What else does the Switch need?
It’s been nearly four weeks since Nintendo’s Switch launched, but while everyone’s been enjoying Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the go, everyone can agree the system’s lacking in one big area: features. Whereas the system’s launch window of software is certainly stronger than its’ Wii U predecessor, Switch faces an inverse when it comes to actual content and features; I still remember curling up with my Wii U GamePad in bed to South Park on Netflix. What a shame I can’t do that on my Switch! (Well, okay, South Park got taken off, but still!).
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: we know more games are coming. We know features like Netflix support and the online subscription service are arriving later this year. But while Switch’s game lineup looks pretty killer, are those upcoming features really enough to provide a full-fledged experience? Furthermore, will they meet player expectations? With how certain features are already being met with fierce criticism, I wouldn’t be surprised if continues even after their arrival. For this article, I’d like to present what I not only consider to be the most necessary absent features for Switch, but potential improvements for such inclusions.
Miiverse (Or Something Like It)
While the lack of 3DS’s StreetPass makes sense in that Nintendo wants to emphasize Switch’s home console nature, I’ve found myself rather missing Wii U’s take on social media. To be fair, that Switch allows for image-sharing across Facebook and Twitter may render it redundant, but let’s not forget it wasn’t merely for sharing pictures and discussing games: it served as an organic constitution, popping up through Wii U’s various games as methods of hints (New Super Mario Bros. U), player-to-player assistance (Pictographs in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD) and, in my favorite example, served as the backdrop for a Smash Bros. stage.
It was fun, interactive, led to more than one case of internet hilarity, and I’m quite saddened there’s nothing left in its stead. While exposure to bigger social media networks may be vital to spreading awareness and promotion, is there truly no room for a gaming-centric forum? One could even say our achievements and pictures would gain greater appreciation in such a space, and that’s not even considering the gameplay elements that could come with it. Can we truly not have both…?
That, and if the Super Smash Bros for Wii U port rumors come true, this probably means the Miiverse stage probably won’t make it over. C’mon, that’s too good of a treasure to let go. Think it over, Nintendo!
Actual Online Features
Okay, so the eShop’s a good start, but where’s the Internet Browser? Actually, where’s…anything? Friend Invites? Video Chat? Hulu? All those handy conveniences we’ve come to expect from modern-day home consoles?
Probably the biggest piece of evidence for Nintendo rushing the system out, Switch is painfully bare when it comes to online features, currently only possessing netplay and the aforementioned eShop. While those are the most vital online components for gaming, what’s unfortunate about Switch is it doesn’t give much of a reason to use them. For example, take registering friends: have anyone noticed how there’s not really anything you can do after the fact? With the absence of video chat and game invitations, there’s nothing to *take advantage of. That’s kinda sad. What else is there to recommend but build upon them so players can, y’know, take advantage of them?
Speaking of which: we’re resorting to friend codes again? Really? It may be like the 3DS in it’s only required for registering via system, but why is that necessary at all when it’s not even required for the games? Once upon a time as a 15-year-old Nintendo fanboy I may’ve defended their inclusion, but I’m above that mentality now. It’s been said before, but get with the times!
Actually, while we’re on the subject of online play…
An Actually Decent Execution of Online Gaming
Let’s get this out of the way: that Switch’s future online service will require a paid prescription is a bummer, but that’s just how the industry rolls. (In hindsight, that they’ve gone this long without one is a blessing). No, the real problem lies in how it actually works; I mean, does anyone understand what’s going on here? Actually, scratch that: does anyone understand the actual thought process behind this?
For the uninitiated, swallow the following pill: Switch’s online will require smartphones for lobbies and voice chat; as in, you have set up both features on the phone while using it in tandem with the system. Two months later, this still seems needlessly complicated and bizarre; Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime claims this is a “solution” meant to do away with “bulky headsets,” yet this is anything but a solution. Using a peripheral to activate lobbying and chatting just doesn’t needlessly complicate the process; it raises more questions than answers, like TechnoBuffalo‘s thoughts regarding the relation between game audio and group chat.
The definition of “don’t fix what ain’t broke,” right? All we can really hope for is that Nintendo goes back to the drawing board with this idea (or, y’know, rolls with the norm), but with how much they’re emphasizing smartphone correlation with Switch, it’s looking mighty grim. Maybe it’s best just to stick with my decade-long solution of using Skype for my Nintendo online gaming.
An Actually Decent Virtual Console
I must give credit where credit where credit is due: who would’ve thought NeoGeo would be the first legacy system available on Nintendo’s newest system? Too cool, but where’s Nintendo’s own classic titles? You know, from NES and Nintendo 64 and GameCube and…
Let’s be realistic: we’re probably going to get a drip-feed schedule yet again. Anyone expecting Wii U’s VC lineup up and ready for Switch is only fooling themselves; after all, this is hardly a problem exclusive to Nintendo (remember the shift from PS3 to PS4?). So instead of complaining about an inevitable reality, I’d rather direct my energy at something I’ve discussed before: preserving classic video games as they were originally intended.
As a game collector and Nintendo historian, the emulation quality of the Virtual Console service has been immensely disappointing, to say the least. While I understand the concerns regarding epilepsy, the dark filters dilute my engagement with the games involved (particularly if they’re especially colorful, like Kirby Super Star), and is ultimately nothing but a disservice to the consumer. With how other companies don’t implement filters for recent legacy releases (as seen in PS1 Classics and the Mega Man Legacy Collection), I can’t help but wonder why Nintendo won’t do the same.
Actually, perhaps they already are. Following the fantastic quality of the NES Classic Edition, it is my earnest hope Nintendo and NOE’s NERD studio take a page from that device’s wondrous emulation and follow its footsteps moving forward (in fact, rumor has it the latter is already hard at work…)
(That all said, that they’re planning ONLINE MULTIPLAYER for NES/SNES games is fantastic! Already the prospect of playing Kirby Super Star online is making me drool. Smart move, Nintendo!)
Look, I think Switch is a fantastic piece of hardware. It feels great to hold, the “switch” mechanic feels absolutely natural, and I think the minimalist, clean approach to the menu complements its overall quickness quite well. However, said minimalism renders the system’s barebones approach all the more obvious, and Nintendo’s got a long road ahead in rounding out the system. Let’s not forget systems these days aren’t all about the games; such features are necessary not merely for looks and presentation, but to enhance your own gaming experience. Even then, voice chat alone isn’t a necessity: good voice chat is where it’s at, and I certainly hope Nintendo implements the above and more with our best interests in mind.
Oh, and let’s not lock features behind a timer anymore, okay? Seriously, what’s that all about?
Were there any features I missed that you’d like to see for Switch? Sound off in the comments below!