Few corporations face as much armchair managing as Nintendo. Spend a few minutes browsing message boards or the comments section of a video game website and you’ll see wild and counterintuitive proposals on how Nintendo can solve their current problems or “fix” an already popular product by offering more features without, of course, raising the price. It’s not unlike listening to sports talk radio and hearing fans of a team offer inane and unreasonable hypothetical trades that a general manager should do: just trade Over the Hill Veteran A and Minor Prospect B for Superstar C and instantly the team will be competitive and contend for a championship!
I don’t mean that Nintendo is infallible or that there aren’t plenty of just complaints to be made. (You still can’t get an NES Classic Edition months later and the Switch’s launch titles seem to be… nonexistent?) It’s just that whenever Nintendo releases a new console, they face paradoxical expectations which Sony and Microsoft do not. On one hand, consumers expect the system to feature similar specs as the latest PlayStation and Xbox and innovative; and on the other, it must be extremely affordable. This was evident during last night’s announcement of the Switch, with many Twitter pundits having the expectation that it be under $200, or declaring the system to be dead when it was revealed to be about 75% of what the PS4 and Xbox One debuted at three years ago.
This contradicting criticism has spread to the controllers as well. The Joy-Cons are innovative in terms of both use and technology. They can be used as a traditional controller, split off into two separate smaller controllers, and even used for motion controls like a Wii Remote. They feature what Nintendo is calling HD Rumble, replicating extremely delicate sensations, such as an ice cube tumbling in a glass, or the pouring of water into a cup. One of the Joy-Cons also features an infra-red sensor that will be able to recognize shapes, motions, and distance. Still, there was outrage, both on Twitter and even by some media outlets, when Nintendo announced that an extra set of Joy-Cons would be $79.99. A common argument on message boards is that to play four-player local co-op Mario Kart, on top of the costs of the console and game, one will have to invest an additional $79.99. That happens to be the exact same price of two additional Wii Remotes, nevermind that in this hypothetical four-player Mario Kart argument, one must purchase three additional Wii Remotes, whereas the Switch only requires the purchase of two.
I’m not sure if the Switch will be a Wii-esque success, or a flop like the Wii U (GameCube, and, to a certain extent, N64) was before it. And I don’t know which path Nintendo should pursue, if they should try and compete others in terms of technology in an attempt to lure more third-party developers, or if they should offer something affordable and different or quirky. The latter has led to great success and frustrating failure. I just know that it’s an either/or argument and consumers can’t hold Nintendo to the unrealistic expectation to do both.