Friday, January 13, 2017

Switched Off

2016 left us in suspense about Nintendo's next console, but now that most of the beans have been spilled about the Switch, I wish I could go back to that blissful ignorance. Other writers have discussed the machine at greater length (and I suggest you read the articles recently published by Kat Bailey and Bryan Ochalla), but my own opinion of the Switch can be summed up in two words...

image from The Register
(both the site and the cash register in the picture)
The price of the system is an absurd $300, a fistful of bills above the $250 that was anticipated before yesterday's reveal. The accessories are similarly upscale at $70 or more, while the hardware is anything but, unlikely to keep pace with the Xbox One or Playstation 4. Software runs the gamut from insubstantial tech demos to the regurgitations that were so aggravating on next generation systems two years ago (really... Skyrim?), with the best stuff planned for the end of 2017. There will be a paid online service similar to Xbox Live, but there won't be support for features like Miiverse, one of the few reasons I still turn on my 3DS. 

It's like Nintendo not only refuses to learn from the mistakes it made with the Wii U, but insists on repeating everyone else's blunders as well. Since they haven't been paying attention, let me make this clear: Nintendo's most successful products have been economically priced. The NES. The Game Boy. The Super NES. The Nintendo 64. The Game Boy Advance and its successor, the DS. The original Wii. These machines all retailed for the same price as competing systems or significantly undercut them, and led the industry as a result.

Now let's look at Nintendo's failures. The clumsily designed Virtual Boy wasn't just hard to enjoy; its $180 price tag made it difficult to afford as well. The Wii U cost at least $300 at launch, with much of that price being the fault of its bulky, impractical gamepad. The 3DS would have failed as well if its $250 launch price hadn't been drastically cut. 

Nintendo can no longer afford to make systems people can't afford. If they insist on releasing consoles and handhelds that lag behind the competition technologically, the prices have to reflect that. It's wiser- and far less risky- to pass the savings onto the customer than invest it in costly, cumbersome hardware that doesn't contribute much to the gaming experience. I suspect the Joycons that seem like a good idea now have a dim future ahead of them as closet clutter, crammed between the plastic steering wheel and the balance board that called you fat.

No comments:

Post a Comment