The Switch Is Back-To-Basics In A Weird Place

The Nintendo Switch Is Out, Obviously

Mine is lurking somewhere in the mail. I don’t feel as restless as I should be, but it’s because I just came back from GDC 2017. If there’s one thing you find out about game development, it is that the little stuff requires work. Every little features is an investment of time and oftentimes an exercise in crisis management, especially for small developers. This is the way things are probably going to be forever.

Nintendo Isn’t Afraid to Give Some Breathing Room and That’s Fine

Master Blaster Zero is looking towards adding Pro Controller support to their game, whereas Voez doesn’t support JoyCon/Pro Controller nor docked mode. This is somewhat understandable. If you play rhythm games with any regularity, you come to discover that there’s some design time that needs to go into translating analog movement to binary buttons. Voez wouldn’t realistically be able to hit launch if this was forced upon them.

This is a trend that comes from the Wii Classic Controller. This isn’t a new sensational headline in the slightest. BUT…

Controller-Compatability Is A Ticking Time Bomb-omb

One very reasonable expectation from the Switch is that its core hardware should work with everything. This is heavily implied from the Switch Reveal, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that users go searching for answers to why it isn’t something that just works. I understand there is a sense of brand loyalty that guides a gentle spirit of forgiveness, but imagine dropping 70 bucks on a controller and discovering it doesn’t work on a game with simple inputs. You cannot spin that disappointment; it is bad. Yes, I know you can read the back of the box and find out if the game is Pro-Controller compatible. That icon shouldn’t exist, frankly.

This is an extremely bad place for Nintendo to be right now. When I think of controller foibles, I usually defer to Sony, but now Nintendo is treading that unusual space where the Joy-con and Pro controller are threatened by a lack of developer engagement. Developers are going to get hurt by this as well. Lacking in controller-implementation doesn’t evoke a sense of understanding; it conjures an impression of laziness, even if it would be near-impossible to develop a satisfying control scheme for that controller. It’s very lose-lose because the cost of investment for the controller is higher than the game, so the experience magnifies the negative thoughts that brew beforehand. I can’t imagine someone stepping back and thinking, “This is fine.” No, they’ll be simmering on, “This is bullshit.”

I think It’ll Be Fixed Though

Right now, hitting the near-launch window is more important than supporting an expensive peripheral. It will alienate some especially vengeful users, no doubt, but at worst, it gives games a secondary chance to re-enter the news cycle with a patch announcement.

If anything, this is symptomatic of an launch environment where everyone wants to hit that golden launch window, especially with how threadbare the Switch launch lineup is. It’s fine, for now, but damn, I wish it wasn’t something to think about in the back of my head. I just want to play video games without the fear of regret for wanting to play with a fancy controller.

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