Thanks in large part to the masterpiece that is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the newly-launched Nintendo Switch is the gaming industry’s hot item and has given Nintendo a much-needed win after the disappointing sales and reception to their previous console, the Wii U. While it’s true that every new piece of gaming hardware is going to be missing certain features at launch — it took the PlayStation 4 over three years to finally get external hard drive support, for instance — the discussion around the Nintendo Switch seems to revolve just as much around what it’s missing as what it actually does.
For as much as there is to like about the Switch, it’s also a device that feels like it was put out just a bit too early and is missing features that many would have assumed to be standard. Nintendo has made assurances that many of the Switch’s most prominent missing features will be addressed at a later date but with no time window given, it’s more than a little frustrating to see the Switch in its current state when it could easily be so much more. With that in mind, here are the features I think the Nintendo Switch needs the most.
10. Save File Backup
Right now, the Switch will only let you save your games to its on-board physical storage. In other words, there’s no way to backup your save files or recover them if your Switch breaks and you have to get a new one. In regards to this frankly unacceptable design shortcoming, Nintendo said, “At this time, it is not possible to transfer save data from one Nintendo Switch system to another.” The phrase “At this time,” suggests that the company has plans to address this issue in the future and I would wager that cloud storage could be part of the Switch’s paid online service when that eventually rolls out.
However, like many things with the Switch, this is a problem that shouldn’t even exist in the first place and Nintendo should have had some form of save file transferring/backup available on day one because losing hundreds of hours of save data is not something we should have to worry about anymore in 2017.
9. Custom Themes/More Theme Options
Another small quality of life improvement that the Switch could use is the ability to add custom backgrounds or just more themes in general. Right now, users have a choice between two really boring themes: Basic White and Basic Black. Yawn. I’m all for utility of design and I’m sure for most players, having a basic UI design isn’t really a big deal, but it would still be nice to at least have the option to personalize the Switch a bit.
Even just the ability to use a screenshot as a background would open things up a bit and while I don’t think themes are something that people should have to pay for, the sheer variety of premium themes available on something like the PS4 shows that there is money to be made in selling customers pre-made designs. Again, this is one of those features that is pretty negligible and probably not a big deal for most people, but I also don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be done, so let us our customize our Switches to our hearts’ content already, Nintendo!
8. Button Remapping
This is a small tweak that would make a big difference for many Switch owners. Without getting too into the weeds, the main problem with the way Nintendo handles its control inputs is that it runs counter to the industry standard (which, to be fair, isn’t an official standard, but you get the idea). By this, I mean that even though PlayStation and Xbox controllers use completely different symbols for their button layouts, they have similar functionality, so it’s easy to switch between the two. The ‘X’ button on a PS4 controller may be a different symbol than the ‘A’ button on an Xbox One controller, but they’re both in the same relative location on each controller and have the same functionality.
In contrast, Nintendo has things reversed on its Switch controller layouts. The ‘B’ button is in the place where the ‘X’ and ‘A’ buttons are on PlayStation and Xbox controllers, respectively, but its function is totally different. Instead of being the button you use to select things, the Switch’s ‘B’ button is essentially it’s “go back” or deselect button, whereas its “A” button is effectively its primary button. In my experience, this means that I have to essentially retrain my brain when using the Switch because I keep hitting the wrong button. Simply being able to remap buttons would make a huge difference here and would be such an easy feature for Nintendo to add. Hopefully they do.
7. Menu Music
The Nintendo Switch operating system is serviceable, but surprisingly boring for a company known for having quirky menus and an overall sense of playfulness on its other platforms. The big oversight that sticks out like a sore thumb when it comes to the Switch’s UI is how eerily quiet it is; in fact, it’s pretty much silent, with no background music to speak of. This is an odd shift from the 3DS and Wii U, which both feature some pretty great, whimsical menu music that contributed to an overall sense of relaxation.
To be fair, the Switch does have a variety of pleasant built-in sound effects, but it still doesn’t make up for this small but significant oversight. Hopefully Nintendo will release menu music in a future update because I personally miss the charming melodies of the company’s previous systems and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
6. Download Play
I realize that Download Play — the feature on DS and 3DS that allows multiple players to essentially share one copy of a game — wouldn’t work for big Switch titles like Zelda, but what about some of the smaller indie games and (eventual) Virtual Console titles? Once the Switch starts getting more multiplayer games, it’s going to become a fantastic local multiplayer device given how easy it is to connect multiple consoles, but the truth is that people aren’t always going to all own the same game.
Download Play in some capacity would be a great way to let others try out games they don’t own and also increase the Switch’s social functionality. Again, I have no idea if it would even be technically possible to do this, but Download Play would be a great addition if it can be implemented somehow.
Microsoft and Sony both introduced Achievements and Trophies, respectively, during the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 generation, but Nintendo has held out on adding a meta-goal system to its consoles. Nintendo easily could have introduced their own version of Achievements/Trophies on the Wii and Wii U but didn’t, and now they’ve followed suit with the Switch. While this is by no means a deal-breaker, as Achievement points and PSN Trophies are largely meaningless, I feel like Nintendo has underestimated (or just doesn’t care about) the value of these systems.
While there is a large contingent of gamers out there who could care less about earning virtual pats-on-the-back, there are also many who do enjoy chasing Achievements and Trophies, so Nintendo’s decision to simply ignore the value of meta-goal systems strikes me as ignorant and misguided. There’s no excuse for the Switch not to have a meta-goal system in place, as having one would do nothing to hurt the console and could only be a net gain for it, as it could convince some Switch owners to spend even more time with their games.
4. Video Capture
The Capture Button on the Nintendo Switch’s left Joy-Con is a great feature that lets you easily take and post screenshots (I think it’s much more intuitive than the PS4’s “Share” button). Unfortunately, what the Switch makes up for in ease of use, it lacks in terms of functionality, as the Capture button is limited just to screenshots and neither lets you stream gameplay to services like Twitch or even record a brief video clip.
Fortunately, Nintendo has said that they are “planning to add the ability to record video in the future,” sticking with the Switch’s running theme of promising features with no indication of when it might arrive. We just want to share our Breath of the Wild clips with the world Nintendo — and yes I’m aware this is possible with the use of a capture card) — is that too much to ask?
3. Integrated Voice Chat
The Switch’s online services are pretty bare-bones right now, although Nintendo is set to introduce a more sophisticated system later this year. The company has provided very few details about what this service will entail or what justifies it being a paid service, but they have revealed that many of its features will be tied into a separate mobile app for … reasons. One such feature is voice chat, as Nintendo has made it clear that players will have to use their phones and the Switch companion app in order to communicate with other players online.
While this isn’t actually a terrible idea, the fact that Nintendo is doing this without also offering integrated voice chap on the Switch itself is frankly absurd. Voice chat has been a mainstay in online services ever since the original Xbox and PlayStation 2 first introduced broadband online play and that was 15 years ago. I simply cannot wrap my head around this decision and hope that Nintendo eventually offers integrated voice chat on the Switch in addition to its mobile app plans.
Nintendo has made assurances that apps like Netflix and YouTube will be coming to the Switch eventually (that’s a word the company is fond of trotting out when it comes to missing Switch features) but the fact that the console didn’t even launch with an internet browser is disconcerting, even if it’s not the end of the world. Nintendo has stressed that the Switch is a gaming device first and foremost and that’s one of the main reasons why they’re content to wait on adding more apps to the system. Unfortunately, a portable gaming device that does little more than just play games doesn’t really cut it anymore.
The Switch is basically a dedicated gaming tablet, which also means that it is competing with tablets, even if Nintendo doesn’t see it this way. Most people aren’t going to bring multiple devices with them when they travel somewhere and once the novelty of the Switch wears off, I’m sure many are going to want a device that can do more than just play games.
Honestly, the Switch could replace people’s tablets if it offered at least some of the basic things many people use them for (like browsing the internet and watching movies and TV), so I don’t really buy the argument that it’s not a big deal that it doesn’t have apps. As it stands, Nintendo is missing a golden opportunity to market the Switch not only as a great mobile/home console hybrid, but as a legitimate competitor to the iPad and other tablets.
1. Virtual Console
I realize that it’s only a matter of time until the Switch gets some sort of Virtual Console service, but the truth is that Nintendo really should have had something ready on day one. Nintendo has one of, if not the best back catalog of games of any company and the Switch’s portable design makes it the perfect platform to start opening the floodgates and allow users to download many of their old favorites for on-the-go play.
Even having just a handful of games available at launch, with the promise of many more to come, would have made a big difference, as it would have negated some of the criticism Nintendo has been taking for having The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and little else available at launch, as Zelda + 100 different NES, SNES, and Nintendo 64 classics would have made for a much better value proportion than Zelda alone.
The worst part about all of this is that Nintendo has barely talked about Virtual Console at all and there’s still no release window for when it might arrive on the Switch. Sure, we all know it’s coming and if the rumors are true, it could even introduce GameCube titles for the first time, but I really think Nintendo undervalued the importance of the Virtual Console service on a console that feels like it was designed with the service in mind.