I’m Sorry, Nintendo. I Was Wrong About The Switch – Forbes
I had a feeling a few weeks ago, sipping old fashioneds and challenging strangers to Mario Kart during a sunny Friday happy hour. It was the same feeling I had a few weeks before that, obsessively questing across the vast expanses of Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in search of tiny puzzles embedded in cliffsides and in lakes. It was a feeling that I had back at GDC, when I asked a friend how he was enjoying his Switch and he said that it was in his bag, and we could just play it if I was curious. It was a feeling that I had, to be honest, back when I played Arms for the first time at a preview event and discovered that this completely left field fighter was, actually, excellent. It sounds vague, but really it’s not. The feeling isn’t all that hard to articulate, actually. It’s the feeling that the Nintendo Switch is great.
And so, it’s time to make an apology. Some of you, on this website, will know me to have been a Switch skeptic. A hater, even. I liked the notion, but so much seemed lined up against it that a Wii U-style failure seemed inevitable. Questions came constant and vexing: would people really play these things at parties? Will it ever get third-party support with that hardware? What about the storage problems? Could the new Zelda really be all that good? What about the price? Is Nintendo’s first party enough to carry a console these days? It was, in my defense, a console I wanted to see succeed, but just didn’t think would. There’s not much point defending those stances much more: I already did that plenty in the original posts. Suffice to say: I now think they were wrong. And I’m sorry.
The Switch’s launch performance speaks for itself at a certain point. Nintendo is still selling as many of these machines as it can make, most of them disappearing within mere moments of being made available. Industry watchers expect the phenomenon to continue for months, and while it is always too early to declare any kind of victory, it has become clear that the Nintendo Switch has powerful momentum that seems geared to take it through the holiday season and beyond. It’s on solid footing for the near-term future, with reason to believe sales will stay strong.
It comes down to software, and it comes down to hardware. It comes down to Nintendo’s longstanding conviction that there is something important gained by developing games for a system you built from the ground up. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild started things off — I had been relatively unimpressed by the half hour session I had had with the game before launch, but its true majesty unfolded slowly and powerfully. After years of perfectly fine entries into one of my favorite game series, I was unconvinced that Nintendo could once again wield the same magic it did with Ocarina of Time. Clearly, I was wrong. But for me, the real realization came with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, a game which, for the most part, had already been released on the Wii U. That’s what was so striking about it: that it could become such a new and powerful experience just by adding some new features and migrating over to this fascinating piece of hardware. And that’s what Nintendo chases at the intersection of the Switch and the games we play on it: the idea of an “experience.” It may be the only console outside of VR that can really lay claim to that term.
There aren’t a lot of games on the Switch yet, and there will never be as many games on the Switch as there are on the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 platforms. But what games there are on the Switch, I want to play. And the few games that Nintendo has come out with so far are worth the price of admission alone. My apology rests not just on the concept of being wrong, though that’s clearly a big part of it. It’s more important to think about why I was wrong. The Switch is a console that succeeds in effusive positivity, which is a great accomplishment in an industry that needs to be beaten over the head to remember that it’s founded on fun. It makes one sheepish about the negativity.
There are reasons to remain cautious, reasons not to assume that Nintendo is a company without some of the fundamental flaws that put it in such dire straits in the first place. See, for example, the convoluted communications surrounding the online service, the total lack of either Virtual Console or any information about it, as well as the complete farce that it is a smartphone app designed to handle voice chat. See also an inexplicable absence of the sort of streaming services available on all other devices, misdirection over Joy-Con manufacturing errors, continuing supply shortages and a question mark about which games Nintendo will bring to bear after Super Mario Odyssey.
But you know what? I’m awarding the benefit of the doubt on this one. I’m choosing to believe that either these things will get worked out, one way or another, or that the pure joy of the experiences I’ve had so far will be enough to outweigh all the other strange Nintendoisms on this console. Don’t worry! I’ll still spend plenty of time on this blog harping on Nintendo’s bizarre decisions if and when they come. Stumbles are inevitable, and the Switch’s future is still up for debate, as are all of our futures. I hope that I don’t write some kind of “actually, I’m sorry about being sorry” article a few months from now. But I don’t think I will.