The first few moments of Nintendo’s Switch event tonight were an emotional rollercoaster.
The price seemed a bit higher than expected at $299.99, but the March 3 release date is pleasantly close. There will be expanded online services, but they will be a for-pay service by the end of the year. The battery life is expected to be from 2.5 hours to 6.5 hours when not plugged in, and you can charge while playing using a USB-C cable. The games will be region free.
The Joy-Con controllers are cleverly designed, allowing you to hand the second controller to a friend for local multiplayer, complete with shoulder buttons. It’s like two Super Nintendo controllers when removed from the system. They also support motion controls, and we saw them in a variety of colors.
In a surprise twist, will also be a camera that can sense how far away your hand is along with basic gestures, along with “HD Rumble” that can give you a sense of ice cubes in a glass ... which is a very specific example. But it basically means the haptics could be a bit more detailed than what we’re used to in other controllers.
All of these details add up to a variety of strange gimmicks and possible new ideas for all sorts of weird social and single-player games, in case you were worried that the portable aspect of the system wasn’t enough of a hook.
The Joy-Con controllers are much more capable, and much stranger, than any of us had expected. 1-2 Switch is a minigame collection with experiences that are designed to be played while looking at the other player, not the screen, and is designed for parties. Nintendo is clearly going for the same intuitive movement controls that were so successful for the original Wii.
Arms is another game that proves just how deeply Nintendo is going in with this new take on motion controls, and Nintendo stressed how easily anyone can pick up and play the game. You can play against the computer, play against a friend in splitscreen — although you’ll need four Joy-Cons total — or play against someone else using their Switch so you each have your own screen. It’s all very flexible; Nintendo has created a system that gives you a lot of options in terms of how you’ll be able to play with others.
Splatoon 2, for instance, allows you to use motion controls, or the Pro controller, or the Switch in handheld mode. And hey, portable Skyrim. Sadly, the system’s Mario game won’t be out until the holiday season.
So ... what do we think?
The problem with the Wii U was that it was a system that Nintendo and third parties never figured out how to use in any way that set it apart outside of its off-television play.
We thought the Switch was going to be an extension of that idea — and it’s a great idea — but the presentation tonight showed just how ambitious Nintendo is feeling when it comes to cramming a lot of ideas and ways to play into a $299 system.
Developers have a lot of choices when it comes to how they can create games, and how players will be able to interact with them. You can connect up to eight Switch systems to play locally and wirelessly as well, which makes Switch LAN parties a very appealing prospect.
The live event was a strange, wonderful and sometimes baffling combination of game ideas, sequels and Japanese franchises that all add up to create a very attractive picture of what the system will be like in 2017, but many of these games won’t be available at launch.
Nintendo has created a system that can be played in any number of ways, and the Joy-Con controllers are easy to explain visually and through simple demos. The value of having the screen right there and the portable nature of the Switch is also easy to communicate. The system can do a lot, sure, but it’s not hard to get across those features and why you should care. Being able to hand someone one of the Joy-Con controllers to play with you is a friendly visual that adds some welcome value to the system.
Nintendo, in terms of selling the value of the system, is already overcoming many of the challenges it faced with the Wii U.
And for the love of all that is holy, it’s launching with Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. We may argue about this or that detail or uses of the technology, but that one game is going to be enough to get many of the faithful on board.
My guess? Nintendo is going to be able to sell as many of these things as it can make.
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