Friday, January 13, 2017

Nintendo Switch arrives March 3rd for $299

After the first unveiling, Nintendo finally does a proper presentation to its new console: the Nintendo Switch.

After the huge success of the Wii, and the huge flop of the Wii U, Nintendo is betting on a 2-in-1 console that blurs the lines between mobile and living room gaming. The Nintendo Switch is basically a tablet, plus a docking station, plus a set of versatile gamepads that can be assembled on the tablet, on a controller, or used separately on its own: the Joy-Cons.

It will cost $299, which isn't exactly cheap (you can get a more powerful Xbox One or PS4 for less than that these days), and you'll choke when you see how much Nintendo charges for an extra dock ($90) or Joy-Cons ($80 for the pair)! Luckily, Nintendo is finally opening up somewhat, as the Switch won't be region locked.

Don't read too much into it though, as the games will come in game cartridges, meaning you'll have to lug around the games you want to play away from home (and they'll cost $60 each) but don't expect to play too much, as battery life can be of as little as 2.5 hours.

The Nintendo Switch will have a version with more colorful Joy-Cons, which will help set them apart. They might look similar but have some nifty differences. Although both can be used as mini-gamepads, sporting an analog thumbstick, 4 action buttons (and even shoulder buttons), one also has a IR motion sensing camera and NFC reader/writer. Both come with "high-definition" haptic feedback, as well as motion sensing, of course.

As for the games, Nintendo hopes to shed away from the Wii U lackluster support, and says there are nearly 100 studios working on games for the Switch, including all the major names, like Activision, EA, Take 2 and Ubisoft. However, all the games that were shown were from Nintendo or close partners, and all other simply went up to the stage promising to support the console but with nothing to show for now.

Besides a curious mini-game based 1-2-Switch, that ends up being the "tutorial" for the Switch capabilities, there are a few games that Nintendo fans will undoubtedly consider to justify buying the Switch right away. Games like Super Mario Odyssey (think of a GTA V style open-world game, but with Super Mario in it); Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and Zelda: Breath of the Wild, are all incredibly stunning and impressive. And then there's Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, ARMS, and other games to top it off.

You can also join up to 8 Nintendo Switch for wireless local multiplayer games; but should you want to play multiplayer games online, you'll have to pay for yet another online service (similar to Xbox Live, PSN).

You can check the official Nintendo Switch site and see all the game trailers; but I think Nintendo risks re-enacting the Wii U fiasco by wanting to cash-in right from the start. If they priced the Switch at $199 (the same you pay for a Nvidia Shield tablet) and offered the accessories at cost (dock, joy-cons, etc) then they would gather a huge fanbase from the start, prompting developers to jump in on it. At $299.99 + $80 or so for an added joy-con + $90 should you want a second hub (not to mention the couple of games you'll want to grab to properly use it)... then you'll start thinking if you're not better off sticking with a Xbox/PlayStation and using your smartphone to play while on the go.

At this point, Nintendo can't risk the Switch launch to leave any room for second thoughts. If this isn't a hit from the start, developers will quickly jump out of the boat, just like they did for the Wii U... and if that happens, this will be just another expensive console to play a "dozen" great games for Nintendo fans only... And that's just the first step for Nintendo to end up living from making games from their old characters for competing - successful - platforms?

What do you think... are you willing to pay $300 for the Nintendo Switch and bet it will be a success?

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