Staying the Course on the Switch


I remember a time, years ago, when I looked down on my Wii and its three enjoyable games in disgust. And I said, “If the next system doesn’t have any games, I’ll just stick with whatever Playstation we’re up to by then.”

I remember a time shortly thereafter, when the Wii U was first announced. And even before it failed to attract third-party developers in the exact same way as its predecessor, I looked at the gimmicky concept and said, “I’ve seen April Fool’s announcements that would make better systems than this.”

I remember a time after its launch, when I seemed to be quite correct, when a friend finally convinced me to try playing it. “How can you judge something you’ve never even played before?” I played it. It was even worse than I thought.

I then argued that he should eat a handful of dry leaves from the ground. He said he didn’t want to. I asked how he knew he wouldn’t like them if he’d never tried them.

I remember a time before the “Nintendo NX” was even a thing, when I said that if the next system was gimmicky or had no games or both, it would fail. I remember when the rumors started coming in and most of them sounded terrible. The worst ones, I thought, were the ones that described it as a system that could swap in and out of multiple modes to be played on the television or on the go or with friends.

Then I saw the announcement trailer for the newly-dubbed “Nintendo Switch.” And in that moment, I realized that it takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong.

And rest assured, if I happen to see someone who’s been wrong, I’ll be sure to tell him.

The Switch seems like a novel concept, but nothing in the commercial really swayed me. To me, it’s just another example of how willfully out of touch Nintendo has become with people who actually play video games. I mean, sure, we have sweet rooftop parties and bring our portable gaming systems and are all millennial. All the time. But everything else in that commercial was way off the mark.

I’m particularly surprised at how easily the “no more gimmicks” crowd was swayed. After the trailer I saw a number of people who’d been spewing the most venomous anti-Nintendo comments for months do an immediate about-face. I’m not sure why, mind you, since a portable/not portable hybrid with detachable controllers seems like the very definition of a gimmick. But, well, here we are.

Obviously, people are allowed to change their mind. What confuses me, though, is that the conversation effectively went thusly. “I refuse to buy another gimmicky Nintendo console. I just want a regular game system,” the fans said.

“Well, good news,” Nintendo replied. “This one is also gimmicky.”

“Is it a gimmick that changes the way we play games, like virtual reality?” the fans asked.

“No. But it does change the places you play. Like, at home. Or next to a basketball court. Or maybe at a rooftop party or something,” Nintendo said. “You know, like the Wii U’s portable second screen. Only instead of that, exactly that.”

“Okay. I’ll take ten.”

This sort of short-sighted changing of opinions reminds me a lot of how people thought of M. Night Shyamalan movies. “The Sixth Sense” was pretty good, so they went to see the follow-up, “Signs.” And when that was pretty terrible, they decided his first movie was just a fluke. Then, his next movie started getting attention and next thing you know, they had to go see that one, too. Years later, we’re stuck at one good movie followed by nine or ten awful ones. Yet, more likely than not, whenever his next movie is announced, people are going to forget all about his failures and focus on the one good thing he ever did.

In the end, I may be wrong. After all, there do seem to be a lot of companies pledging third-party support for the system. And when it really gets down to it, the games are going to be what matters – not gimmicks or transforming consoles or a bunch of hipsters on a rooftop somewhere, drinking non-GMO wine and playing “Mario Kart Switch.”

“Damn. This is as awesome as it is realistic. Oh, and nice short-sleeve turtleneck.”

But frankly, pledges aren’t software contracts, so I’ll believe it when I see it. Or not, as the situation may be.

The truth is, I got burned with the Wii and I never really got over it. And since nothing has really changed I haven’t seen point in changing my mind. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on Wii U.


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