Nintendo has finally confirmed the March 3 release date (earlier than we thought), $299 price (a touch more than we hoped) and launch games (it's too early to tell…) for its new portable Switch console – but is it everything we hoped? What questions does Nintendo Switch have left to answer? And – the big one – has Nintendo done enough to secure your Switch pre-order? In a new weekly regular feature, The Big Question, we ask a panel of GamesRadar+ writers what they think of Nintendo's new console.
"It's unashamedly a family machine and I can already see it 'solving' a genuine (low level) problem that I have."
I'm buying one, which isn't something I've been able to say about a Nintendo console in 20 years. Largely, because I think Nintendo has got its target audience and product positioning spot-on, which isn't the marketing gobbledegook it sounds. Sure, I'll play Switch myself but it's unashamedly a family machine and I can already see it 'solving' a genuine (low level) problem that I have: how to entertain my kids when we're out-and-about, and – in a scenario many parents will associate with – how I'm going to keep a 3 year-old and an 8 year-old quiet while my wife and I attempt to have a cup of coffee, or dare to talk to some friends (Don't @ me! My kids do loads of real world stuff, it's just… well, if you're used to looking after children, you'll *know*).
No compromise. If they're playing Super Mario Odyssey, I won't have to pause the home console, turn off the TV and quell a mini-tantrum ("We'll put it back on later… if you're a good boy… yes, we'll take the Kindle"), but just stick the console in our bag and - hey presto - they're up-and-running again. So, Switch (potentially) works as a family lifestyle solution and, more importantly, as a panacea to one of the biggest problems we all face, in every sphere of our life: complexity.
Is it a home console? Is it a portable? It's both. In theory, you just whack it in the slot, and you're playing the same game, but at home, or on-the-move. I'm not messing around with cloud saves, playing over the internet like PS4's / PS Vita's convoluted remote play, or tolerating compromised versions of better games I already own (add your own Skyrim joke here). As for cartridges? Who knew! If you're old enough to remember the 16-bit days where games took *no seconds* to load, it's enough to make you weep, in comparison to the current paradigm, where every AAA game comes with a 10-15 minute install, no doubt followed by a three-hour online patch.
Most of all, Nintendo is just bloody magical, isn't it? Watching that Super Mario Odyssey trailer, I felt a genuine pang of awe and wonder as Mario bobbed in the water – amplified by nostalgia, of course, connecting me to similar feelings of watching Super Mario 64 for the first time or Super Mario World on SNES. The Metal Gear Solid series might obsess about genetics, legacy and what we pass between generations, but Nintendo is its embodiment… the same games are reborn again and again, passed between generations; united by quality and their joyful innocence. I can't wait to share that feeling with my kids. The only bummer is the price. It might not be Nintendo's fault, but the analysts had duped me into believing a sub £200 console might be a reality… and £279 isn't quite the same impulse buy. But, like so many purchases where kids are involved, rationality takes a passenger seat. Dan Dawkins
"Was that the sound of my bank account wincing? Yes. Yes it was."
I’m going to take a deep breath. Ready? Here goes nothing: I’m really not that fussed about the Nintendo Switch (excuse me whilst I take cover underneath my desk). Sorry (not sorry), but I’m really not. It’s straddling a weird line between too big for me to take on the go, and too small for me to think it’ll do any wonders for co-op play. Largely because the controllers are just too darn small. For tiny kiddie fingers they’re sure to be the perfect size, but I can already feel the RSI from keeping my index fingers scrunched up over the top, plus I’m anticipating a frustrating lack of grip when it comes to handling the minute grey controller. Also: playing with two players on that teeny screen? Goodbye, eyesight. Hello strained vision and headaches.
Yes, I know, I’m being a grump. I’m not denying that for parents who need to keep their offspring entertained and people who are frequently travelling across the country it’ll probably be a launch purchase. But personally I simply don’t see the appeal of another portable gadget when there’s a multitude of mobile games on iOS and Android, the Nintendo DS reigns supreme when it comes to handheld gaming. In terms of the big screen, if I want to play co-op I’ll switch on my PS4 and pester one of my begrudging friends (I promise, I do have some) to come online with me. Going out to meet buddies in the real world wouldn’t make me think “Gee, you know what I should do? Bring a portable console to play on instead of using my vocal chords to talk to them”. Bah, humbug.
Having said all that, Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Phwoar. I won’t lie, it looks gorgeous. The colours, the open world, the scenery - all that was so incredibly tempting. That was before I saw Nintendo Switch’s price. Ouch. £279.99 is just a bit too much. If it had edged in just under the £200 mark, then I would be okay with swallowing my words and hibernating with Breath of the Wild. Add on £44.99 for the game, £27.99 for an AC adapter so you can bring it out and about with you, then maybe £42.99 for some extra controllers - all in all, that’s £395.96. Was that the sound of my bank account wincing? Yes. Yes it was. Or you could go for £324.98 for Zelda and the Switch. Still ouch. That’s not mentioning the carry-case I’ll inevitably have to buy unless I want a scratched screen. Because who wants that? Sorry, Nintendo, but I’m just not feeling you right now. Zoe Delahunty-Light
"An exciting console… but Switch feels less forward looking than the company's greatest successes."
Nintendo Switch seems to be precisely what Nintendo promised at the beginning of its big 2017 reveal: a gaming device built out of the bones of every previous Nintendo console. The fidelity of the Wii U, the portability and compact design of the Nintendo DS Lite, the playful philosophy of Wii, and the line up of old school gaming icons from Mario to Shin Megami Tensei that made the Gamecube beloved by a clutch of devoted players in its day.
For someone like myself who adores these sorts of games, Switch is an exciting console. Those visible Nintendo roots stretching backward, though, make Switch feel less forward looking than the company's greatest successes. The Nintendo DS felt like an insane set of unrelated features when it Nintendo showed off the prototype at E3 2004, but the bizarre futurism of the touch screen and dual screens were exciting on their own. The novelty of detachable controllers is cool, but doesn't feel like it will open new opportunities.
But by the time Kirby Canvas Curse, Brain Age, and Nintendogs rolled around, Nintendo DS had found a thirsty new audience. Maybe HD Rumble, as Nintendo calls it, will take off. Maybe games like 1,2 Switch will capture the party vibe Nintendo seems so anxious to cultivate. I want it to succeed because I want to see more games like Super Mario Odyssey but the higher than expected price tag, the lack of a pack-in game, the gobsmackingly pricey extra controllers, and the absence of many announced games on launch day all seem like difficult hurdles to clear between Nintendo and new players. Anthony Agnello
"I'm not seeing the necessity to get myself a Switch now."
While I'm really looking forward to Splatoon 2 (should've been Spla2oon, but WHATEVER) and Breath of the Wild and the new Mario, I'm not seeing the necessity to get myself a Switch now. I'll likely pick one up at some point in the future, when I can get it and a whole bag of great games all at once, easily, without having to fight scarcity or hype. The Switch, in true Nintendo fashion, be a very bingeworthy machine; I'll be much happier with my $300 console when I can slam great stuff into it back to back to back, as opposed to it sadly gathering dust while I wait for the next great experience to be released. Susan Arendt
"It does look like a version of something that’s been tried a few times before: a touch screen tablet with controllers."
I'll be very interested to see how this does once people are actually playing it regularly. While it looks like a lovely piece of kit, it does feel like the least fresh idea Nintendo has had in awhile. Hear me out, I’m not saying I don’t like the console - Nintendo has basically made a multiplayer 3DS you can plug into your TV. But it does look like a version of something that’s been tried a few times before: a touch screen tablet with controllers. It’s basically a posh iPad.
Several companies like Razer have already tried gaming tablets with controllers in the past few years and they’ve never taken off. This is basically the same thing with the Nintendo name on it. It means the online ecosystem, social play and games will have to be amazing (and continue after launch) for this to be more than the sum of its parts. Leon Hurley
"Heritage is often the main selling point of any Ninty console, and that’s totally lost on me."
As someone with no Nintendo nostalgia to draw on, it’s tough to get excited about Switch. Heritage is often the main selling point of any Ninty console, and that’s totally lost on me. Sure, the new Zelda looks lovely - the kind of game I’d definitely play in the absence of a new Elder Scrolls - and Mario is sunshine in a world of stormy virtual violence, but there’s no way I’d spend $300 on a machine for such niche pleasures.
The ability to take your controller with you is a neat idea, but I don’t feel like it fills an entertainment gap in my life or offers me a new way to play games. It certainly isn’t enough to justify buying a second or third console. And aside from that… all the console’s other features are less appealing variants on what we already have with PS4 and Xbox One - social sharing options, premium online multiplayer, free games on subscription.
Will Switch offer the other features that make my PS4 the heart of my entertainment at home, like streaming services, media players, fully integrated friends lists, and an extensive line-up of games I really want to play, such as Destiny and Mass Effect? Brutally - will it be as powerful and adaptable as my PS4? Maybe it will, but for now it feels like a console too niche for me - and many others - to love. Andy Hartup
"It feels like a perfect, and entirely sensible, objectively aware distillation of the best of Nintendo’s last few decades."
The Switch feels like a really healthy return to pre-Wii Nintendo. Yes, it can be used on the move or at home, and yes, you can pull its controllers apart and use them in a few different ways, from standard pad to motion controller. But none of this seems to lead the console, no more than the SNES’ shoulder buttons, the N64’s analogue stick, or the Gamecube’s big green ‘A’ did. And that’s really, really exciting.
There’s no sense that Nintendo is at pains to show how differently the Switch will allow you to interact with games, no forced demos of bizarre new control schemes, no hardcore push for third-parties to build their games around gimmicks, no Amiibo bullshit. Just “Hey, here’s a console that looks nice to use. It has a new Zelda, and a new, proper, bona fide 3D Mario game. Please enjoy”.
In fact, let’s hold there for a second. Nintendo is unveiling a new console with a new, main-series Mario game. Do you see the significance of that? After being side-lined for two whole generations, Nintendo’s flagship, most creative, most inventive series – the one which has always served as a showcase of the company’s design talent and freewheeling, hardcore creativity - is front and centre from the very start again.
Moving on from that Fundamentally Important Point, the really beautiful thing about the Switch is that, being the last major Nintendo project captained by the late, really rather bloody wonderful Satoru Iwata, it feels like a perfect, and entirely sensible, objectively aware distillation of the best of Nintendo’s last few decades.
Control innovations? Yeah, they’re there is anyone wants to use them, but no biggie if not. Portability? That’s always been Nintendo’s big, guaranteed win, so yes, feel free to see this as a handheld if you like too. Party gaming? There are a bunch of different ways you can do that if you want to. Just pull that single-player controller apart and go. No overly complex, multiple set-ups here. But at the same time, holy crap are massive, decadent, single-player Mario and Zelda games ever its tentpoles. The long-term health of its games line-up remains anyone's guess at this stage, of course, but with all of Ninty's dev resources finally focused around one machine, and Nintendo seeming to think like its old self again, there's every reason to be optimistic. David Houghton
Excited by Nintendo's console? Dubious about the software line up? Let us know what you think below and we'll share the best comments on site.
The Big Question returns next Friday to debate the week's biggest talking point in games, film or TV from a variety of GamesRadar+ writers' perspectives.