Electric Retrospective- Switching Gears: The Nintendo Switch’s First Year

Sean Mullins
Technology Columnist

The Nintendo Switch took the Wii U’s best qualities while improving upon its faults. Image from Nintendo

To celebrate the first anniversary of Electric Retrospective, it’s only fitting to reflect on the column’s first installment, “Wii Will Miss U- Reflections on Nintendo’s Wii U,” and apply its thesis to the Nintendo Switch.

For newer readers, the article discussed how the Wii U was a fantastic system, despite its financial failings. While it deserves a second chance, it’s impossible to deny the flaws of the console. The Wii U suffered from incoherent marketing that convinced the public it was a Wii peripheral, months-long gaps between major game releases, and a lack of third-party support or demographic variety, leading to its unfortunate demise.

Fortunately, Nintendo is the wildcard of the gaming industry, and the company knows how to make a comeback, if the Wii is any proof. The Switch, in its first year on the market alone smashed expectations by becoming one of the fastest-selling consoles in history. The Switch’s success can be attributed to Nintendo learning from its mistakes and improving in key aspects in which the Wii U failed.

The Wii U was a fantastic concept, having off-TV play and interesting game design with the GamePad, but the Switch takes this one step further. The console is a handheld tablet with two Joy-Con controllers attached, but when placed in a dock, it becomes a home console. The Joy-Cons can also be removed while the tablet is set on a flat surface with a kickstand.

In addition to the console, the Joy-Cons provide various controller options, even with just the two included with the system. Two Joy-Cons can be attached to the Switch in handheld mode, placed in a Joy-Con Grip to mimic a traditional controller, or used in two hands like a Wiimote and Nunchuk. Single Joy-Cons can be rotated and used as traditional controllers, so friends can play together anytime using one each.

The Wii U’s advertising was usually only aimed at children, and early commercials didn’t properly showcase its status as a new console or its unique properties. Thankfully, the Switch’s advertising both markets the console to multiple demographics and demonstrates its selling points. Most of the commercials show the Switch’s multiple gameplay modes and the settings they work in, such as handheld mode for bus trips or tabletop mode for parties.

Consoles are nothing without games, and the Switch has an excellent games library appealing to various groups. First party titles like “Super Mario Odyssey” received critical acclaim as the best entries in their respective series, and indie games like “SteamWorld Dig 2” thrived on the Switch’s eShop. Ports of Wii U games like “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” and games from other consoles like “DOOM” are reaching a larger audience.

Third party support for the Switch is excellent, including games like “Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus” and “Crash Bandicoot: The N. Sane Trilogy” that developers would never have brought to Nintendo during the Wii U era. The Switch’s library also appeals to multiple demographics- there will always be excellent child-friendly titles on the Switch, but Nintendo provides more mature titles, even having “Bayonetta 3” as an upcoming Switch exclusive.

To avoid long gaps in release schedules, at least one major Switch game releases every month. Though its launch only had “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” and indie games like “Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove” as standout titles, the frequent release of major games in a variety of genres, from multiplayer-focused titles like “Splatoon 2” to single-player experiences like “Xenoblade Chronicles 2,” keeps consumers interested in the console.

As if the release schedule wasn’t enough to retain interest, Nintendo’s approach to DLC, based on the success of constant free updates to “Splatoon,” is being implemented in various ways. This ranges from free updates, like new fighters in “ARMS,” to paid DLC, like the “Fire Emblem Warriors” content packs. Some games use both, like “Splatoon 2,” which includes free updates alongside the upcoming Octo Expansion, which costs $19.99.

Despite leaving the Wii U, Nintendo hasn’t forgotten the 3DS. Due to its affordability and games library, the 3DS will receive support through 2019 and possibly beyond, including a “Luigi’s Mansion” remake. Game Freak, who developed some of the 3DS’s bestsellers, hastily ditched the handheld ahead of Nintendo, but considering they’ve abandoned their biggest audience -ending an era with the disappointing “Pokemon Ultra Sun,” no less- they’ve made a mistake.

There are issues with the Switch, but most are minor or won’t affect all users. Some users have reported issues with ventilation that cause the console to slightly bend after extended use, and Joy-Cons sometimes have issues locking into place. Other issues can be easily fixed in the future, like how Amiibo and My Nintendo Rewards are underused.

A launch isn’t everything for a console, as even the last year of its lifespan is important, but the Switch is off to an impeccably strong start. Nintendo took what worked from the Wii U era like off-TV play and varied DLC, but fixed major issues like release gaps and marketing, making the Switch one of its most successful consoles ever in its first year alone.

Go to the Electric Retrospective blog at https://electricretrospective.wordpress.com for more game reviews and news. New posts release every Tuesday.

See also:Electric Retrospective- Review: ‘Scribblenauts Showdown’ punctuates lack of creativity

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