We’re less than six weeks away from the launch of the Nintendo Switch, but you wouldn’t know it given how tight-lipped Nintendo still is about their new hybrid console. The big presentation the company gave in Tokyo earlier this month confirmed some major system features and games, but it also introduced a whole bunch of new questions in the process. While information has continued to trickle out in the days and weeks following the presentation, there are still a surprising number of details we don’t yet know about the Switch.
Here are the most important things we’re still waiting for Nintendo to confirm about the Switch:
How Much Will The Online Service Be?
While it’s not surprising to see Nintendo go the paid online service route with the Switch — after all, Microsoft and Sony have been charging money for their services for years — it was more than a little disconcerting to see the company drop that bomb without backing it up with much in the way of details. Sure, we know that the Switch’s online service will give users access to multiplayer, software discounts, and a free NES or SNES game each month, but besides the free game, these are things that both the Wii U and 3DS offer for free.
Nintendo has so far been unable to justify why they’re going the premium route or more importantly, why consumers should pay for the service in the first place. Nintendo’s approach to online in the past has been woefully lacking in comparison to its predecessors and so the onus is on them to convince gamers that these services should be kept behind a paywall. Unfortunately, since Nintendo has so far neither done this or even provided pricing details, the Switch’s online service remains largely a mystery.
Which (If Any) Virtual Console Games Will Be Available At Launch?
We know that the Switch will launch with at least games on March 3rd, but it’s still unclear whether consumers will be able to download any titles on Nintendo’s Virtual Console service to supplement those launch titles. In fact, it’s not even clear whether the Virtual Console will even be on the Switch, as Nintendo has not confirmed it yet for whatever reason. Given that VC has been on every Nintendo system since the Wii, it’s safe to assume that the service will make its way to the Switch, but it’s still worrisome that Nintendo has yet to provide details about what to expect.
Assuming VC is included with the Switch at launch, the question then becomes which games will be made available? There will most likely be an assortment of NES, SNES, and Nintendo 64 titles available, but what about GameCube? There were reports prior to the Switch presentation on Jan. 12th that Nintendo would be bringing GameCube titles to the VC with the Switch, with Luigi’s Mansion, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Smash Bros. Melee set to be the first titles available for purchase. The Virtual Console has the potential to be a real killer app for the Switch if handled properly, but considering Nintendo has refused to comment on its inclusion up until this point, it’s easy to see Nintendo squandering its potential yet again.
How Will The Free Monthly Games Work?
One of the few concrete details Nintendo has provided in regards to the Switch’s online service is that subscribers will have access to one free NES or SNES game (updated with online functionality) each month. Setting aside the comparisons to Microsoft and Sony’s approaches to free games with their respective online systems (hint: they both do a much, much better job of it), there are still some lingering questions about the Switch’s free games. For one thing, it’s not clear exactly how long subscribers will have access to each game.
While we know that subscribers will only have access to the games for one month before they’re prompted to purchase the game outright in order to keep it, it’s unclear whether access expires at the end of the month they’re made available or 30 days after a player downloads them. The other big question mark involves online play. It’s clear that Nintendo will need to reconfigure these NES and SNES games in some way in order to implement online features, but are the games ports or emulations? Or are they full remasters?
Do We Seriously Need To Use An App For All Online Features?
Nintendo will be releasing a mobile app alongside the Switch’s online service that will allow users to chat with friends, jump into matchmaking, and create lobbies, among other features. While this sounds like a great idea in its own right, Nintendo’s messaging has been more than a little confusing, with Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime making it sound like the app will be the only way for Switch owners to use voice chat and other online features.
If true, this would effectively mean that the Switch lacks basic online functionality that has been pretty much standard in the console space since the original Xbox introduced Live in 2002. I get that Nintendo is trying to give players more options here, but if their paid online service isn’t even going to have features that have been standard for almost 15 years, they might as well just pull the plug now.
Will Old Purchases Be Available For Download?
This kind of ties into the prior question about the Virtual Console, but with Nintendo’s older systems frustratingly typing eShop purchases to individual systems rather than an account, there’s a real concern that the Switch will stick to this antiquated system. For context, if you were to purchase a VC game on your Wii and then lost the console, you effectively lost the game too. Microsoft, Sony, and Steam are all processed on account level, which means that they can be accessed in perpetuity as long as the respective network survives. Hopefully, this is the model Nintendo will go with for the Switch, allowing users to carry their digital games over in some way, but they have yet to clarify whether or not this will be the case.
Will Purchases Be Tied To The Nintendo Account?
While it’s frustrating not knowing whether or not old purchases will be tied to a user’s Nintendo account, it’s even more exasperating not knowing whether or not any purchases on the Switch will be tied to Nintendo accounts. As already mentioned, previous Nintendo consoles have tied purchases to physical systems rather than accounts, but you’d have to assume with the introduction of Nintendo accounts last year that the Switch will rectify this problem. Alas, Nintendo has yet to reveal how digital purchases will work on the Switch, and until they do, it’s probably best to plan to purchase physical copies of Switch games so there’s no risk of losing them.
Will There Be A Trophy/Achievement System?
Unlike Microsoft, Sony, and even Steam, Nintendo has until now refused to implement any kind of commendation tracking feature with their consoles. While things like Xbox’s Achievements and PlayStation Trophies are ultimately meaningless at the end of the day, the truth is that millions of gamers enjoy shooting for these meta accomplishments in their games and Nintendo’s staunch opposition to offering anything similar only makes them look even more out of touch with each passing year.
It may sound absurd to some, but many gamers will only play Nintendo first party games on their consoles because of the lack of achievements or trophies. With Nintendo accounts set to (maybe?) be implemented with the Switch, it would make sense for Nintendo to finally offer a commendation system of their own, but so far they haven’t confirmed anything one way or another.
What’s The UI Like?
With the Switch launch so close, you would think that Nintendo would have offered consumers an in-depth look at the console’s user interface by now. However, Nintendo has yet to provide an official rundown of what the Switch UI will look like or what features it will have, meaning that all people have had to go on is a single image and more recently, a leaked tweet from The Binding of Isaac developer Nicalis (that has since been deleted) showing off more of the UI.
The most likely explanation for Nintendo’s seeming refusal to offer consumers a better look at the Switch’s UI is that by doing so, they would give away certain features they’re not ready to talk about (like Virtual Console). Still, it would be nice to get a clearer picture of the Switch’s features prior to launch and Nintendo’s refusal to show off the UI only enhances the narrative that they’re rushing the console to market.
How Many Games Will Be Available At Launch?
The initial Switch launch lineup was revealed to be a paltry five games on January 13th, but Nintendo has since doubled that number to ten. While it’s certainly in Nintendo’s best interest to have more games available at launch than less, they’ve been so cryptic about it that it’s not even clear if ten will be the final number. With a little over a month to go before the Switch launches, you would think that these plans would be finalized, but the slow trickle of information that’s come out since the Jan. 12 presentation would seem to indicate that Nintendo is still making some of this stuff up as they go. At this point, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see more games revealed as launch titles in coming weeks, but what the final tally will be is anyone’s guess. At least we know that Zelda will be there!
Will The Switch Get Any Big Third-Party Games?
Nintendo is looking to do a better job in bringing games put out by third-party publishers to their console this time out and from a certain perspective, they have. The Switch is set to receive quite a few Japanese role-playing games that will surely appeal to a certain subset of gamers, but for everyone else, the situation looks dire, to say the least. While it’s true that big publishers such as Activision, Electronic Arts, and Ubisoft will be releasing games on the Switch, their support so far is anemic at best. Old games aren’t going to move units and every week seems to bring new stories about a publisher having no plans to bring their new game to the Switch, with Capcom’s Resident Evil 7 representing the latest big release that will not be ported over to the Switch.
With the Switch already significantly underpowered compared to the PS4 and Xbox One, let alone your average gaming PC, most developers will not want to even bother putting in the effort to get their games working on underpowered tech and this situation is only likely to get worse the longer the Switch is on the market. As it stands, Nintendo could really use some big third-party games to help bolster the console’s overall value.