The Nintendo Switch: Six Months Later


By: Eric Flapjack Ashley (@flapjackashley)

Nintendo’s newest console, the Switch, quietly turned six months old earlier this month. It’s doing well in sales with nearly six million units sold worldwide – that is already almost half of what the Wii U did in its entire lifespan – so why not take a look at how it has done in other areas: what went well, what didn’t, and what’s still MIA.

Tremendous Launch

There were a lot of questions about how the Switch would be received by customers. Not counting the barely-there Virtual Boy, Nintendo’s previous system, the Wii U, was the lowest selling console in the company’s history. Nintendo needed a hit, and it would be tough to manage with fellow competitor Sony and the PlayStation 4 dominating in every region. Then March 3rd happened and it sold like gangbusters. The Switch started hot out of the gate – it has steadily outsold the PS4 in Japan every single week but two by a large margin since launch, and it is also performing better on average that it here in North America as well during the same timeframe. Keeping in mind that the Switch launched with, if we’re being honest, only one game that people really wanted and during a non-traditional holiday period to boost sales, selling almost six million consoles in six months is pretty darn good.

Library Woes

Outside of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the Switch game library started off pretty slow. Not until Mario Kart 8 Deluxe almost two months later would the home/portable hybrid have it’s next big title. Nintendo tried to space out releases so it wouldn’t have a five month drought like the Wii U had at one point early in it’s lifespan, but it still feels like a long time between major first-party games. ARMS, a new IP, would come a month and a half after Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon 2 a month after that.

Over on the digital side of things, it was a brighter picture. An average of three to four new games are released on the eShop so there are actually a good number of titles available to play as of this writing. Some standouts include Snipperclips and Sonic Mania, plus a wealth of content from indie developers who saw some of their best sales ever on the Switch versions of their games.

The only problem with having most of your game offerings in digital format only is that to the average customer, it looks like the Switch has no games. Walk into a Best Buy or a Walmart and you’ll see the same nine or ten boxed physical games for sale – and for a system that has six months under it’s belt, ten games is not a lot. It just appears like no one is making games for it. What’s more is that a good number of retail games are ports of older titles: as good as the games are on the Switch, seeing Mario Kart 8, Lego City Undercover, Cave Story, and The Binding of Isaac for sale in 2017 isn’t going to set the world ablaze.

Not Ready For Primetime

The Nintendo Switch console itself is pretty great. I am absolutely in love with being able to play a massive game like Zelda at home on the big screen and then take it with me on the go. Even though it has been done on a smaller scale before, this is revolutionary in how the Switch is able to execute it so flawlessly. As a handheld, it plays games in 720p which is magnificent for a portable device, and docked and attached to a television, it goes up to 1080p.

However, I feel the console is lacking some very core features. At the very least, the system uses “Friend Codes” from the Wii and Nintendo DS/3DS generation as opposed to usernames like the Wii U and every other modernized console does. As of this writing, there is no way to communicate with friends online – there is not even a text-based messaging function. Nintendo also made the very baffling decision to keep your game saves locked to your console – you can’t transfer it to a different Switch if yours dies on you…and while a possible cloud saving option could become available when their paid online services roll out in 2018, it’s crazy that it isn’t an option right away.

The Switch also lacks any kind of serious personalization options. In theory, they wanted to make the Switch menus run as smoothly and as quickly as possible, and I get that. But the console’s menus are just boring to look at. There is no happy music playing in the eShop as Nintendo was famous for in the Wii and Wii U era, and the plain white or back backgrounds on the home menus lack the character and personality that the PlayStation 4 or 3DS has with themes. There are no apps on the console to date, so that means no Netflix or Twitch (which also means no easy way to stream and share gameplay content like the PS4 or Xbox One) – and while that is not a necessity, having them on the Switch certainly would not hurt.

One of the most popular and beloved features of the past two Nintendo console cycles has also been mysteriously absent. The Virtual Console has barely been mentioned, aside from vague references and having a classic game updated with online multiplayer that comes with Nintendo’s paid online service. But the Switch would be a prime place for a Virtual Console, and everyone knows it. So where is it?

When Splatoon 2 launched, it exposed one of the Switch’s most glaring problems: the insane and cumbersome why to chat with friends. As opposed to other consoles, you have to run a chat through Nintendo’s own primitive smartphone app or use Skype or Discord. Nintendo’s app was laughably awful from the start, and it required your phone screen to be lit to be able to use and chat, and you also couldn’t move out of the app and run it in the background as doing so would log you out of the chat. Matchmaking was also done through the app. An update released this week addressed the ridiculous problem of not being able to run when using other apps or having an idle screen, but come on Nintendo, in 2017, this is the best you can do?

A Very Mario Christmas and Beyond

At the recent Nintendo Direct for September, Nintendo highlighted a number of games that give me confidence that Nintendo’s biggest weak spot during the Wii U era especially may be on the mend. Third parties have a number of big games on the horizon including Skyrim, which is pretty dated, but I would venture a guess that a good share of Nintendo-only fans have never played it. Bethesda is also bringing ports of Doom (2016) and Wolfenstein II to the Switch in early 2018, and having some M-rated games on your roster is never a bad thing when people think your console is just for kids. Capcom is porting over Resident Evil: Revelations and its sequel in November, and Rockstar (!) is trotting out an HD remaster of L.A. Noire at the same time as its PS4 and Xbox One counterparts. EA is testing the waters again with FIFA 18, which was custom-built for the Switch and is 90% on par with the other systems. 2K is bringing NBA 2K18 and WWE 2K18 – neither franchise appearing on a Nintendo console since 2013 – to Switch this fall/winter. Terrific, if older, indie titles like Rocket League and Stardew Valley are coming as well, with Nintendo-exclusive content. Third parties are coming back to the Switch because it’s sales can’t be ignored.

But Nintendo’s big holiday game is Super Mario Odyssey, and boy, does it look good. If you’ve seen the trailers for it, you’ll know it’s not just your normal Mario game. We fans have wanted something different from the Mushroom Kingdom for years, and we’re finally getting it. Also coming out in a console bundle, I believe the Switch will have a very, very good holiday season. Nintendo traditionally does extremely well during the Christmas shopping season, and this year will certainly be no exception. If stock can hold up, I don’t think them moving two million units in December alone is out of the question.

And also, if Mario’s nipples don’t sell you on the game, I don’t know what to say.

Looking Ahead

When you have franchises like Pokemon – who’s mainline series will be essentially making its home console debut on the Switch – and Animal Crossing waiting in the wings, and fan favorites Yoshi and Kirby already confirmed for early 2018, you have momentum on your side. The third parties that have been lacking seem to be making a welcomed return, and if you combine them with Nintendo’s first party quality, you have a winning combination.

And lest we forget about a little title called Metroid Prime 4 in the works. Sure, it may not come in 2018, but the fact that we know it’s coming is enough.

There is work to do on Nintendo’s part. Some of their decisions have been very good, while others have been quite infuriating. 2018 will be a year of reckoning for the Switch because the newness will have worn off, it will be past its first Christmas season, and the online subscription service will be in full play early in the year. They have issues that I mentioned with the console itself, but most of them can easily be remedied and I hope they are.

Nintendo really is onto something with this console. It has gotten fans excited, brought back the dedicated fans who were disappointed with the Wii and then skipped Wii U era, and even still appeals to the casual gamer as well. The hybrid nature of the console is something no other system has at the moment – and even if they do at a later date, they won’t have the benefit of being able to offer a full Pokemon game that can be played on the big screen for the first time in that franchise. It feels good to be a Nintendo fan again with the list of games coming. I just hope that Nintendo takes this momentum and use it for good with wise decisions going forward instead of the weird ones they have had the history of making at the most inopportune times.

But until then, let’s Switch and Play!

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