When many gamers hear the term ‘Console Wars,’ they normally think of the everlasting battle between Sony and Microsoft, with the pair constantly releasing better and better versions of the PlayStation and Xbox respectively. And that’s not even including those who label themselves as part of the ‘PC Master Race.’ However, with the release of The Switch, Nintendo is hoping to change that.
The company has long tried to become a major contender when it comes to the console wars, with the Wii and Wii U being some of Nintendo’s biggest attempt to take on Sony and Microsoft. At the time, though, nothing really came of it, other than disappointed fans and money spent on what was essentially a flop. With The Switch, it looks like the company is looking to enter into another crusade against the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but things aren’t looking too good for the portable console.
So far, signs point to a launch that may be similar to that of the Wii and Wii U; essentially, Nintendo are being fairly cagey about almost everything related to The Switch, in the same vein that they were when it came to the Wii U’s launch. However, one of the very few things that they have been open about – at least, when it what first announced as the NX – was the fact that it was built with online functionality in mind. With what gamers are used to at this point, this seemed like it was a necessity, rather than a unique selling point; the last few editions of the Xbox and PlayStation have had amazing online functionality, and Nintendo even tried to integrate it into the Wii U, to no avail.
At the time of the consoles announcement, the company said that they would be working with Japanese mobile gaming giant DeNA in order to create the online functionality, which many fans were delighted with. At the time, it would be the first time that Nintendo developed a console with it specifically in mind, and with DeNA on-board, it looked like nothing could go wrong. Announcing the online functionality, Nintendo said:
“Nintendo, together with DeNA, will jointly develop a new membership service which encompasses the existing Nintendo 3DS and Wii U systems, the new hardware system with a brand-new concept, NX, and smart devices and PCs, and Nintendo will be the primary party to operate this new membership service.”
So far, that seems like it’d be a boon for The Switch, so if Nintendo manage to pull it off, it can do nothing but reap the rewards. However, the company has fallen back into its old routines; aside from mentioning it during the official announcement, the company hasn’t said much else about online functionality, something which bears a remarkable resemblance to just prior to the launch of the Wii U.
As noted by several other publications in the last several months, this is almost exactly what happened in the lead up to the Wii U’s launch, and this was pretty much down to the fact that the Wii U’s online functionality wasn’t exactly done. Sure, they managed to get a decent version of it released for a Day One patch, but that was half baked at first, with the patch requiring literal hours to be installed, and not many features to help it stand out from other consoles’ online counterparts.
If this quietness is any indication, it seems that The Switch’s online capabilities many not be as great as speculators may have thought when it was first announced. And if it isn’t up to par with the online capabilities of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, or even the previous generation of consoles at least, then Nintendo might as well not even bother with it; fans are just going to get frustrated otherwise, especially if it’s sub-par, even for Nintendo’s standards.
With that said, online functionality isn’t the be all and end all of what consoles can bring to the table; after all, many gamers flock to consoles based on what games are set to be released for the console, especially if there are plans for some high-profile exclusives; after all, the Xbox One has the Gears of War and Halo franchises, with PlayStation having similarly well-developed franchises. If Nintendo could nab some exclusives, then it’s something that’ll only work in The Switch’s favour.
But even now, with 21 confirmed exclusives for the console, there aren’t many that stick of out the flock – at least, not enough for gamers to consider buying the console just for the two or three games that might tickle their fancy. It’d be ridiculous for Nintendo to think that players would fork over that kind of money for an exclusive Mario game or Splatoon 2, the both of which seem the be both the most exciting and most un-original of the bunch. All of the other games which may attract gamers seem to be already out on other consoles, or are soon to be released for them, meaning that players don’t need to fork over hundreds in order to play them.
Maybe free games may be a boon for The Switch? After all, Xbox has its Games with Gold and PlayStation has something similar; some (normally older) games are released for a short period for free, provided you meet certain conditions, and after that you’ll have to have to pay full price. It’s something that players are getting accustomed to, and something that they like. With The Switch, though, Nintendo have decided to go a different route and put profit ahead of players. As Nintendo have put it:
“Subscribers will get to download and play a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) or Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Super NES) game (with newly-added online play) for free for a month.”
Yeah, for a month. Players essentially get to rent a game for free for a month. While that may be pretty generous by any other industries standards, when it comes to gaming, it definitely doesn’t compare to any other competitor. Sure, it might sound childish to complain about not getting things for free, but at a time when it’s starting to become a bit of a standard, then you can see where fans are coming from.
In the five years since it last launched a console proper, Nintendo has had plenty of time to sit back and watch Sony and Microsoft duke it out with their respective consoles; they had plenty of time to see what worked and what didn’t for the Xbox and PlayStation, and then improve on it and give it their own twist. However, in those five years, it seems that the company didn’t even pay attention, living in their own little bubble, destined to repeat the failures they’ve made before. If this trend continues, it looks like The Switch is destined to be a repeat of the Wii U, a console that Nintendo also put its hopes on when it came to the console wars.
At the moment, though, it seems that many fans are going to stick to the consoles that they know best, namely being the ones that actually deliver. I hope that I’m wrong – nobody wants more, quality consoles than I do – but it looks like The Switch is going to gather dust while Xbox and PlayStation continue to dominate.