The press got an opportunity to test Nintendo Co.’s new Switch gaming console at an event in Tokyo last week. Presentations are also scheduled in in Japan and North America to let people experience the product before its official debut in March 2017.
Investors are doubtful whether Switch will be the same success as the Wii console a decade ago as Nintendo shares dropped 5.9 percent on Friday right after pricing and other details were announced. On Monday, the stock fell as much as 3.6 percent, bringing the decline in the company’s market value to about $2.7 billion over the two trading days.
Nintendo counts on the Switch but there is an opinion that its intention to be all things to all gamers could end up making it right for no one. Switch is an attempt to “combine gameplay at home and on the go with a tablet sporting wireless controllers that can be used anywhere, but also connects to TVs.” And here, the question arises – will people be willing to pay $300 or 30,000 yen for a device that offers a lot of incremental improvements and ideas, but presents no single technological or conceptual breakthrough that makes the Switch easy to understand.
Yuji Nakamura and Gearoid Reidy from Bloomberg share their impressions after testing the Switch at the Tokyo event.
- The Bloomberg team emphasizes the polished design of the device. The Switch looks good in the living room and on the go. Nintendo has moved the main unit in and out of portable mode. The improved design of the Switch compares favorably with the plastic and toy-like curves of the Wii, Wii U and DS handhelds.
- The tiny Joy-Con motion controllers don’t only serve as game controllers and Wiimote-like wands, but also contain sensors and vibration feedback. “The new anime-like Arms game, which works with the new Joy-Con controllers, feels like the Wii motion-based title we deserved but never got”, write the Bloomberg team.
- There is seamless transition between mobile and home-docked gameplay. There are no glitches when sliding the Joy-Cons on to the tablet and lifting the Switch out of the dock; the game shows up right away on the mobile screen.
- Super Mario Odyssey can be that very game that will revive Switch sales after the initial boost at launch. The game seems to be aimed squarely at the exploration-focused collection-heavy 3D epics that are common today.
- The lineup is rather humble while a strong collection of games is critical for driving early hardware sales. There are two Nintendo titles and less than 10 third-party games. Moreover, many games are just updates of older franchises. Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a new title of an open-world Zelda that will debut at launch, arouses heightened interest.
- One strange downside to the Joy-Con was that they didn’t seem to be as easy to use when directly connected to the main Switch tablet. The thumb sticks may be too short, making games feel less responsive and more jerky. They felt better when detached and used as wireless controllers.
- Graphics quality is limited. It is fine when playing on a smaller tablet screen but gameplay on a big television screen may be a disappointment. The lack of wow-factor graphics makes games feel outdated, it is hard to believe that it is something from 2017. This is an area where the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 win without a contest.
Nintendo seems to try to combine the success of the casual-focused Wii with the needs of more serious gamers, giving it a split personality. The Switch will be in a good position if the company manages to attract both groups.