A week away from launch day, it still feels like we’re finding new things out about the Nintendo Switch everyday. Unfortunately, the more information that gets revealed about the Switch, the more it’s becoming clear that Nintendo is launching their new console too soon.
The latest disappointing, yet unsurprising revelation regarding the Switch is that it will not have Virtual Console support at launch. This means that Switch owners who pick up their console on March 3 will not be able to download any classic Nintendo games on day one. Now, this wouldn’t be such a big deal if Nintendo had provided a time frame of when we might expect Virtual Console to be added to the Switch, but all they’ve said is “we will share more information in the future.” In other words, Nintendo is not willing to say or has no idea when a feature that launched with its three most recent consoles (including the 3DS) is coming out, which only further illustrates how quickly the company is rushing the Switch to market.
While it’s true that nearly all tech hardware released nowadays will be missing features that won’t get added until later on (heck, we’re still waiting for features for the PS4 and Xbox One that should have been released years ago), the Switch is starting to become more known for the features it lacks than the ones it actually has. Besides the hardware, everything else about the Switch feels like a missed opportunity at this point. The launch lineup includes a potential game of the year candidate in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but otherwise is lacking in both quality and quantity compared to more recent console launches (it’s important to remember that the Switch’s predecessor, the Wii U, may have lacked a game like Zelda, but made up for this by having a wide-range of titles that appealed to many different demographics.)
There is also an overall lack of multimedia apps on the Switch, which will not have a web browser or Netflix at launch, two features that are widely considered standard at this point. There is an online mode at launch, but it’s pretty much a beta that won’t see a full release until this fall, when it will become a full paid service. And now reports are coming in from outlets that have got their hands on the console that there are problems with the Joy-Cons syncing, meaning that even the hardware isn’t quite ready for prime time yet.
In my opinion, these are all relatively minor issues compared to the Virtual Console news, which unquestionably should have been available on day one. While it’s true that not every Switch owner is going to be bent out of shape over not being able to download classic games at launch, having at least some VC games available would have gone a long way in making up for the Switch’s anemic launch lineup. Having Zelda and not much else still wouldn’t have been great, but it would have made the wait for more heavy-hitters much more bearable if you had the ability to bring games like Super Mario Bros. 3 and A Link to the Past with you on the go.
Nintendo had an opportunity here to position the Switch as not only the system that gives you access to their massive back catalog of incredible games, but the system that allows you to take all of those games with you wherever you go. The Switch may very well still become this someday (and I sincerely hope it does because how awesome would that be?) but it won’t be that on launch day and that’s a serious problem.
Whether or not it’s the truth, it’s starting to feel like Nintendo is putting the Switch out early to coincide with Zelda’s launch and not the other way around, as that game offers pretty much the only compelling reason to pick the console up at launch (that and the novelty of being an early adopter, of course). This is all just speculation, of course, but it seems like Nintendo has had Zelda ready to go for awhile now and needed to get it out, but also needed a big game for the Switch at launch — because, let’s face it, the Switch needs Zelda more than Zelda needs Switch right now — which led to the decision to put both out on March 3.
Unfortunately, Nintendo really has nothing else to offer Switch owners besides Zelda and maybe Super Bomberman R if they’re looking for a good party game, so why didn’t they just push the release date back a couple months so they could have more games and features ready? If Nintendo launched the Switch in May, for instance, they would not only have had at least one more strong first-party game in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (currently scheduled for release April 28) but would have also had time to get things like the Virtual Console up-and-running, thus presenting a much more attractive product to consumers.
I think Nintendo is under a lot of pressure to get the Switch out before the end of their fiscal year to help bring in some revenue, as the 3DS alone just isn’t cutting it at this point (yes, I realize Nintendo has many other revenue streams, but the 3DS remains their biggest moneymaker at present). Unfortunately, what’s good for Nintendo isn’t necessarily good for consumers and I firmly believe that buying a Switch at launch is an unwise decision; even more so now with the news about the Virtual Console. Of course, it’s always beneficial to wait to buy a new piece of hardware, whether it’s a gaming console or the latest iPhone, but with the Switch, it’s like Nintendo is actively giving people reasons to hold off.
I really don’t mean this to all come off as some sort of anti-Nintendo rant, as I do think anyone who picks up a Switch on launch day is going to have a lot of fun with the system, especially if they’re in a position to fully make use of its portable and multiplayer features. I just think that if you truly want a Switch, it’s better to wait a few months or even until the holiday season when Super Mario Odyssey is supposedly coming out (and if you haven’t pre-ordered one already, you probably won’t be able to get your hands on one for a few months anyway).
Hopefully, it doesn’t take Nintendo long to get things like Virtual Console on the Switch because if done properly (as in, having a ton of games available from the outset as opposed to the drip-feed release schedule they’ve been doing for years), it could be a potential system seller for the console, on top of other selling points like Zelda. However, until Nintendo decides they actually want to start communicating their larger plans for the console instead of burying them absentmindedly in press releases, I’m going to hold off on picking up the Switch and I highly recommend you do the same.