The late comedian Bill Hicks once inferred that a stand-up’s job is to say “hold on just a second” as a consensus forms.
It could be argued that the same is true for journalists – in particular those that find themselves writing about any subject in pop culture’s space. This is especially tricky when it comes to videogames; a lot of the writers in the games industry are avowed fans of the medium and it’s as easy for them to become swept away on a wave of hype as their audience. This is entirely understandable; this is one the few mediums left that has the ability to wow its audience on a rather consistent basis.
For proof of this, look no further than yesterday’s reveal trailer for the Nintendo Switch console. With just three or so minutes of footage of what admittedly looks like a genuinely revolutionary piece of tech, Nintendo set social media alight and tongues wagging. It wouldn’t be understating things to say that the Nintendo faithful were foaming at the mouth at the prospect of the new console and they were joined in their fervour in no small part by the majority of the gaming media.
Clock an eye in the direction of the Twitter feed, Facebook group or YouTube channel of any major gaming outlet and it’s likely you’ll see something approaching awe for Nintendo’s newest console. Articles have been posted digging into every aspect contained in the trailer, from the snazzy, detachable controllers, to the sleek docking devices to the notion that Nintendo has found that happy medium between handheld and home consoles.
If you missed it and want to know what all the fuss is about, check out the video below:
You have to hand it to Nintendo: the Switch trailer is a slick piece of business. Compare that brief glimpse of Nintendo’s latest console to the reveals of the PS4 and the Xbox One.
Instead of a lengthy press conference in some austere venue, accompanied with on-stage input from developers and creators, Nintendo has basically released a music video featuring a collection of young, achingly hip individuals enjoying the hell out of its new console. It’s very similar in its length and its direction to the video Rockstar Games released for GTA Online; instead of lengthy exposition, prospective buyers were just given the facts.
Or were they? In the 24 hours since it dropped, several pieces of information have surfaced concerning the Switch’s reveal trailer.
For a start, both 2K and Bethesda – whose games featured quite prominently in the video – have gone on record stating that at this stage that the titles shown off in Nintendo’s trailer (NBA 2K and Skyrim respectively) aren’t confirmed for the Switch.
“We’re happy to have had the opportunity to collaborate with Nintendo on the video,” a Bethesda spokesperson told Eurogamer. “While we are not confirming any specific titles at this time, we are pleased to announce our partnership with Nintendo and support of the Switch. We look forward to revealing specific games and details in the future.”
Now, this doesn’t mean the games shown off in the video won’t land in on the Switch. But it seems a little odd that neither publisher will confirm this is the case. Yes, yes, everyone knows that NDA’s and timing are crucial to marketing strategies in the gaming industry, but still, why won’t the publishers behind two games that are centre-pieces in Nintendo’s latest marketing blast say whether those titles will be on the new platform.
Second, Nintendo has ducked any questions concerning the specs and functionality of its new console. VG247 has run a story in which Wall Street Journal reporter Takashi Mochizuki has tweeted out Nintendo’s reticence to reveal any information including whether or not the console can run smartphone games, whether it’s region-locked and what its launch line-up will look like.
In fairness, Nintendo has vaguely answered the latter question; in a press release sent out yesterday the platform holder announced an impressive list of developers and publishers who had titles in the pipeline for the Switch including Activision, Bandai Namco, Capcom, From Software, EA, Sega, Ubisoft and yes, Bethesda and Take Two (the parent company of 2K). Furthermore, thanks to NVIDIA spilling the beans, we know the Switch will be using a custom Tegra chip.
But there are a ton of unanswered questions about the Switch. Is it a touchscreen device? What is its battery life like? Is it 4K-compliant? Is it backwards compatible? What are its specs? Before we even get into price and whether it’ll be available in South Africa, does it do anything other than allow users to play games? Does it have a browser? Will consumers be able to use apps on it? If the last generation taught us one thing it’s that consoles need to be able to be more than gaming platforms if they hope to compete in today’s one-size-fits-all tech market.
None of this seems to matter to the faithful at the moment. Neither does the fact that Nintendo’s share price dipped around 5 per cent after the Switch announcement video went out – much in the same way it did after the Wii U’s reveal at E3 in 2012. I remember being at the E3 expo that year and the Nintendo fans in attendance – both those who were fellow hacks and those who weren’t – were convinced that Nintendo’s keynote reveal had knocked it out of the park. Four years later, here we are, and the Wii U has – to put it charitably – failed to impress.
Now, there may be those who could – quite reasonably – say that it’s a little churlish to be this persnickety about the Switch after seeing less than four minutes of footage of it. I’d argue that, conversely, it’s a little early to declare this console will revolutionise gaming after seeing… well, less than four minutes of footage of it.
Understand: I’m not knocking the Nintendo Switch – far from it. It’s my hope and fervent prayer that all we saw in yesterday’s trailer arrives exactly as promised.
This is just me saying “hold on a second” as the hype machine rolls into overdrive.