How time flies! It seems like only yesterday that Nintendo were revealing the Nintendo Switch to a mixture of excitement, bemusement and scepticism. Now, believe it or not, the Switch is one year old, and it's fair to say it's had an impact that few, including Nintendo themselves, could have anticipated.
We've covered the Switch's progress a lot over the past 12 months, from its surging start to stock shortages to Christmas domination. In this post, we'll look at various areas of the Switch's performance and give them each a letter grade.
The Switch has certainly delivered on its promise of offering authentic handheld and home console experiences, with an innovative form factor that has proved that gamers value more than just the best graphics that money can buy. However, the Switch does lose some points for the issues that beset many early adopters, including connection issues with the Joy-Cons and some units bending as a result of heat. These issues were compounded by the fact that as of yet, the Switch offers no cloud save option, meaning that should the console develop a defect and require fixing, it could mean the end of your save files too.
One of the big issues with the Wii U was the sparse support from third party developers which meant the system was relying on Nintendo to consistently deliver games for the console. The quality was generally there, but the frequency wasn't.
Nintendo have certainly taken that on board, with two of its core franchises, The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario, both getting fully-fledged entries within the Switch's first year. These two games alone would have been enough to carry the system through its first year, but other Nintendo titles, including Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2 have helped further the cause.
Critically, third party developers have taken to the Switch in a manner they never did with the Wii U. In the first year alone, we've had ports of Skyrim, DOOM, as well as major cross-platform titles like FIFA 18, with Wolfenstein 2 to come. As the Switch's install base grows, it will be even harder for developers to simply ignore Nintendo's console.
Though detractors will say that beating the Wii U's sales total is no great achievement, doing it in under a year represents an outstanding return to form for Nintendo. They had originally projected a total of 10 million units sold, which they revised in 2017 Q4 to 14 million, demonstrating just how strong demand has been.
Though it's hard to go wrong with online Mario Kart, Nintendo's online system remains firmly ten years in the past. The lack of easy party modes on games like Splatoon 2 is compounded by the incredibly convoluted voice chat solution, which has led to many players simply not bothering. Nintendo are planning to tie the online experience to a paid subscription later this year, and though it's cheaper than Xbox Live or PlayStation Plus, it'll be interesting to see how much uptake they see with the service in its current state.
As the hype built for the Switch and Nintendo pulled out all the stops with an advertising spot during the Super Bowl, much of the marketing message centered around the Switch as a casual, party console. The detachable Joy-Cons could be turned on their side meaning every console was multiplayer-enabled straight out of the box. The kickstand and portability meant you could easily set the Switch up no matter where you were and get a group of players involved.
This all still rings true. However, other than Mario Kart 8, the Switch's core game offerings have so far catered more to a single player experience. Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild are almost entirely single player-focused. 1-2 Switch quickly fell out of favour, and Arms and Splatoon 2 are both arguably a bit too in-depth for a quick, casual game. A big party game, like Mario Party or a remastered Wii Sports, would work wonders.
The Switch has all the potential to be the ultimate party console, it just needs the right games to get it there.
The Switch arrived at an interesting time in gaming. Ever since the first home console, each generation has represented a leap forward in graphics and processing power. With the launch of the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X, which improved upon the basic versions of the consoles, the industry was posed a new question; where now?
Further technological improvements are there to be made, but they would cater to a tiny portion of gamers. Many don't have the technology in their home to take advantage of what the X and the Pro can offer already.
Meanwhile, the Switch is yet another compelling argument from Nintendo that graphics and power aren't everything. Enhancing ways to play and offering innovative solutions to problems has propelled the Switch to the success it currently enjoys. How Sony and Microsoft respond with their next consoles will shed a light on how influential Nintendo's approach has been.
Entertainment beyond gaming
A small sour point of the Switch's phenomenal first year is its lack of options beyond gaming. Hulu offer an app, but that's largely it. So far, there's no support for Netflix, Spotify, iPlayer or even a web browser. Developers are at work to create them, but currently, it's pretty sparse.
The Switch's future prospects, as with any console's, hinge on what games it has coming up. Though Nintendo have undoubtedly wheeled out the big hitters to really get some momentum in the Switch's first year, they still have plenty of ammunition in reserve. A new Pokemon game is on the way, as is the fourth entry in the Metroid Prime series. We also have the interesting prospect of seeing what hardware revisions Nintendo will bring to the console over the next few years.