavourable comparisons with the Sonic Adventure series have already been levelled at it, but I think Nintendo can do a lot more with the open sandbox mechanic than Sega did. Other titles include the long-anticipated Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, an update to the top-selling Wii U game including previous DLC, improved graphics, new characters and new arenas. New entries in the Xenoblade and Fire Emblem series rounded out the first-party offerings with third-party titles including No More Heroes, Skyrim and FIFA also revealed. A short video at the end of the presentation teased several games currently under development including what is believed to be a new entry in the F-Zero series.
But here comes the bad news- online play, for a long time absolutely free on Nintendo systems, will only be free for a limited time followed by payments. Battery life in portable mode will range from two-and-a-half to six-and-a-half hours depending on the game being played. Apart from BOTW, the launch lineup looks very weak And finally, it will set you back a cool US$299 or £280, with games apparently retailing for £50-60 a pop in the UK. The console is very good boasting revolutionary new features, but these disadvantages are major hinderances which could lead to low takeup. Nintendo discontinuing the Wii U instead of repositioning it as a budget family console as it did with the original Wii won’t help either.