After a small tease last year, Nintendo is finally ready to completely unveil Switch this week. Much of what is likely to be announced has already been leaked, and heavily speculated upon, but there’s still so much we don’t know. It’s an exciting time to be a Nintendo fan, compounded by an appropriate trepidation. Here are my (very reasonable) hopes for how Nintendo will tick all the boxes with its Switch Presentation at 3pm AEDT this Friday.
Dazzle with an enticing price
Forget the innovation, fanciful gimmicks, and even the games that will be announced in a seperate presentation on Saturday. Switch’s make or break moment will be the revelation of its price. Just ask Sega about E3 1995, where it announced the Sega Saturn would launch for US $399. During the PlayStation presser, SCEA president Steve Race walked onto stage, simply said “[US] $299”, and walked off in gaming’s ultimate mic drop. We probably won’t get an Australian price during the live stream, which will be presented in Japanese with an English voice over. However, we should get specifics from Nintendo Australia via social media around the same time.
Wii U launched for a pricey $430 for the complete kit in 2012, and has astonishing never had an official price cut. The 3DS launched for an exorbitant $350 in 2011. However, Nintendo soon realised its ludicrous error and reduced the price to $250 just a few months later (New 3DS XL still retains that price). Early adopters had no choice other than accept they spent $100 too much, and were given some hastily emulated games, known as the Ambassador Programme, as reparations.
Based on that history, the Switch launch price is probably its cost for life, outside sales. Considering Switch is replacing both Wii U and 3DS, despite Nintendo’s reluctance to admit it, a cost between the two seems likely. With the PS4 and Xbox One now down to around $300, and the slim models hovering closer to $400, Switch needs to be competitive, ideally $399 or less in Australia, for the entry level model.
Like Wii U, there might be a premium package, with extra storage space and bundled accessories, like a Pro controller, but if history has taught us anything, it needs to match the RRP of the Xbox One S and PS4 Slim. US $250 is the number floating around, suggesting Nintendo might buck its mantra and accept a small loss on each unit to be competitive. With currency conversion plus GST, that puts an Australian price, for the basic package, around $380, which is right on the money. Throw in a Pro controller, enhanced storage space (however that may come) and a couple of games, and your launch day receipt should settle around $600-$700.
Definitively outline the specs
I don’t expect Nintendo to flaunt the specifics of the Tegra X1 chip or how it’s been modified, but the more detailed information we get, the better. We’ll get an idea of the ability of Switch, which will probably verify what Eurogamer has already reported. Nintendo won’t come out and say it’s weaker than Xbox One – the base model of the current-generation, next to the PS4, PS4 Pro and upcoming Xbox Scorpio. But it can show how much more powerful it is compared to Wii U, and the major step up from the 240p 3DS, finally bringing near parity between handheld and home console performance.
The reported 1080p output while connected to the dock and 720p resolution in handheld mode should be confirmed, with details about it being a battery saving measure. The 3DS launched with a reported 3-5 hours of battery life, enhanced later by the 3DS XL. That was pitiful at the time, but with mobiles and tablets offering similar timeframes when playing strenuous games, we can’t expect much more. The days of a couple of AAs powering a Game Boy for months are long gone.
We’ll also get confirmation on the purpose of the multi-touchscreen and the motion controls embedded in the right Joycon – basic stuff. Confirmation of what we already know will be reassuring, but a few surprises is what will really intrigue. How much storage does it have? That’s critical for a handheld device, especially in an era where console games regularly surpass 40GB and receive 5GB day one patches. More importantly, how can it be increased? Are we restricted to micro-SD cards like 3DS, or will it somehow use external HDDs like Wii U? That would be complicated with a portable device, as USB-connected HDDs could only come into play when docked.
Confirm Zelda is a global launch title
I would have said this was a given, but the rumours are becoming hard to ignore. Originally slated for Wii U in 2015, Breath of the Wild was briefly taken off the launch menu, but is now reportedly reinstated, unless you live in a Pal region. If speculation is to be believed, Japan and America will be playing Zelda in March, but Europe and Australia will be forced to wait. It seems hard to believe Nintendo could make such a globalisation blunder, considering it pat itself on the back for releasing Pokémon X&Y simultaneously worldwide. One way or another, we’ll get an answer by Saturday.
It’s region free
Look at this bleary-eyed chap. He’s playing Switch in the tight confines of a cramped economy flight, next to an exhausted, possibly dead, businessman and a delinquent pondering misguided life choices. This is one of the first promotional images; console quality gaming without the burden of a bulky laptop during air-travel is a selling point. Surely it has to be region free. Of course, you’d need to leave the Joycons attached and play it as a traditional handheld to avoid a mild telling off from a flight attendant during take-off and landing.
If Nintendo dares shaft Europeans and Australians with no Zelda at launch, as much as that would be a huge disappointment, it’s somewhat mitigated by a region free device. It’ll be an inconvenience, but we can choose to import and put up with a lack of the letter ‘U’ and an incorrect use of ‘Z’. Shifting from the region free DS to region locked 3DS was an odd decision. It’s time for Nintendo to rectify that mistake and at least allow us to import Zelda, if they won’t sell it directly in Australia and Europe.
GameCube on Virtual Console is here at launch
We’ve already covered the GameCube games we want to see given an encore on Switch, and it seems a mere formality at this point. Nintendo will want to flaunt the final home console to enter the realm of Virtual Console. It can go one better by not only announcing GameCube on VC, but by confirming the first games will be there on day one – likely to include Super Mario Sunshine and Luigi’s Mansion.
A compelling old meets new launch line-up
Nintendo is likely to rely upon some Wii U recycling during Switch’s first 12 months, but launch needs a blend of old meets new. It’ll have a killer Mario game, probably in the simpler mould of New Super Mario Bros, possibly Zelda and hopefully something unexpected. But it also needs some third party support, be it Skyrim or FIFA 17, that are proper multiplatform games: not the watered-down versions of the Wii and early Wii U eras. Don’t expect much from third parties in the way of new games – they’ll be cautious initially – but we need to at least see some strong partnerships, even if it’s with re-releases of games from earlier this generation. It mightn’t be the reason to own a Switch, but Nintendo needs the likes of EA, Activision, Bethesda, Warner Bros, 2K and Ubisoft (with its major franchises) back on side.
Nintendo does its own Achievements/Trophies
This is the least likely hypothetical announcement to eventuate, but if Nintendo wanted to follow the successful Achievements/Trophies model spawned by Xbox and since mimicked by PlayStation and Steam, a new console is the time. Nintendo has dabbled with the concept through Stickers, Stamps, Coins, Trophies and Challenges in individual games, but that’s far from a fully-fledged integrated system. Like it or not, without an achievements system, multiplatform players might shy away from third party games on Switch. There are the players tied to one system’s economy, but others who simplify want a unified record of games they’ve completed and invested time into, on any system. I’ll admit I feel an extra sense of accomplishment when a toast appears confirming I’ve finished a game, whether it be 100 Gamerscore or a Gold Trophy. It’s a minor accomplishment missing when the credits roll on Wii U. I wouldn’t be surprised if third parties pushed for such an inclusion.
All will be revealed in the Switch presentation broadcast at 3pm AEDT this Friday, January 13. It will be followed by a games showcase on January 14. Here are all the local times for both streams.