The Nintendo Switch took the whole world by storm as the first true hybrid console when it launched back in March of this year. It was completely up in the air as to how the system would perform, but it’s now obvious that the Big N has managed to really turn the ship around from their last home system, the Wii U. Switch has already sold 10 million units worldwide in just nine months on the market, and people everywhere are enamored with the system. It’s a great machine, but there are a few things Nintendo could work on to make it even better.
THE STORAGE SITUATION
Let me get this topic out of the way first: some folks aren’t happy with the current set-up of the Switch’s storage. Each system comes with 32GB of flash memory that can be expanded with a microSD card. The problem is that this default storage space can be filled up pretty quickly depending on the size of the digital games that are downloaded. However, there’s an even bigger issue—some games are requiring people to have a microSD card even in physical form because there’s too much data to fit onto the physical cartridge. Now, what makes this specific issue interesting is that it’s been caused by some publishers cheaping out. Switch cartridges come in different capacities (8GB, 16GB & 32GB), and the largest capacity also happens to be rather expensive to produce.
So, these publishers have essentially been placing the extra cost on consumers by using a smaller cartridge and making consumers buy a microSD card for the Switch. One way to fully this situation is by Nintendo giving the Switch at least 64GB of internal memory rather than just 32GB. My theory as to why this isn’t already the case is that it would have made the Switch more expensive to produce, and Nintendo is very adamant about not selling the system at a loss. So, in the case of both publishers and even Nintendo itself, it’s a matter of these big companies not wanting to spend any extra money so we have to front the bill instead. That’s pretty selfish (which is to be expected from big for-profit companies), but hopefully its all resolved soon. At the end of the day, please still don’t try to make a direct comparison between the Switch’s storage set-up to that of the PS4 and Xbox One. Those systems are large enough to have hard drives which are a lot cheaper than the flash memory and microSD cards that the Switch uses.
NINTENDO’S OMINOUS ONLINE SUBSCRIPTION
When Nintendo revealed details about the Switch at its special presentation back in January, one of the biggest announcements was that a new subscription-based online service is in the works. Dubbed ‘Switch Online’, the arrival of this new network will make it mandatory for Switch owners to pay for online multiplayer, just like on PS4 (PSN) and Xbox One (Xbox Live). The big difference here is that Nintendo’s pricing options are a lot more fair, with a year for this subscription only costing $20. Switch Online was set to launch in the fall of this year but has been delayed until sometime in 2018. We still don’t know much about what features will be offered since Nintendo has been so quiet on the matter. The biggest concern that a lot of people have is that the quality just won’t be worth paying for. The Switch’s current online system is decent, but still not nearly as great as what the PS4/XBO have.
I honestly think that what the Switch has now is just one big test run. That includes the incredibly awkward Switch Online app for mobile devices which is currently the only way for players to officially voice chat with one another. My theory is that Switch Online was delayed to add more features and build up the quality of the service to be on-par with PlayStation Network and Xbox Live. After all, Nintendo has to make the service actually worth paying for or else very few people will actually buy a subscription. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see how this all turns out.
A SPECTACULAR SYSTEM UPDATE?
One of the greatest things about the Switch is that it’s OS is incredibly snappy. Jumping between menus and in-and-out of games is so fluid and fast. Nintendo really listened to the many complaints that were generated by the Wii U’s clunky OS and has been able to deliver something that looks and feels very modern. But, it seemed that this snappiness has come at the cost of character. By that, I mean that the Switch OS is devoid of any ‘flare’ and has very basic functionality. Things that you’d expect to be standard like the ability to transfer data between internal and external storage, cloud-saves, and an Internet browser just aren’t present. Another issue, albeit one that’s smaller, is that everything looks too sterile. There’s not a lot of cool visual effects or any dynamic themes to add some ‘pizzazz’ to the overall presentation.
This could all be remedied with a system update, and Nintendo has been doing that to a small degree this year. For instance, the recent 4.0 firmware update added the ability to capture 30 seconds of video in certain games, and also now allows players to use wireless USB headsets with the system. This update also unexpectedly added support for the Wii U Gamecube Controller Adapter. So, this all shows that functionality can and will be added to the Switch as time goes on. It seems that Nintendo just wanted to focus on making the launch iteration of the OS fast and stable, and left all the ‘extra goodies’ to be added later.
INTERESTINGLY INCONSISTENT THIRD-PARTY RELATIONSHIPS
Out of all the other topics mentioned in this article, this one is probably the most complicated. Third-parties have had an odd dynamic with Nintendo for years now. Back when the Big N was the top dog, it had rather draconian policies that rubbed many of these third-party companies the wrong way. After the infamous ‘Atari Crash’ that Nintendo managed to pull the industry up from, the company wanted to make sure something like that didn’t happen again. Hence, the reason why such policies were put into place. But, these third-party companies wanted a bit more freedom, and that’s exactly what Sony offered when it swooped in with the PS1. Since then, Nintendo’s home systems in particular have not had the best third-party support. The Wii U has gone down in history for being almost totally devoid of it. So, where does that leave the Switch?
There aren’t a lot of big multiplatform games on the system yet, but as long the Switch continues to keep selling well, third-party companies will keep their eyes on it. These guys are seeking one thing in particular: money. As long as Switch proves to be a viable platform in that endeavor, support will come. The biggest issue with this is that the system is not as powerful as the PS4 and Xbox One, so bringing complex games over is not a very easy task. Nintendo has made strides by offering a simple development environment, especially when compared to its past systems like the Wii U, but the Switch still has limitations due to being a hybrid system built with mobile technology. The most Nintendo can do is continue to follow the commendable pattern it’s been displaying all year: working with third-parties. The company seems to be more open to building and maintaining these relationships now more than ever, and if it keeps this attitude going forward, perhaps the Switch’s third-party situation will improve as time goes on.
Overall, I’m happy with the Switch so far and excited to see what the future holds. If these improvements can all come into play, I believe that it would make the Switch one of, if not the greatest Nintendo console to date. How soon will we see such improvements made? Only time will tell. But, 2017 has been a strong year for Nintendo, so there’s hope that 2018 will be even better.