Nintendo’s Switch is turning three…here’s what it (still) lacks

The Nintendo Switch is nearing the start of its fourth year on the market and by every metric you could possibly assign to it, the system has been a smashing success. Over fifty-million units have been sold since its launch in March of 2017. To put that into perspective, its immediate predecessor, the WiiU, was on the market for six years (twice as long as the Switch, thus far) and only managed to sell 15mm units. So the Switch, in half the time, has sold more than double the amount.

The Wii, Nintendo’s best-selling home console, sold 100mm units, but it needed about eight years to do it. Fifty million in three years means Nintendo has the inside track to topping the lifetime sales-rate of their most successful system. Of course, the Switch is not just a home console; it’s also a portable one, and 50mm sales as a portable unit would put it above only the Virtual Boy. Nintendo’s portable market dominance can never be understated.

Three years later and the system has seen its share of huge-selling, AAA games. Six titles have eclipsed the ten-millions sales mark, with a seventh soon to join them. In comparison, no WiiU games reached ten-million sales, while the Wii had nine games reach the threshold (two of which were pack-in titles).

Probably the most striking example of how hot the system is compared to its immediate predecessor: the WiiU version of Mario Kart 8 only sold eight-million units; the Switch’s port of the game has sold twenty-two million. Suffice to say, the Switch is dominating.

Nevertheless, I have somewhat to say against it…

Knowing that Nintendo has a fervent desire to ensure a steady supply of games and experiences are made available, it’s understandable that some cosmetic and supplementary features on the system were put on the back-burner. Resources devoted to a side-feature are really resources taken away from putting the final polish on Zelda or Mario. It’s a tradeoff most fans were fine with in the first year…maybe even first two.

But as we enter year three, and with a solid and growing library of games already available, it’s time to start looking at what the system “needs” in order to feel more robust and complete.

Here are three things Nintendo would do well to implement in 2020:

STREAMING VIDEO

It was months before any non-gaming feature could be found on the system, but eventually, Hulu was made available to download on the eshop. Hulu is fine but the two big tunas everyone wants are Netflix and Disney+. Those are the video streaming services available in 150mm homes combined. Sure, they can be found on almost any compatible system, phone, tablet or smart TV, but for completion’s sake, for convenience sake, and just so that someone on the train can switch instantly from a quick game of Luigi’s Mansion to a quick episode of The Mandalorian or The Witcher, the system needs a more robust library of streaming services.

If nothing else it’s a matter of perception. Everyone else has Netflix and Disney+; you gotta keep up with the Jones’.

CUSTOMIZABLE USER INTERFACE

How is this still a thing? Literally, on day one of the system’s life, owners were saying “when are we going to get themes? The 3DS has themes. Where are the Switch themes?”

Right now you can go to your Switch settings, select the “themes” tab and choose from two options: light or dark. This seems like the easiest, most no-brainer little touch Nintendo could do: Give us more themes. This should have been there from the beginning. A Breath of the Wild theme, a Mario Kart theme, a Splatoon theme, a DOOM theme, a Mario Odyssey theme, a Luigi’s Mansion theme, etc. It doesn’t need to be any dramatic thing with new sound effects or even music (although music would be nice). Just a new background beyond the plain white or plain black.

I get that Nintendo is going for a stripped-down, clean interface, but variety is the spice of life, and for a company that has always excelled at putting a little touch of whimsy on almost everything, it’s sad that their big seller is so…bland to behold.

CLASSIC GAMES

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Item One: Nintendo has more money now than at any time in its history. They are swimming in capital.

Item Two: Nintendo has a library of classic games so varied, so polished, so ingrained in the culture and collective psyche of gamers that many of us have bought Super Mario Bros. for the NES not once but six or seven times by now.

Item Three: There is a huge demand for classic games—more than the paltry number we have now—to release on the Nintendo Switch so that pixel-perfect experiences can be had at home or on the go, all from the same system.

So why, when considering those three key items of note, has Nintendo not taken a meager portion of their vast war chest and hired out a development team with the exclusive job of developing, porting, adapting, or whatever needs to be done to their old games to get them available on the system? Why two generations after the Nintendo Wii featured N64 games have we had zero N64 games? Where are half the NES and SNES games that were available on either the Wii or WiiU online stores? Where are the Gamecube games?

Nintendo is literally selling one of these…

…and it’s only being put to use in a single game!

What are you even doing, Nintendo?

BONUS: F-ZERO

I would settle for F-Zero GX, whether that’s a straight-up port of the Gamecube classic or a remastered version built from the ground up for Switch. I don’t care. I’ll pay $60 right now for a bare-bones Gamecube port. F-Zero doesn’t need a gimmick. It doesn’t need a hook. It doesn’t need some new kind of play mechanic to justify its existence.

That’s the one thing about the wonderful Shigeru Miyamoto that I wish wasn’t so chiseled in stone at Nintendo; not every game needs some secondary reason for being. Sometimes “because it’s just a fun arcade experience” is more than enough. You don’t need to “Sticker Star” F-Zero.

You just need to release it.

*****

The Switch is turning three years old and I’m loving it. More great games are on the horizon, but along the way, would it be too much to ask for some Netflix/Disney integration? Is it too much to ask for a Xenoblade Chronicles theme? Would it kill them to release Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door?

Can I get a little Mute City for crying out loud?!

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