Having been a writer and podcaster for over a decade, I can say with certainty that I am open to criticism. That doesn’t just apply to criticism of my own work, but of things I personally appreciate and support. If you come at me with a list of well-reasoned arguments why “Hello From the Magic Tavern” is NOT the best comedy podcast on iTunes, I will quell my rage, hear you out and engage in an exchange of well-reasoned arguments.
But what I have little to no patience for are misleading statements, flimsy reasoning and logical fallacies. While these are all ubiquitous on the internet, sometimes I find them in such concentration that I just can’t idly watch the misinformation spread. And right now, a great abundance of this misinformation is being spread about the Nintendo Switch. So much so, that I feel compelled to write a series of articles rebutting as much of it as I can – starting right here.
EXTRAS AREN’T HIDDEN COSTS
Forbes in particular has posted some especially slanted pieces against Nintendo’s unreleased console, including “The Hidden Costs of the Switch Keep Adding Up.” As the headline implies, this one attacks the price of the console’s extra purchases and peripherals, calling them all “hidden costs” rather than what most of them actually are: unnecessary options.
If you were to take everything in the article at its word, the actual cost of owning a Nintendo Switch more than doubles from its $300 price tag. But, like that optional sunroof on your new car, these costs are almost always superfluous and not likely to affect the vast majority of consumers. So let’s go over everything they list, one by one.
Shocking, isn’t it, to know that the Joy-Con Grip included with the system doesn’t charge your controllers while playing? Well, consider for a moment that the Joy-Con controllers have a battery life of about 20 hours. Meanwhile the system itself has a reported battery life of about 2.5 to 6 hours.
The only time you would need this is if you plan to play with the Joy-Cons detached from the system (since the system charges them while it’s attached) for that 20 hour duration. But that would also mean that you’re either playing at home for 20 hours, or are on the road for a long time. In the latter case, you would still need to charge your console four or times before the Joy-Cons required a charge. So while this peripheral is probably handy for the most trail-worn gamers, I would not consider it a hidden cost of the system.
The Forbes article claims that the Pro Controller, “has been promoted up front as being pretty core to the experience.” Let’s consider for a moment that in the October Switch trailer (which was about 3.5 minutes long) showed people engaged with Joy-Con controllers for over 80 seconds. The Pro Controller was shown for about 30 seconds in total, and most of that time it was in the hands of people clearly being portrayed as professional gamers. I would be a lot more inclined to say Nintendo has promoted the Pro Controller to be core only to professional (or at least very serious) gamers. The Pro Controller was also barely mentioned or even shown during the January Switch presentation.
Having spent time playing with the Joy-Cons in their myriad transformations, I can say that they feel like solid, fully-functional controllers that leave me in no way wanting for the more traditional style of the Pro Controller. Thus, I will not be needing a Pro Controller and I would not label it a hidden cost.
I find this item on the list particularly ironic, because most consoles come pre-packaged with just one controller. But the difference here is, every other controller on the market is good for one, and only ever one player to use at a time. Joy-Cons are uniquely designed to be split up for “Sharing the Joy,” in which each half of the Joy-Con can serve as a fully-functional controller, allowing two player fun right out of the box!
I tried the controllers out in this split-up mode, and while they do feel a little small at first, it still packs an analog stick, four face buttons, and even shoulder buttons. And if you do feel compelled to buy an extra pair of Joy-Cons, you’re not just adding the ability to play with one friend who can use a full Joy-Con – you’re unlocking the ability to play 4-player games. For that kind of experience on another console, you’d need to buy three more controllers, easily adding an extra $200 to their price tags. But I would never deign to call that a hidden cost of the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.
EXTRA SWITCH DOCKS
Now we’re in the territory of the just plain obscene.
For those unfamiliar, a Nintendo Switch Dock is what connects to your TV. Dropping your switch inside the dock charges the system and instantly moves the fun from the Switch tablet screen to your big, beautiful TV. One dock comes with your console, but you can buy an extra dock or two to make it easy to pick up your Switch and move your game from one TV to another, be it another room of your house, or perhaps a summer home in the Hamptons.
Now let me ask: Do you consider buying a second Xbox One a hidden cost of buying an Xbox One? Is a PlayStation Vita a hidden cost of the PlayStation 4? Because that’s what you’d have to buy if you wanted to play one of those consoles in different rooms or on the go. So why it’s considered a hidden cost here is beyond me. The Switch docks are a unique option that, if you really like, costs $90. Granted, I did hope the docks would cost much less than that.
This one is hard to address, since so little is known about what Nintendo’s paid online service plan will be. All that was announced is that everyone will get a free trial subscription when the system releases, and thereafter it will require a paid subscription.
PC gamers and anyone else who has enjoyed eons of free online gaming will likely find this more upsetting than others, and I am certainly one of them. I also worry about those who only occasionally play games online, who might find a monthly fee not worth the two or three hours they spend online per month. Not knowing what this will cost and what it will provide is probably the biggest cause for consumers to take pause before pre-ordering their Switch.
Since most people do want their consoles to play games online, I believe it is fair to call this an additional cost for almost everyone. But, it’s also fair to note that charging for online services is common among all the other major gaming consoles.
The Switch comes with a 32 GB of memory. This memory is often used for saved game data, wallpapers, apps, and for some, downloading full games.
32 GB is a good amount of data for a tablet-sized device like this, but when you compare it to the terabyte of memory an Xbox One can pack out of the box, that certainly feels insignificant. Of course, the Xbox One wasn’t designed to be carried around and played on your commute like the Switch, so we’re not comparing apples to apples here. Yet the Forbes article implies that more memory is a must, citing that downloading Zelda: Breath of the Wild will take up half of that 32 GB.
Anyone who’s used an iPad, Kindle or even a 3DS knows, downloading games onto them tends to take up the lion’s share of your memory. If only there was some form of lightweight physical media we could use to load a variety of games into our devices rapidly as needed…
Oh right, the Nintendo Switch sells games on tiny little game cards! In fact, physical media is still how games are delivered to most Nintendo players on the Wii U and the 3DS family of systems. I don’t think that’s going to change much on the Switch.
Granted, downloading games is growing in popularity as an alternative to storing (and potentially losing) game cards and tracking down those hard-to-find titles. But if you’re really dead-set on downloading games, then you can definitely grab a micro SD memory card that will triple your total memory for less than $30 with a little digging. Or, if you’re like me, you can just delete games you’re done playing and download them again when the mood to play strikes you. However you choose to handle it, memory cards are not a necessity or a hidden cost.
This, I will concede, is a bit disappointing. Since the system is literally unplayable without a game, it is fair to consider $20 to $60 as an additional price to the Switch. But, at the same time, let’s not pretend that bundled games aren’t factored into a system’s price. I’d rather the system cost me $300 and I buy a game I want, than it cost me $350 but it was bundled with a game I had no interest in playing.
I respect the Forbes article for pointing out all of these purchases that consumers will have to consider when buying a Nintendo Switch. But other than a game and possibly the online service, none of these are necessary purchases. So to call them “hidden costs” is to imply that you’ll be buying an unplayable $300 brick if you don’t shell out the extra money. At what point do they add a television as a hidden cost of the Switch (which would be particularly funny, since it’s the one home console that does NOT require one).
Let’s not admonish Nintendo for developing cool extras and peripherals. We should instead acknowledge this system for succeeding at its core thesis: adaptability and flexibility. These extras are designed to enhance the experience for specific types of players, be they pro gamers, heavy travelers, or people with seven TVs in their house. Nobody has to buy one, or any of these items. But I’m willing to bet most of us will be happy to grab at least one of these items as we customize the Switch gaming experience to our own playstyle.