Nintendo's decision to follow in Microsoft's and Sony's footsteps and charge its userbase to play online via a new subscription plan was perhaps the most disappointing announcement to come out of the system's big reveal. Now Nintendo reveals the main reason it made this controversial move: to win over and attract more third-party developers.
Lack of proper third-party support is what killed the Wii U console. Nintendo wants to completely reverse this with its new Switch handheld-console hybrid, and has taken many steps to ensure that third-party developers have the tools and incentives they need to bring their games over to the platform.
The Japanese console-maker is keen on providing an attractive environment for third-party devs and publishers in an attempt to win them over; and based on the massive third-party Switch partner listings that includes most of the major publishers and studios in the industry I'd say it's working.
Nintendo has ensured modern, scalable and flexible dev tools, APIs, and engines like Unity, Unreal Engine 4, and Vulkan are supported on the Switch.
But that's not enough; publishers like Activision, Ubisoft, and EA are looking for more--they need a sure-fire mainstream demographic, and they need a "full range of ways to monetize their investment," which is where Nintendo's new "robust online environment" subscription plan comes into play.
Uh oh....does this mean the Switch will be littered with microtransactions and new weird DLC schemes?
Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime explains how the company's new paid online subscription model will help facilitate this new environment for third-party developers and publishers:
"From a third party perspective, I don't want to oversimplify things, but third party developers look for a handful of things. First, they look for a straightforward development environment in order to create their games. And that was one of the challenges with Wii U. Now with Nintendo Switch, we have Unity as a platform. We've got the Unreal Engine as a platform. These are known development environments for content creators to build content.
"The second thing they look for is a consumer demographic that's going to meet their needs for the content they're creating. And so again, you've got Zelda for the core. You've got 1-2 Switch for the family audience. You've got Arms. You've got Splatoon. You've got Mario Kart 8. You've got Super Mario Odyssey. That looks like a pretty wide and diverse audience to build content for.
"And third, they look for a large install base. That's what we're trying to create.
"And then lastly, they look for a full range of ways to monetize their investment. And that's where having a robust online environment comes in. And again we are pushing the envelope, we're doing things differently, and we're working hard to make sure that environment exists. So as an executive for the company, I believe we're doing everything we need to, to create that environment for third parties. So far they're reacting extremely positively. Bethesda hasn't been on a Nintendo platform. A fully featured FIFA, that has not been on a Nintendo console in some time.
"And then lastly, they look for a full range of ways to monetize their investment. And that's where having a robust online environment comes in. And again we are pushing the envelope, we're doing things differently, and we're working hard to make sure that environment exists.
"So as an executive for the company, I believe we're doing everything we need to, to create that environment for third parties. So far they're reacting extremely positively.
"Bethesda hasn't been on a Nintendo platform. A fully featured FIFA, that has not been on a Nintendo console in some time," Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime said in a recent interview with TIME.
Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima affirmed that there are more than 50 developers working on more than 80 games on the Nintendo Switch, and that a "steady pacing of content" will continue flowing throughout 2017 and the hybrid system's lifetime.
So far it seems that Nintendo is making all the right moves insofar as a developer standpoint, despite the Switch's lower-end hardware which facilitates 900p 30FPS performance in demanding games like Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Devs are clearly interested in the system's unique dual form-factor and scalable Tegra SoC, which can deliver varied performance in TV Mode and Handheld Mode, essentially allowing the system to transform into two different consoles at whim.
The Nintendo Switch will launch with these 12 games on March 3, 2017:
- Zelda: Breath of the Wild (NA, JP and EU)
- 1, 2 Switch!
- Skylanders: Imaginators
- Snipper Clips: Cut it Out Together!
- Just Dance 2017
- Super Bomberman R
Japanese Switch launch games:
- Dragon Quest Heroes 1 & 2
- Disgaea 5: Complete
- Nobunaga's Ambition - Sphere of Influence
- Puyo Puyo Tetris
- Romance of the 13 Kingdoms
I still affirm that Nintendo's paid subscription model will be completely optional, and the company won't push it onto games too harshly like Sony and Microsoft do with their PS Plus and Xbox LIVE Gold subscriptions.
I do think, however, we should be concerned and watch this one closely. I don't think Nintendo can afford to be, well, Nintendo-y on this subject: it has to mold the Switch to both the industry dev standards and consumer standards if it wants the system to be successful. Nintendo can't afford to be so strict and closed-off anymore--hence why it nixed region locking for the first time in forever.
Then again, the company is fully committed to making a stable, fruitful environment for third-party publishers and devs, so gamers' desires may be put on the back burner to ensure the Switch doesn't die the slow, terrible death the Wii U did.
Notable Nintendo Switch blunders and things gamers are concerned about
32GB of onboard storage - The Nintendo Switch is primarily a home-based system, but it has the onboard memory of a handheld. 32GB will be enough for players who opt in for cartridge-based games, but gamers who buy digitally will need to expand the Switch's memory with Micro SDHC or SDXC cards. The Switch supports up to 2TB Micro SDXC cards, but 1TB SDXC cards don't yet exist, let alone 2TB SDXC models, and these cards will be extremely expensive. What's more is that a single game can take up almost half of the Switch's onboard memory: Zelda: Breath of the Wild will clock in at about 13GB.
Charging gamers to play online multiplayer - The Nintendo Switch will eventually have its own online subscription plan. Players will have to pay a monthly or yearly fee to play most multiplayer games online, and the service will provide various perks such as a free SNES or NES game for that particular month (you don't get to keep the game, only rent it for that period of time), coupons and discounts, and access to the new voice chat smartphone app. That brings us to our next point.
Online voice chatting is exclusive to smartphone app - Nintendo made a strange decision to lock online voice chatting to a smartphone app. Players who want to chat with their friends online playing, say, Splatoon 2, will have to not only subscribe to the paid service, but also download a smartphone app. This app will allow players to chat via Voice over IP to their friends. The Switch will not support attached headsets with microphones when it is docked for TV Mode, as the Switch console will be transmitting all audio and video signals through the dock's USB Type-C port, which is then converted by the dock and sent to the HDTV via an HDMI cable. So essentially if you have a gaming headset, you'll have to plug it into your phone to chat with friends.
Included JoyCon Grip does not charge JoyCon controllers - Today we found out that there are two JoyCon Grips: the basic JoyCon Grip, and the JoyCon Charging Grip. The Nintendo Switch is boxed with the basic model, which does not feature an onboard battery to recharge your JoyCon controllers. The JoyCon Charging Grip, however, comes with said battery, but costs $30 extra. So when you buy the Nintendo Switch, you will have no way to recharge the JoyCon controllers, which are required for all forms of play in the stock version, without having to physical hook them up to the Nintendo Switch system while it's docked or hooked up via USB Type-C in handheld mode. The JoyCon controllers do have a considerably long 20 hour battery life, but it takes about 3.5 hours to fully charge them via the Switch's new rail system, so this could end up being a problem.
Sparse launch lineup - The Nintendo Switch will launch on March 3, 2017 with 11 games--half of which will be Japanese titles. While I contend that these games will indeed be fun, the Switch needs more games at launch. Nintendo has affirmed that over 50 developers are working on over 80 games, and 2017 will see a nice handful of titles rolling out to bolster the Switch hardware.
In any case, the Nintendo Switch launches on March 3, 2017 for $299. Check below for a catalog of everything we know about the console so far :
Everything we know about the Nintendo Switch:
- Nintendo Switch will have 'steady pacing of content'
- Putting Nintendo Switch launch games into perspective
- Stock Nintendo Switch JoyConGrip won't recharge JoyCons
- The new Zelda game takes up nearly half Switch's storage
- Zelda: Breath of the Wild runs at 900p 30FPS docked, 720p 30FPS undocked
- Nintendo Switch supports 2TB Micro SDXC cards
- Nintendo Switch online chat requires smartphone app
- Here's why Nintendo Switch doesn't come with any games
- Nintendo will soon charging gamers to play online multiplayer via subscription service
- Nintendo Switch UI revealed, let's take a closer look
- Nintendo Switch touchscreen has haptic feedback tech
- Nintendo stock drops after Switch unveil event
- Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on Switch runs at 1080p when docked
- Nintendo Switch hardware specs revealed
- Nintendo Switch costs $299, coming March 3
- Nintendo Switch battery life is 2.5 hours to 6 hours
- New Mario: Odyssey game won't be Nintendo Switch launch title
- Zelda: Breath of the Wild is Switch launch game