The Nintendo Switch has been out for a year and a half, and I think it's safe to say that this has been one of the most successful console launches anybody has ever had. But Nintendo is starting to fall flat. The first year of the system was fantastic, but the company has continued to make strange decisions and miss opportunities to make the system more appealing to a hardcore audience.
Before I get into this, I want to make one thing very clear: I love Nintendo. I've been with them since the Nintendo 64, and I'm not about to abandon them now. The Nintendo Switch is one of the greatest systems out there, but there are just too many opportunities the company is missing with this new and insanely popular console.
Nintendo Switch Online
This is a point of contention for some Nintendo fans. Some Switch owners are perfectly happy with Nintendo's approach to an online service. The company will be offering classic retro games regularly, the ability to play with friends on stable servers, and access to cloud storage for save files. This is all offered at an incredibly low price that will give competitors a run for their money.
But even though that seems like a great deal, there's a reason Sony and Microsoft charge so much for their programs. Compared to Nintendo, both of these companies bring so much more to the table, including special discounts, free modern games every month, extra in-game items, the ability to chat directly with friends through the system (which, to be fair, is a hardware issue in Nintendo's case), and much more.
Nintendo is having a lot of trouble selling their online program to newcomers, and it's because gamers are used to getting more out of their consoles. If the Big N wants to compete with the big leagues, they have to bring more features to the table. Personally, I think a tier system would work better. Give more features to people who are willing to pay more and keep the cheaper packages for users who just want to play online. That might be a better way to go about it. But right now, it seems Nintendo still isn't ready to embrace the age of online play, which leads me to another thing Nintendo dropped the ball on very early in the Switch's life cycle.
I remember the first time I traded friend codes with somebody. We wanted to play Pokémon Platinum together, and the only way to do it was for both of us to input a 12 digit number that we would write on a piece of paper in the hopes of not losing it.
I thought those days would have ended more than a decade later, but we're still here. Don't get me wrong, we've come a long way since those days. The 3DS improved the friend code by tying it to the system rather than each individual game, and the Switch does only require one user to put in the someone's friend code to send them a request. But it confuses me since the Wii U already fixed the friend code problem by letting users add each other with just their username. While the Switch lets you add people you've played games with, a friend code is still required to add somebody you personally know.
I thought Nintendo originally did this to protect children. Maybe they didn't want young ones to play with random strangers, so they made everyone have a unique code like a phone number. But that doesn't seem to be the case. You can add all the random people you want to your friend's list as long as you've played a game with them at some point. So why do friend codes still exist? It's not to protect anybody. It's just a nuisance and a step in the wrong direction.
I'm also aware you can add friends through social media accounts now as well, which is definitely a good idea. But I think Nintendo should really utilize their online ID system more so friends can add each other through their Nintendo accounts. This would be a good alternative to friend codes and would remove all the hassle. After all, a user ID is still a unique string of characters just like friend codes, and the Switch is already designed to let you have whatever display name you want.
Too Many Ports
I've seen this argument made a lot. The Nintendo Switch has way too many Wii U ports. I didn't think much of this at first. The Wii U sold horribly, so it's only fair to let Switch owners experience all the games they didn't get a chance to before.
I think this is a great idea, and I was totally on board at first. But I started to notice something over the last few months. A lot of Switch titles released this year were either Wii U ports or multiplatform games that came out on other systems a long time ago.
While this is great for people that only play the Switch, it's troublesome for somebody that owns multiple platforms. For example, I bought the Crash Bandicoot remasters on PlayStation 4 last year, knowing that it was just a timed exclusive. However, I had no idea Activision was planning a Switch port of the game. I would have gladly waited for the game had I known that. But instead, I had to decide if I really wanted to buy the same game just to play it on the go.
I wouldn't have a problem with this if it was only a couple of games, but it's happened with a lot of major third-party releases. The worst part is that all of these companies are fully aware that people will buy their games twice just to play them portably. This is true for both third party games and for Nintendo's titles.
This business practice is frustrating. However, I know Nintendo Switch versions of multiplatform games are going to start launching at the same time as other consoles in the future. It also seems like Nintendo might finally be through porting Wii U games to the system after the release of Captain Toad. But I fear this won't last long. Nintendo seems to be running their company a lot differently now, which brings me to my next point.
Nintendo's New Attitude Toward the Community
I might be stretching my complaints a little too far when I say this, but I think Nintendo has changed in the recent years. Obviously, there was a big power shift when Satoru Iwata passed away, but I'm unsure if this recent change in attitude can be traced to that.
I think Nintendo's vision for gamers has changed internally. It's hard for me to say the company that once cared about making a quality product for gamers to enjoy now seems more focused on profiting. I'm not saying they weren't trying to make money before. It just seems like it's a bigger deal to them now.
Two of my previous points support this theory. While I could believe Nintendo is genuinely giving people a chance to play some great Wii U games, the constant porting just seems like a quick cash grab. Nintendo Switch Online feels similar. The online package doesn't offer much, and the company is locking away the popular Virtual Console service behind a subscription model.
It also seems like the company has lost a lot of heart when it comes to communicating directly with the fans. Events like the Splatoon and Smash Bros. tournaments at E3 were really awesome, but they were also designed to get you hyped for a product. Remember the puppets for the Nintendo Direct a few years ago? Remember when the company collaborated with the team from Robot Chicken and made a jab at fans of Mother 3? That Nintendo seems like a distant memory. All the Directs seem bland now, and the company just feels like they're there to deliver a product rather than have fun.
You could argue that the Directs aren't the same since Iwata's personal touch is gone, but I think that's exactly what Nintendo needs right now. The company needs a face that people can relate to and be happy to see every time a new Direct goes up. It doesn't have to be the head of Nintendo, but I think they need somebody that can make fans feel at home in a similar way. The latest live streams have felt a little too corporate for me. I know they're basically giant advertisements, but they used to be able to hide that so well through those weird, more personal moments.
Maybe I'm being too harsh on Nintendo, or maybe I'm losing my childlike sense of wonder and amazement. What do you guys think? Is Nintendo doing a good job? Do you think they could better themselves? Let us know in the comments below!