The Nintendo Switch has now been out in the wild for over a month, and overall it’s fair to say that it’s picked up solid momentum. Sales and demand have been high, retailers and analysts have talked positively about its prospects, and a mix of interesting download titles along with (arguably) one of the greatest games of recent times at retail have done little harm. Negative publicity wasn’t completely absent, with the left Joy-Con connectivity problems being one of the more valid and consistent bugbears, but Nintendo’s new system hasn’t flopped in its first month – in fact it’s had a strong start.
Of course what comes next will be important, especially as Nintendo seeks to turn a reasonable start into a successful first year. It’s also fair to say that at present the system is a basic gaming machine – it plays games, and some of them are rather good, but it lacks a number of features that Nintendo gamers want, and also some apps and services that general consumers expect from an entertainment gadget.
There’s lots Nintendo can do to take its system to the next level, and not many of them will be too hard to implement. Now that the mission to get launch sales into the books for the last financial year has been achieved, Nintendo should add some cherries to the Switch icing.
We think five key areas stand out, so let’s list ’em, shall we?
A Pre-E3 Showcase and Promotion of the Near-Term Line-Up
In past years Nintendo has timed a relatively substantial Nintendo Direct for April / May, essentially to reveal and cover anything that isn’t being held back for E3. Hopefully something like that is in the works, and it’d likely have a bit of 3DS thrown in too; there’s plenty for Nintendo to cover.
First of all, the next month or so should fit the timing to reveal a lot more information on ARMS and Splatoon 2, and let’s not forget that neither of them actually have release dates as yet. The Splatoon 2 Global Testfire gave a fun warm-up, but much of the colourful shooter is a mystery. We’ve seen plenty of screens for stages, weapons and clothes, but online modes and the single player campaign have stayed off the table. This is a game that could easily have its own dedicated mini Direct.
A broader info drop, whether through a Direct or a bombardment of trailers and social media announcements, would be welcome. Nintendo could take the opportunity to promote interesting April and May releases that aren’t Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, including third-party efforts like Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers and Disgaea 5 Complete. A broadcast focused on these sorts of games, with some Nindie gems thrown in for good measure, could provide a timely reminder that from late April onwards the Switch will have a relatively busy and enticing line-up.
Outside of the quirky premise that subscribers to the Nintendo Online Service will get monthly access to a NES or SNES game (with ‘newly-added online play’) from Autumn / Fall, we’ve heard very little from Nintendo on the Virtual Console beyond nudges and winks. Considering the consistent role of the VC since the Wii days it’s a little odd that Nintendo hasn’t said a darned thing about it in real terms.
The now-ageing rumours, of course, suggest that GameCube will be a tentpole platform to join the range, but outside of that not much is clear. Will Nintendo rethink and shake up its pricing approach to these retro games? Will there be an intuitive and easily-claimed ‘upgrade price’ for those of us that have bought Super Mario Bros. 3 on three separate occasions? Will My Nintendo have some neat VC incentives? Will the emulation actually be good?
It’s a little strange that Nintendo has said so little about the Virtual Console, but we wait nonetheless.
Extra Doses of Nintendo Charm
This is a subjective one, perhaps, and when we say this we’re referring to the user interface and how ‘Nintendo’ it is. We think there’s quite a lot to like about the quiet home screen and the quirky whistles, beeps and boops when navigating around menus, but there’s also the sense that it was another area pushed out in functional but unremarkable form. It would be nice, certainly, if there were optional additions to make our systems feel that bit more Nintendo-esque, especially as they would help appease some of the smaller complaints some have about the Switch.
HOME Themes could be a fun start – these have been a charming part of the 3DS for quite some time, and it’s obvious that they’re planned for the Switch; every system has a choice of default light and dark themes right out of the box. Another thing some want to have is ambient music, for the HOME screen and the eShop; it wouldn’t do any harm, and Nintendo could implement a simple Music On / Off button to give users a choice.
As for the eShop, perhaps it could also be a tad more interesting and take a lead from the Wii U equivalent. In terms of raw functionality the Switch eShop is Nintendo’s best yet by quite a distance, simply because it’s really fast and efficient, and doesn’t do that odd Wii U trick of taking an age to process a purchase. The functionality is there, but it’s a bit charmless, with neither the varying music of the Wii U or the happy shopping bag of the 3DS. It’s clear and easy to use, but it has all the excitement and flair of a banana sandwich – spice it up a bit, Nintendo!
Data Management Improvements
The Switch wouldn’t be a typical Nintendo system if it didn’t have a few head-scratching aspects at launch, and it has a couple of beauties related to storage and how we manage our data. They lack any semblance of logic from an end user perspective, and highlight the fact that Nintendo is still unwilling to completely cede control – if Nintendo made shoes they’d probably all be Velcro, as the company wouldn’t trust us to tie our own laces.
Let’s start with save data and the madness of how that works at present. The only thing you can manage properly are Screenshots – you can choose where they’re saved, manage images, and easily pop out a MicroSD and move them onto a PC; it’s easy peasy. Save data? All you can do is delete it. You can’t make any backups, and save data is put on the system memory by default – so if your Switch dies or gets stolen you’re reliant on Nintendo having the means to retrieve that data for you; make sure you note the serial number on the bottom of your Switch, by the way, in case it does get nicked. In summary you can’t create or manage any kind of backups (either on memory or the cloud), nor can you opt to keep save data on your external storage. It is 2017.
It’s not much better with software. On Wii U you could move files around between the system and an external hard drive, you had the choice. The moment you put a microSD in your Switch games install by default to that memory and you have very little control. You can ‘Archive Software’ – which means the game is deleted but the system will keep the save data and HOME Menu icon – Delete Software, or ‘Check for Corrupt Data’.
This is all a bit odd and unnecessary from Nintendo, and is easily fixed. When quizzed about cloud services, for example, Nintendo of America’s Reggie Fils-Aime said “wouldn’t that be wonderful” and then the usual “nothing to announce today”. We hope these quirks in data management are the result of the system rolling out before full testing on proper solutions was possible. Time will tell.
In this day and age devices like the Switch should have a decent suite of video streaming apps – heck, the Wii U and 3DS had a decent collection between them, with the home console boasting the likes of Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime / Instant Video and Crunchyroll. The Switch in particularly well suited to this because, whether you like it or not, the console is a tablet. As a result it’s great not only for watching video on TV but as a portable, and we’ve been impressed with how good videos look on the device based upon eShop trailers and the Breath of the Wild series that was uploaded into the ‘News’ section.
This is likely to happen at some point, and if sales momentum stays strong you can also bet that companies will accelerate their efforts to work with Nintendo. For its part the big N has said it’s talking to and working with video providers, so hopefully it’s just a matter of time.
Those are key areas we’d like to see improved in the coming weeks and months. Let us know what you want to see on the Switch down in the comments.