Happy 3-year Switchversary!- A reflection on the state of the Switch and how I use it, now that it is 3 years old
The Nintendo Switch, as of today, March 3, has turned 3 years old, meaning that it's old enough to... do not very much, in human years. But in terms of console years, that should mean it's already halfway(!!!?) or so through its life cycle. It means that it has matured past its small amount of launch titles, found a place in the gaming ecosystem, and some semblance of a verdict has been made on whether it is worth it or not. Old enough for revisions, and budget versions, and sequels and more third party games.
But, seeing how March Blogging Madness is supposed to relate to my daily life, I can already see a teacher starting to scratch something on a rubric (sigh), so I'm going to relate it to today. You see, today, amidst the coronavirus fears (it could very well even be within our school at this point and we would still be equally as cautious), I was reminded how our engineering teacher gave us good advice and told us not to put our hands near our mouths. I looked down at my fingernails, perfectly smooth and clean, meant to never be put near my teeth again. And I reminded myself that the ordeal that I'm going through now of trying to break a bad habit (I've got a 16-day streak, woohoo!) happened before. In fact, three years before. Except my motive had nothing to do with a global epidemic (or pandemic, I'm not sure what the proper term is, can someone tell me in the comments below?), and with the fact that my parents had promised that if I broke my habit I could get anything I wanted.
I, of course, chose the Nintendo Switch.
I purchased it in late April of 2017, I remember, the same weekend that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe launched. But I didn't get that game with it; when I told my dad to get the blue and red one with one game that I would pay for, he thankfully picked up Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Good thing he did, since that's my favorite game of all time (and one of the best, if not the best, games ever. period). I didn't get my hands on it, however, until a month later, when my parents thought I had broken my habit. I went back to my terrible habit a month later, but in that month I had already unboxed my shiny new Switch, and there was no going back. I had permanently become a member of the Joy-Con Boyz (or girlz... it's a community term).
I'm pretty sure I'm the person in the grade who has had the console for the longest, since I literally got the launch version that had sold out for a month straight and my dad had to wake up to stand in a queue at Best Buy to even get the commodity. It wasn't regularly available in stores until around half a year later, so most people who got it early had to pay upwards of $100 or more from the retail price of $299 from online scalpers and resellers. That is, unless some absolute mad lad (or chad lab, as we would call them in bio) drove down to Nintendo NY to pick the thing up on launch day. Then again, I only know two people (not in this school) who did that, so yeah.
I first heard about the thing by watching the initial reveal trailer for it one month late. The thing blew my mind at first. Wait... a system that could be played either at home or on the go, with awesome little detachable controllers that could even be used for local tabletop multiplayer??? That was literally the coolest idea for any product ever, that I had ever heard. I imagined myself one day playing together with my cousins without needing a separate DS or game cartridge. But then, after coming to the conclusion that most of it was probably sold separately and quite expensive (my former assumption was false, but the latter unfortunately wasn't), I gave up on the idea permanently.
But then I was told I could have anything in the world, and that's the moment I went "full gamer mode". This post is looking to get quite long so I'm going to try to summarize, as briefly as possible, if my experience with it has drastically changed over the course of 3 years (spoiler alert, it has).
The first, most noticable change:
Nintendo is cool again!
Above: Official art for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Credit to Nintendo, BANDAI NAMCO, and Sora Ltd.
After being the awkward outsider for a solid five years with the not very financially successful Wii U (which sold 12 million units in four years... meanwhile, the Switch has beat the Xbox One at 53 million in less than 3 years), the Switch didn't immediately change that. It was still somewhat awkward, despite all the awesome and still-quality games that Nintendo was making, to be calling myself a Nintendo gamer in the mid-2010s, especially when their reputation at the point from the outside perspective was that they were either bankrupt, missing, or only made little kids games for a little kids accessory for the original Wii (the marketing for the Wii U was so lackluster and confusing that 99% of the general public had no idea that it was actually a whole new console with new games being made for it). It was a great system with some great first-party games, but Nintendo was clearly losing the "console wars" round.
Then came the Switch, and... it didn't immediately dethrone Sony or Microsoft, obviously. It couldn't unless the entire human population had bought one at launch, so early on. Obviously, Breath of the Wild as a launch title greatly helped, but the Switch was more of a novelty for die-hard Nintendo fans as the "shiny new things" then something to send the Playstation 4 and Xbox One running for their mommies. So whenever I told someone I had a Switch, the reaction was excitement, surprise, and wonder at the shiny new thing that hardly anyone ever had.
Now, in March of 2020, I'm in high school, and the Switch is more popular than ever! Literally every four or five people you'd probably ask in a survey of our class would probably either own one or know someone who does, while three years back that number would probably be quite a lot less. So it doesn't shock or surprise anyone that I own a Switch. The public has mostly accepted it and gotten cool with it, and finally treats Nintendo as a company with the respect that they deserve that may have been lost on more hardcore gamers during the grandma-golf-playing days of the Wii.
Now, for the second thing I've noticed that has changed...
So many already-released games and so little upcoming games... ARGGGHHHH!
Above: Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the Nintendo Switch. Credit to Nintendo.
When the Switch first launched, a popular joke at its expense was that it was a $300 Zelda machine with no games and no future. Now, three years later, it's not just a $300 (or $200, if you choose the still drift-doomed Switch Lite) Zelda, and Mario, and Pokemon, and literally every game you could possibly wish for at this point machine, but it somehow still has no future. Let me explain.
When the console was still fresh and young, just like all consoles, there was a sense of excitement and mystery regarding its upcoming release schedule. What if there was a Smash Bros for the console??? A Pokemon?? What about if they ported over Overwatch, do you know how cool that would be??? And now that all of those things have already happened, Nintendo has gotten to a point where nearly every single first party franchise (and a sizable amount of all heavily-requested third party games) have made its way to the system, turning it into a Zelda machine to the console with one of the best game libraries, ever, to exist that is more than good enough to compete with the Playstation 4 (but it already surpassed the Xbox One from the start--- I don't own one, and I know it's a great system, but Microsoft clearly didn't focus a lot on first-party exclusives from the start of this particular console generation. Maybe they'll fare better next time, with the Series X this holiday season?).
But it may have to do with the fact that we're in the middle of the largest Nintendo Direct drought in history, literally (I'm not kidding, you can look that up), or that the only big 2020 game I can think of from Nintendo this year is Animal Crossing in two weeks (which I am beyond excited for, even though my pre-order delivery got delayed by three days due to this coronavirus). Beyond that? As my friend Burak pointed out on his own blog, there's just about nothing else. 2017 was undoubtedly the most exciting year for the Switch in terms of games, despite there being so little in comparison, due to the one-two punch of starting the year with Zelda and ending it with a brand new 3D sandbox-style Mario and great ports and sequels (Splatoon 2 and Mariokart, anyone?) to fill the space in between. 2018 ended with Smash and Pokemon while starting with a stream of gradually less-exciting Wii U ports (they're still all basically new to me, though, since I never owned a Wii U). 2019 had several new entries in somewhat dormant franchises (like Fire Emblem and Luigi's Mansion) show up, along with sequels (Super Mario Maker 2) and even a Zelda Game Boy remake (Link's Awakening, which is incredible!).
Sure, it also had a controversial duo of brand new Pokemon entries at the end, but nothing so far has truly felt like it competed in that first year of quality being greater than quantity. Yes, Luigi's Mansion 3 and Smash and Mario Maker are phenomenal must-play games with lots of love and care and value in them, but beyond that the entire roster of IPs that Nintendo could possibly pull out of their sleeves has already been exhausted, except for of course the confirmed Metroid Prime 4 and the unconfirmed but likely Paper Mario and Pikmin.
It's crazy to think that 3 whole years have flown by, but then it becomes easier to believe when I remember that I was also starting middle school that year... actually, not crazy at all. That, and The Force Awakens (four years ago???), both feel like yesterday. I don't feel drastically changed internally since then, even though everything and everyone around me is, including my location and the location of my closest friends. But at the end of that 3 year passage of time, it feels eerily similar to the start of it.
In that, the future feels weird and mysterious. Not as much in a hopeful and patient way as it was when the thing first launched, but more of in a "why haven't they revealed a single new game for this year already yet?" kind of way. But even if they skimmed this year mostly over and just tossed in a Wii U port or two and hided the fact that there were basically no new games with a stream of Smash DLC hype ("Oh my God guys, what if they put Goku in Smash?" -- literally no one ever), I'd be fine.
In fact, I'd be more than fine with it. I'd be relieved, and happy. Why? Well, that brings me to the last point I'm going to make.
So many games, so little time!
Above: A moment from the E3 2019 reveal trailer for the as-of-yet without a release date but inevitably going to be delayed to infinity and beyond sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It's an eerie and dark trailer, in which, of many things signalling that this one's going to be more than a little different, a corpse comes back to life. Image credit to Nintendo.
This is a pretty big shift in how I use the system. I never was one to actively want to take the thing to school or on the bus due to how much I adore the system like a baby and don't want anything bad to happen to it, ever (just like Baby Yoda). I mean, I still did bring it to my trusted friends' houses and on vacation and such, but the Switch's hybrid appeal, while I used it a lot, wasn't really helping me catch up on Breath of the Wild or the surplus of other unfinished and sometimes unstarted games I have staring at me in red boxes on the shelf below my TV and on my Switch home screen and in my game library. Let's not forget that now, along the way, they have made a software update letting you sort your game library by the amount most played. Speaking of which, here's a picture of the top of that list for me:
Splatoon 2 is the most played across all users on the system (I share it with my little brother, Onur, who is probably more of a natural gamer than I am, to be honest). That's not surprising. Breath of the Wild at #2 of course, and surprisingly to me (even though it's the second best game on the Switch), Super Mario Odyssey at third. I only recall playing under 60 hours of that game total, so I guess my little brother... oh never mind, that makes sense. I forgot that I play Minecraft on two separate versions; bedrock for the crossplatform multiplayer, and Switch Edition for the offline 4-player local without requiring Switch Online accounts for each player and also access to super-fun offline local PVP multiplayer games with awesome maps to play on. Both versions have racked up, individually, over 70 hours alone on just my profile... so wait a minute, I'm still surprised that my little brother played Odyssey that much, wow.
Then of course is lots of multiplayer stuff a la Smash and Mariokart and the likes, and then in the middle lots of single-player games that I play moderately frequently. Then, the sad folks at the bottom:
That's reserved for free demos that I never got the chance to check out after downloading over a year or more ago, and for those 20 cent eShop doorbuster sales that I sometimes impulse buy with the free money I get from My Nintendo gold points. It also has some great stuff (like Ori) that I still haven't even booted up. I can get a lot of those by not even spending that much, since over 75% of my game library was bought by others as gifts for me or my brother for special occassions and gift money and the like, which based on the fact that we both tend to invite a heck of a lot of people, is the reason why my library looks so dang large to most people. I prefer digital whenever possible due to resellability down the line or if I simply didn't like it (like Pokken Tournament, for instance), but do get digital if its eShop-exclusive as of the time that I feel like getting it, like most indie games. They may get physical releases later on, but they usually cost twice as much at least due to physical cartridges simply costing more to make.
Among these games, I notice a pattern: Probably 80% of this library, I have obtained within only the year 2018 (which had a lot of games, and the year that I got the most Switch games). Also around that much, I haven't even gotten to play for more than five hours each.
That's the problem with a console that I love so darn much, annoying still-unresolved controller defects and all (geez, Nintendo's engineering and product defect research team, what's taking you so long?): The fact that it's so good, and well, has so many darn games! As the game library grew, my free time (or rather, my ability to adapt to new school environments where I needed to actually attempt to manage my time for once) decreased. They're like inverse graph functions, I suppose... I've been spewing a lot of math and statistics in the past few paragraphs than I usually do, haven't I? Oh well.
So, to summarize, 3 years later the Switch has become my favorite thing that I own, ever (even more than my laptop, which is somewhat slow but also how I'm writing this blog), due to its hybrid nature and wow-factor as well as its gargantuan (Membean vocab word, yay!) library of games that I continue to get more buried under by the month. The future still looks bright for the system, but I think that multiple things must still happen. One, Steve from Minecraft and Waluigi absolutely must be the next DLC fighters in Smash or there's no way on earth I'm buying Fighters Pass 2 after skipping the first, Mr. Sakurai (even though Crash Bandicoot would also be very nice). Two, a Switch Pro must come out by the end of mid-2021 if the Switch is to have the greater than seven-year life cycle that Nintendo wants it to have (in articles they've even said that they want to "redefine the console life cycle" or something like that). Three, we should find out if there are any new 2020 games and what they are in the next week or two.
And last, but definitely most important: Fix the drift! Your customers are paying 80 dollars and your products are expected to last! Nintendo, you are tarnishing your reputation every single day that you don't do something to fix it. Issue a redesign, not just for the Joy-Cons and Switch Lite (which is a lot less appealing to potential consumers due to the issue, by the way), but for the gosh-darn Pro Controllers too! My special edition Splatoon 2 controller went to the trash, darn it (or actually, to eBay in a broken state and missing two screws) after I failed in my attempt to fix it. Now I'm stuck with a regular old, boring black Pro Controller with the only two black sticker drift-preventer thingies on the joystick shafts that I have, since I accidentally may have mailed off the remaining ones on that sheet of drift-preventors that I can't find on Amazon anymore when I successfully sold the Splatoon one on eBay. Sigh.
Well, that was a long and rambly post, but I'd like to know what you guys think. To the group of self-proclaimed Nintendo fans or just gamers reading this, do you have a Nintendo Switch? When did you buy it, and what convinced you to get it? The games, the portable nature, or the waifus in the JRPGS (jk... or not. I won't judge you)? Are you still having fun with it today? What, if anything, has changed about it for you? What would you like to see happen with it next? Have you gotten the infamous drift? Leave it all in the comments section down below, since I'd love to be able to start a dialogue with you guys.
Anyways, that's it for now. Joy-Con Peoplez for life!
By the way, if you like this post, check out my new post about a new Star Wars game from EA: http://www.arcabaran.com/2020/03/star-wars-project-maverick-ea-leaked.html