Nintendo Switch Review: Potential unrealised… for now
The received wisdom in the gaming industry is that Nintendo builds plans around what it calls a ‘white shark’ policy.
The way the industry works is this: someone comes up with something that proves popular – be it software or hardware – and everyone else in the industry says ‘let’s do that’. This is known as ‘red shark’ policy; once the blood’s in the water, the sharks converge.
By contrast, Nintendo has banked the last decade or so on pursuing strategies that at best, the rest of the industry never considered and, at worst, are strategies that its competitors shrugged off as bad ideas to begin with.
Consider the case of the Wii. When Nintendo first unveiled its 100-million-unit-selling console back in the day, it was denigrated by its competitors. Sony’s America’s then CEO Jack Tretton referred to it as “a lollipop. I’m too old for lollipops“. A few years later, thanks to the Wii’s success, Sony was unveiling a PS3 motion sensor interface in the form of the PS Move that actually looked like a lollipop.
The reason it’s worth going over all of this is because the Nintendo Switch, like a lot of Nintendo’s hardware over the last decade, looks like a result of ‘white shark’ thinking. While Microsoft and Sony are locked in a battle to control the space under consumers’ TV sets, Nintendo’s new console seems to want to get them all out of the house.
Nintendo Switch Review – Gaming on the go
The Nintendo Switch makes good on its announcement trailer’s promise. If you never caught it or don’t remember, picture the most achingly hip people in existence playing games at home, on planes and then running off to bars, basketball games and braais (barbecues for our American cousins), and bringing along their console as a party piece.
The Nintendo Switch can do this, but there are some caveats. First up, the paucity of party games at launch make it something of a novelty item rather than a piece of tech that justifies the financial outlay (that would be around R5 200 RRP at the time of writing).
Second, for you hardcore players out there, out of the dock, the Switch’s battery life ranges from 2-and-a-half-hours to five depending on what you’re playing; that’s fine for party games like 1-2 Switch but The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild chews through the battery at a rate of knots (then again, you should probably be playing this game on a big screen anyway).
That having been said, the Nintendo Switch offers the best handheld gaming experience in history – and yes, that includes both the Nintendo DS line and the PS Vita. There’s something purely magical about being able to lift the Switch tablet out of its dock, snap two Joy-Cons to either side and carry on one’s gaming experience after only a couple of button presses.
Nintendo Switch Review – Let’s all play
The Switch certainly boasts a ‘wow’ factor in much the same way Kinect did when it was first released. The only difference is that in the case of the Switch, this doesn’t wear off – probably because it’s more practical and it appeals to more players.
The Nintendo Switch – like the Wii – has the potential to rope in players who aren’t traditionally console adopters because its interface is so user-friendly. Unlike the Wii, however, the Switch can bag the hardcore market because, in spite of its easy-to-use UI, its interface’s appeal is equally split between hardcore and casual.
With the Switch, Nintendo has taken the best aspects of both the Wii and the Wii U and streamlined them to create a console that offers the best functionality of both with none of the drawbacks. If you were sold on the Wii by motion-control, casual gaming and partying on a Saturday night, the Switch has you covered. If you loved the in-depth gaming experiences offered by the Wii U – or indeed any console released by Sony and Microsoft – you’ll be pleased with the set-up here.
Nintendo Switch Review – Issues
There have been reports that the Switch’s controllers – in particular its left controller – become flummoxed if a device using Wi-Fi is present in its vicinity. I can only report what I have experienced, and – in a room with a MacBook and iPhone sucking their share of bandwith – this hasn’t been an issue for me.
There have also been aesthetic appraisals about the Switch saying that its peripherals feel cheap and its controls are unresponsive. In the case of the latter I can report that I’ve had no issues in this regard. In the case of the former I’d say that the Wii was never anywhere near as slick as the Xbox 360 or PS3, but that didn’t stop it being a great gaming platform.
Nintendo Switch Review – Verdict
Really, the only thing preventing an unreserved recommendation for buying a Nintendo Switch is the console’s paucity of games. The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild is all that’s needed to convince the faithful, but for the rest of us, it may be worthwhile to sit on our haunches.
Nintendo has promised a boatload of titles for its new console – and that’s great – but chances are, by the time this machine is worth buying, it’ll probably have had a price cut. Make no mistake; if you’re a Nintendo fan, buy a Switch now. But if you’re not, please do keep an eye on its release schedule because you may find yourself picking one up sooner than you expected.