The Nintendo Switch is, by all accounts, revolutionary. It’s a tablet that can connect to a TV. It’s a home console that can be played on the go. It’s no surprise that Nintendo is focusing on these and other novelties in the lead-up to the Switch’s springtime launch.
Yet longtime Nintendo fans — or even just recent Wii U owners — may notice that, for all its fancy new features, there’s a lot that the Switch doesn’t include. While we can’t complain about the Switch ditching things like friend codes, we’re already mourning the loss of platforms like Miiverse.
There’s plenty of other things Nintendo appears to be pivoting away from as it prepares to enter a new generation of gaming. Follow along for everything Nintendo seems to be leaving curbside to make room for everything the Switch has to offer.
Games on discs
The Switch will use cartridges, not discs. That’s kind of a throwback to systems pre-GameCube, as well as the recent DS line of handhelds. The thing is, the Switch uses game cards unique to the console, so it won’t be compatible with any cartridge-based Nintendo platform that came before it.
For a home console to use a cartridge is sort of an unthinkable thing in this day and age. Yet at the same time, as many publishers and retailers continue to emphasize digital storefronts, perhaps it’s a smart move on Nintendo’s part to move away from the disc-based format ... even if that makes physical backward compatibility with the Wii and Wii U impossible.
Wiimotes, the GamePad and all your old controllers
Speaking of the Wii and Wii U, the Switch won’t play nicely with those consoles’ peripherals. The Switch has its own set of peripherals for use with its games, like the Joy-Con controllers. They’re intriguing enough that you may not miss the Wii U GamePad, and the Joy-Con borrows and refines much of the Wiimote’s motion-based functionality.
Even so, we’ve taken for granted how accommodating Nintendo has been of our old controllers. The Wii and Wii U support their predecessors’ peripherals; Nintendo even made the GameCube controller work with the Wii U just in time for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U’s launch.
Backward compatibility on the whole?
So the Switch can’t play discs, and we don’t yet know of Nintendo’s plans for a Virtual Console. We’d be shocked if the console couldn’t play Wii U games in any fashion, but Nintendo hasn’t said a word about how that may work, if it does at all. It seems like the company is more content to bring last-gen games to the new system than to just re-sell them or let players access them through digital means for the time being.
Although not every Nintendo home console could play its predecessor’s games, it’s a shocking change from a company that had players re-buy their old games multiple times as recently as the Wii U days.
With the Switch, we’re gaining a display baked right into our console itself, but we’re losing the ability to play with two screens at once.
Perhaps not everyone was as enamored of this feature, which was a staple of the Wii U. The console failed to set Nintendo’s stock prices ablaze, after all. Some Wii U fans really loved the GamePad’s marquee element, however: the touchscreen at the center of the oversized controller. It allowed for some interesting gameplay in titles like Super Mario Maker and Splatoon, and in other games, we were content to just have it there as an extra map.
We played a bit of Splatoon’s Switch-bound sequel at a recent event for the press, and we found ourselves missing the ability to have two screens available to us at once for the frenetic squid shooter. As cool as it is to be able to play it on the go or at home, it’s just as cool to have a map available at all times. With the Switch, Nintendo sacrificed the latter for the former.
The Miiverse community
The Miiverse was one of the weirdest and most engrossing parts of the Wii U. Not everyone dabbled in it, but those who did found it rewarding and ... bizarre. Very, very bizarre. The application was akin to a series of message boards, each one devoted to various Nintendo games and franchises, along with other discussion points. Players could ask each other for help and get it, or maybe get some strange, unhelpful replies instead. They could also get one of the most beautiful pieces of fanart ever seen, and it lived solely on Miiverse.
It was a strange and special place, and the Switch is leaving it behind. It remains to be seen what the Switch’s preferred social platform will be, or whether it will have any message boards like Miiverse at all.
Miis, for that matter
The Switch will still include a Mii Maker app, so that players can craft characters in their own image once more. But we have seen neither hide nor hair of any Miis in early Switch marketing. None of the games we’ve seen or played thus far use Miis. Nintendo seems disinterested in the characters this time around, which is a stark contrast from the Mii-heavy Wii, Wii U and 3DS systems.
Nintendo is also moving away from another stalwart: the friend code. This is a welcome change, however. For years, Nintendo fans have been restricted to memorizing multiple long strings of numbers and letters just so that they can engage in some online multiplayer with friends. There was a friend code for the hardware itself, but some games had their own friend codes that players had to copy down and exchange. It was all a grueling, exhausting bother, so we’re glad that the Switch won’t use friend codes.
We aren’t sure what the Switch will use so that players can connect online instead, though, but almost anything is better than those infernal friend codes.
Free online multiplayer service
The Wii, DS, 3DS and Wii U each had online multiplayer offerings, and none of them cost a dime. The Switch will have online features of its own, but Nintendo will charge for the service. We’re not sure how much members must pay in order to gain access to online lobbies, voice chat and some other perks, but that there’s a price to pay at all shows that Nintendo is looking toward its competitors for ideas. (The online service will be available for free through fall 2017, at least.)
Netflix and other streaming services — for now
We’re not sure if you’ll need to subscribe to Nintendo’s online service to stream TV and movies, but we do know one thing for sure: When the Switch launches, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and other streaming apps will not be available. Nintendo is instead focusing on the Switch’s gaming offerings for the time being, the company recently told Kotaku.
We imagine Netflix will arrive sooner than later. The service is available on even the 3DS, after all. Not having it ready to go at launch is extremely disappointing, however, especially since the widely owned Wii was a popular Netflix machine back in the day.
Let’s end on a positive note. The Nintendo Switch will be region-free, so owners can play games from any region around the world on their console. Go ahead and import all of those Japan-exclusive, super niche role-playing games, friends; there’s nothing stopping you anymore.
Who knows if there’s more where that came from
We still have plenty of questions about what the Switch does or does not do. We’ll certainly know more on March 3, when the system is available worldwide.