Nintendo Switch: Is it worth buying on day 1?

Last week Nintendo finally unveiled the details about their next console, the Switch, including information on price, release date and some upcoming games. Additional news continued as Nintendo execs did interviews and other publishers discussed their plans for the console. With a good idea of the launch games and the release date fast approaching it’s time to find out whether the Switch is worth buying on March 3.

The console

The Nintendo Switch console, dock and Joy-Con controllers in the grip.

The Switch is a hybrid console; it can be played while hooked up to a TV or on the go using the built-in screen. When playing on a TV the console is docked in a stand and the controllers on the side, called Joy-Con controllers, are removed from the tablet. At this point you can play the game as you would any other traditional console, there is even a pro controller modeled after an Xbox controller if you want to avoid using the Joy-Con controllers. For portable play the controllers can be attached to the tablet, just like most portable game consoles. Playing on the go will have some limitations, for instance the tablet screen has a maximum resolution of 720p.

The Joy-Cons feature motion controls not unlike the Wii Remote. The right-hand controller also features a motion sensing IR camera. Nintendo said the camera can detect how close an object is as well as the shape, specifically using the example of the game rock-paper-scissors. Additionally, each Joy-Con is made to function separately with its own analog stick, face buttons and shoulder buttons. The idea is that the console ships with two controllers, allowing local multiplayer right out of the box.

The package you get in the box includes the Switch console, the dock, a set of Joy-Cons, a Joy-Con grip to place them in and the needed cables. It is worth noting that this Joy-Con grip, a shell which holds the Joy-Cons more like a traditional controller, doesn’t allow you to charge them while playing. The idea of a hybrid console is intriguing and uniting Nintendo’s portable and console development teams can only lead to good things.

The price

The Nintendo Switch in portable mode looks like most handheld consoles.

The console itself, which doesn’t include a game or the Joy-Con Charging Grip, sells for $299.99. Unfortunately for Nintendo, both Microsoft and Sony have more powerful systems at the same price point, and often with games included. For someone who wants to play Nintendo games the price is low enough to justify a day one purchase. However, if you weren’t sure which system to get the price will likely push you towards one of the more powerful consoles with a larger library of games.

While the console seems relatively reasonable the accessories are anything but. The Joy-Con Charging Grip, which is required if you want to charge your controllers and play while the console is docked, is an extra $29.99. Another set of Joy-Cons are $79.99, Nintendo also sells each Joy-Con individually for $49.99 although I am not sure who is buying just one Joy-Con at a time. Lastly, the Pro Controller sells for $69.99: $10 more than the suggested price of the standard Xbox One and PlayStation 4 controller. While Nintendo has tried to tout the features of these accessories, from amiibo support to HD Rumble, none of them seem like enough to justify the high price tags.

The games

1-2 Switch seems like its minigames have little depth or replay value.

This is where the launch day argument for the Switch goes up in flames. As of right now there are only 6 confirmed games for its March launch. Of those games, three are ports of games released on other platforms. The other games are 1-2 Switch a minigame collection where players are supposed to look at each other instead of the screen. The collection includes games such as a wild West shootout and table tennis. The minigames shown range from something silly that you might try once to downright bad, such as table tennis where you can’t see the ball and instead play by ear. Konami is bringing Super Bomberman R which looks exactly like classic Bomberman games have looked for the last 30 years. Lastly there is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and while it looks fantastic the same game (at a slightly lower resolution) is coming out for the Wii U.

While there are more exciting titles announced such as Splatoon 2 and Super Mario Odyssey the launch of the system is underwhelming. If you already own a Wii U there isn’t any reason to upgrade as Zelda is launching on both platforms.

The verdict

With a weak launch lineup and questionable pricing on accessories the Switch is something worth buying only for the most hardcore fans. If you own a Wii U there is no reason to pick it up until the game library has increased as Breath of the Wild is the only must have launch game. Unless you absolutely must play the new Zelda and have no other way to do it, buying a Switch at launch doesn’t seem like a good idea.