Posted by: seanmalstrom | October 22, 2016

Email: A console for normal people

Something striking about the Switch is that it comes across as very…normal. Not that it’s a bad thing at all! But it indicates a significant shift in Nintendo’s attitudes. They are trying to market the Switch as something that fits into the lives of ordinary people.

Take the name, for instance. This is the first Nintendo console, home, handheld, or otherwise, that isn’t a made-up word or a catchy brand name (NES counts as one because that was a time when “Nintendo” was a wacky name to non-Japanese people). Switch is just a word! It’s not very exciting. But, it gets the point across. It’s certainly one of the better decisions made by Nintendo’s Committee of Naming Things as of late.(Joy-Con is a bit silly sounding, but it has a very Japanese ring to me. I think they tend to use shortened English words for common speech. It even sounds kind of Japanese… joii kon! haha)

It might be a small thing, but the naming could be pointing to how Nintendo doesn’t want to take any chances with this thing. For contrast, take the Wii, which was very BOLD. Everything about it was distinctive. Even its name had many different meanings to it for a global audience (we, whee, oui, the ii looking like two people holding Wiimotes (yes) ). Meanwhile, Switch doesn’t waste any time with puns and such. Nintendo wants to be as crystal clear as possible.

I also find it kind of relieving (in one way, at least) that the Switch doesn’t come across as pushing a philosophy on us. N64 & 3DS had THREEEEEE-DEEEEE, and the Wiis/DS made it feel like the Remote / GamePad / touch screen *had* to be used in order for games to use the full potential of those systems (even though that wasn’t necessarily true). Developers probably felt that way too. What’s the point of making a Wii game that doesn’t need the remote? The Switch, on the other hand, is already being presented as the system that lets you play games the way YOU want to play them. In front of a TV? On the tablet? With the controllers attached to the side? With them attached to the grip? With the Pro controller? The Wii almost had this, but that was only for a few games (Mario Kart and Smash Bros come to mind), with many games only accepting one of the many possible controller layouts at a time. I personally loved that aspect of the Wii, but it was annoying when games that should work perfectly with a Classic Controller don’t for some reason (NSMBWii, DKCR). Here’s hoping that the Switch will be more accepting of custom control preferences.

Also, it’s not at all worrisome that the software showing was so limited. The point was to show off the ideology of the console. This happened with the Wii as well: first they unveiled just the console, saying that it was small, cheap, and would have the Virtual Console (the one bit of juicy news); then they revealed the controller but with *no* actual gameplay footage; and finally they showed off the games that did the controller justice. This time, the console and controller were revealed at the same time (because they are the same thing), so software was held off until later to give us time to understand and play with the concept of the console itself.

Nintendo is not taking any more chances. What they chose to reveal is only what is necessary to very clearly present the concept of the Switch: it is a mobile gaming device that adds to your life instead of being the centre of it, letting you use it however you want. That’s a pretty noble goal, and consistent with Nintendo’s approach to gaming in general. And the fact that the Switch’s “gimmick” is “play this thing how you want to” instead of “here is a BRAND NEW way to play!” is also indicative of a cautious, but level-headed Nintendo…unless there’s something big we don’t know about yet.

As of now, the Switch is about being a device that plays games, nothing more. It isn’t about being the next Wacky Nintendo thing, as Nintendo knows they probably can’t afford doing that again. On one hand, that means it likely can’t make big water like the Wii did, but it can be a “good” console, which is all Nintendo really needs right now. And I think that’s good enough.

 

You’re speaking too soon. We haven’t seen the OS or software lineup. I am very worried about Nintendo’s CHOICE for software. Look at Metroid: Federation Force. How does anyone screw up that bad?

Do we need more 3d Mario? That is not going to sell the console… especially outside America. Should I remind everyone that when the DS launched with Super Mario 64DS, that the sales of the DS fell behind the PSP. If it were not for Super Mario Kart DS, Animal Crossing DS, Nintendogs, and especially 2d Mario, DS would have cratered. Nintendo has some sick, sick obsession with 3d. Yet, no reporter has confronted Nintendo developers on it.

“Why do you keep making 3d Mario when it doesn’t sell hardware?” It is a very expensive game to make too.

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