Later this week, Nintendo is set to lift the curtain on one of the most highly anticipated products of the year. On January 13th in Tokyo, (11pm EST on January 12th) President Tatsumi Kimishima will lead a presentation live-streamed across the world on the Nintendo Switch, their new home console that can be played anywhere. So far all we know are scant basics. The Switch is essentially a tablet with attachable controllers. Slide it into a dock to play on your TV; slide it out and play in your bed, on the subway, or 12,000 feet above sea-level.
The promise of the reveal is to finally announce the juicy details: Price, Release Date, Games, and more. Select media will get a chance to go hands-on with the system the day after, and Paste will be there to give you our immediate impressions. But that’s days away. Patience is a virtue and one that we lack. So in the meantime, we put on our Confucius Hats and do our best prognosticating. Here are Paste’s predictions for Nintendo Switch’s big coming out party.
Various sources have hinted at the above price for some time. Japanese financial publication The Nikkei just speculated a price of 25,000 Yen, which approximates to $250 in US dollars. And promotional material leaked from Toys ‘R Us in Canada listed a price of $330 CAD, which also is around the two-fifty mark. The price has been a sweet spot for Nintendo in the past, too, with their successful Wii system launching at $249.99 back in 2006. Its follow-up the Wii U launched at $299.99 for a Basic model and $349.99 for a Deluxe model with a game, and the market deemed it too expensive.
Odds are that anything Nintendo did to try and sell their under-performing Wii U, they will reverse course with the Switch. And so their attempt to sell a bare-bones version for cheaper alongside a more expensive model will not be repeated here. Expect a single package with clean, simple packaging. What should be in the box? The system, the dock, two Joy-Cons (the attachable controllers), the Joy-Con Grip accessory (for play at home), and a game.
Nintendo HQ in Japan wanted to launch the Wii with Wii Play, a suite of simple, easy-to-understand games that demonstrated the appeal of the Wii’s remote controller. But Nintendo of America convinced them to allow Wii Sports in the box overseas. The decision arguably led to the Wii craze that followed. A similar tactic didn’t work with the Wii U, as Nintendo Land failed to ignite the masses. Expect a stubborn attempt to get away with including a collection of shorter, demo-ish programs, especially if Switch is sold on its portability.
All Nintendo has said for a launch date is “March 2017.” They have a tendency to hold their fire until the last possible moment—see Miitomo’s March 31st release in the West after promising to launch their first mobile app before the end of the month. But that same app released in Japan on March 17th. Nintendo likes to lead from their home country and expand outward, but all signs point to a worldwide global release for the Switch. Other rumors have indicated a likely 17th release date as well.
One thing’s for certain: Do not expect a delay out of March. Their fiscal year ends on the 31st, and Nintendo needs their coffers to be full of Switch money to make good on their financial promises for the year. By April 1, 2017, the Switch will be in the public’s hands.
Numbers, dates, and prices are all well and good. But the point of a game system is to play games. Here, too, Nintendo has kept extremely quiet, only officially revealing the next Zelda game and providing peaks at prototype versions of Mario Kart, Splatoon, and a Mario game during the three-minute reveal video back in October. Anonymous sources have leaked to various rumor-hounds the existence of potential Wii U updates of the former two titles, along with a collaboration with Ubisoft that mashes up the Mario and Rabbids franchises into an RPG (?). I expect there’s fire underneath all this smoke.
But I also expect a number of surprises. Look for key third-party titles (EA Sports, Bethesda, Activision) to show their face but the real spotlight will shine on Nintendo’s own efforts. EAD Tokyo, the studio behind Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 3D World, will have their next Mario on-hand and it will be a toybox bursting with creativity and delight. Intelligent Systems will show off a return to the WarioWare series highlighting the Switch’s out-of-the-box multiplayer. Monster Games—they of Excite Truck and Pilotwings Resort—will show a driving game based on a past franchise. And one game will come out of left field and be the talk to the show. Our total guess of a name? Starlight Symphony.
The success of the NES Classic must have turned some heads at Nintendo’s Kyoto headquarters. Its packaging even suggested the start of a new wave of products, with a separate “Classic” logo ripe for re-use. Nintendo’s output of downloadable retro titles has always been a niche service for a niche audience. Even the phrase “virtual console” feels outdated when so many of our present-day titles are available digitally. With the rise of Virtual Reality, the labels confuses more than it evokes. But everyone understands a Classic. Nintendo has the most robust back catalog of any current publisher by a large margin. But how to monetize it without angering their fans? Some want a subscription service akin to Netflix. Others just want to be able to re-download their Wii U and 3DS purchases for free.
Here’s a shot-in-the-dark: Take Nintendo’s last two bonafide crazes and smash them together. Imagine a Switch “Classic” amiibo, sold for a premium, that unlocks a certain set of old games. I know I’d buy a miniature N64 figure that included its five best games for $30. And Nintendo has always been in the business of selling plastic that seems cooler than it should. Speaking of…
The biggest innovation, to this writer, is the Switch’s Joy-Cons. These small handheld devices can attach to the system’s sides and be used as regular buttons, or detached and used as individual controllers. This opens up the possibility for additional Joy-Cons to be sold that use different inputs entirely. Nobody knows for sure if this is part of the Switch gameplan. But President Kimishimi told Bloomberg that players should expect an array of what he calls both “accessories” and “add-on hardware.” No further details were given.
Again, Nintendo loves to stoke the value proposition flame. Mario Kart Wii was a gigantic hit; included in the box was a white plastic circle that did absolutely nothing but encase your Wii Remote in a fake steering wheel. Could the Switch have games tied to and sold with unique Joy-Cons? Give me Mario’s Marble Madness played with a trackball and I’m sold.
A recent patent sent bored Switch-heads out of their mind when it revealed the presence of a head-mounted-display patented by Nintendo that looked to be Switch compatible. Sometimes Nintendo is out in front (see: motion control, touch displays) and sometimes they follow others’ example (toys-to-life figurines, online multiplayer). If Nintendo jumps into VR it won’t be until the technology gets better and cheaper and there’s a known demand for the experience. Will we see Switch VR in 2019? Maybe. But not this week.
Hardcore fans that want to buy the latest games released in Japan or Europe but unreleased in the States have been out of luck with the Wii U and 3DS; both systems are region-locked, meaning they only play software released in one territory. Nintendo has a history of region-free handheld devices, with everything from the original Game Boy to the Nintendo DS Lite letting you play any region’s games. But with the advent of an online shop and piracy growing rampant, they clamped down, much to the chagrin of a very loud, very small minority. Expect that gate to be raised. But no one from Nintendo will say the words “region” and “free” together on stage.
Ditto the word “mobile.” Super Mario Run was the most-downloaded release in App Store history, dominating conversation (good and bad) over the holidays. And mobile will increasingly be an important staple of Nintendo’s output. But for the moment, they’ll focus on telling one story at a time: The Switch is our new home console. New mobile titles in the Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem series will be highlighted at a later date, along with ways they interact with Switch versions of those same titles.
This is the internet. There will be black, and there will be white. No greys allowed. So prepare thy GIFs and hold onto your memes. The Nintendo Switch is coming.
Since 2003, Jon Irwin has been paid to write about film, techno, ice cream, wine, golf, drag-racing, French children and videogames. His first book, Super Mario Bros. 2, was published last year by Boss Fight Books. Follow along: @WinWinIrwin.