Nintendo has had a tough time of it the last few years. The Wii U had a confusing launch and never made it out of the mud after that despite having an incredible line-up of games. People didn’t know why, after the Wii, they should buy it. They weren’t sure whether it was an upgrade, or something new. It never appealed fully to the hardcore audience, either, leaning too far toward the younger audience Nintendo has preferred to court.
Enter the Nintendo Switch.
We have only a little to go on, but already Nintendo is offering a clearer vision: The same games, everywhere you go. At home, on an airplane, in bed, on the can. Wherever you go, Skyrim is (not officially) there. And this is a system for grown-up adults who spend their money on grown-up stuff. Instead of showing us how great of a time families could have with the system, we saw hipsters jamming out with it on San Francisco rooftops, on roadtrips, and while traveling.
Already, this thing is wildly different from the Wii U, even while still being a tablet-sized screen with analog sticks on either side. But Nintendo has to figure its stuff out for the system to succeed past the concept stage. Here’s what it needs to get right for the Nintendo Switch to thrive.
Figure out the battery situation
Right now, rumors have the Nintendo Switch battery life at around 3 hours. Really, that’s not particularly surprising. Offering a portable console experience means creating power-hungry hardware. Nintendo has to optimize the heck out of it to squeeze every minute of battery life they can get without ruining the experience. Really, this thing should run about 4 hours.
Either way, there’s a simple way Nintendo can mitigate much of this issue. Standard power inputs.
The only reason people were ticked when it came out that the New Nintendo 3DS wouldn’t be accompanied by a power cable was that the 3DS uses a proprietary power input that doesn’t work with any non-Nintendo devices. It has a dedicated cable and that meant having to go spend money on a separate piece of hardware. If Nintendo goes with a standard port – USB Micro or USB-C – then it kills two birds with one stone. The first is that any USB charger will work, and you won’t need to carry a dedicated Nintendo power plug with you to use the Switch on the go.
The second is that, if that’s the case, we can buy portable batteries for the system, extending its life greatly. A 20,000 mAh portable battery is downright affordable right now and could extend battery life of the Switch substantially. If it can connect, that is.
I love Nintendo hardware, but this is one thing it needs to give in on.
When the Wii U launched, it had very little going for it that made it unique and that made it stand out. It had a whole list of forgettable ports like Assassin’s Creed III, FIFA Soccer 13, Darksiders II, and Batman: Arkham City: Armored Edition that had come out in some form or another long before. Then there were a few titles aimed a kids, and some that, even as I go back and look at the list now, can’t recall ever seeing, playing, or hearing of. The only real stand-out games were Nintendo Land, Rabbids Land, and New Super Mario Bros. U. The first two were distractions, and the third, while fun, never really felt like a true Mario game. It was a cute throwback, but not something new and fresh.
The Switch is already taking care of this in just few simple words: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. That’s a huge headliner game that’s going to get players buying the system, even as the game also comes out on Wii U. We don’t know what else is coming, but whatever it is needs to show off Nintendo’s signature style and the power of the Switch. It needs to tell hardcore and casual gamers alike that the Switch is something they need and shouldn’t wait on.
Keep developers coming back
The Wii U courted a few developers, as we listed above, but most of the games they put out were late ports or hampered experiences. Ubisoft is one of the few third-party developers that has consistently supported Nintendo and done well on Nintendo systems, and they’ve done so by creating different experiences for the system. But at the same time, they promised Watch Dogs on Wii U before they really had a grasp on the power needs of either the game or the system.
The power difference and the difficulty in attaining big numbers were both turnoffs for many developers, and third-party support fell off quickly, turning the Wii U, like the last few Nintendo consoles, into a device primarily for Nintendo games and not for much else.
The Switch has a wider appeal as a handheld device. This should give Nintendo some room to leverage the list of third parties they’ve had work on 3DS games for both better sales and more varied games.
Put the console in our hands
The Switch is a weird beast that isn’t exactly a handheld or a console. It’s much bigger than its competitors in one space and weaker than those in the other.
In this space, Nintendo can’t show weakness. It must offer an uncompromising vision of console gameplay on a portable, handheld (and admittedly large) device. The Nintendo Seal of Quality has to return and the company has to show us that we’re not going to get Skyrim with a crappy framerate or a Mario experience that feels like it’s held back by the hardware.
This is one thing that gamers especially will seize upon immediately. We’re a particular folk, us gamers, and if we feel like our games are sub-standard, we make noise. Lots and lots of noise.
Join the modern internet
Finally, Nintendo needs to show us that it knows what it is doing when it comes to online gaming. The adult audience it is targeting with the Switch isn’t going to tolerate the three-big-buttons style marketplace we see on the Wii and Wii U, nor the trading of credit-card-style friend codes. Nintendo fixed a lot of that with the Network ID stuff that rolled out recently, but it needs to be implemented on more effectively.
Nintendo needs to do what Microsoft and Sony have been doing for years. Ideally, it shouldn’t charge for it, but if it must have it to do so to provide something usable, I’m all for it.
If Nintendo can pull this off, the Switch could mark a huge change for the company for the better. If it can’t, though, it’s tough to see much further into the future.