I Was Accidentally In The Perfect Place For The Nintendo Switch Launch Week
Soapbox and “Memory Pak” articles give our team the opportunity tomy personal views; Today it’s Kate Gray’s turn to share with us her memories of the week. The Switch came out, five years ago… Five years ago, in February 2017, I just decided to move to another country. Which freed me up to attend conferences and conventions in exotic locations without worrying about rent at home.
In other words, it was the perfect time for a hybrid home and portable console – and I was in the ideal place too.
- A week before the release of the Nintendo Switch, I went to San Francisco for the first time to attend the Game Developers Conference, and the hype among the attendees was tangible. The Switch was supposed to release on the last day of the GDC, which meant that anyone with a performance or game to show on March 3rd would be left out. It was also a Friday, which created the atmosphere of the end of the school year.
- It’s me, on the train to San Francisco! Beep beep!
- It’s me, network! Hahaha, network. Synergy!
- GDC is essentially the year’s social event for game developers, like “The Only Ball Where Everyone Gets Husbands” in Jane Austen’s novel. Developers from all over the world flock to the Moscone Center in San Francisco to network and chat, present their game. Visit and give talks or give a demo.
There were some of the biggest names in the gaming industry
From Double Fine’s Tim Schafer to Arkane’s Harvey Smith. As well as just about any independent player who could afford the astronomical cost of travel, accommodation. And meals in one of America’s most expensive cities. Investing in a week spent in San Francisco. During the GDC could decide the fate of the game. Because if you play your cards right, you have the opportunity to meet people. Who can raise millions of dollars in funding with just one handshake? This crazy week. You don’t even need to buy a ticket to the event – be in the proper city at the right time. Which is good; tickets cost between $300 and $2,000. (A lot could be said about how exclusive and restrictive this way of doing business can be, but more on that later.)
That’s it, except that everyone is constantly exhausted and usually drinks bubble tea. (Image: GDC)
All of which is to say that, through a series of coincidences, choices, and peer pressure. I ended up in San Francisco at the same time as the gaming industry’s driving forces for one glorious. The glowing week also just so happened to be the launch of the Nintendo Switch. This console changed my life in quite a significant way.
Some game developers at the GDC no doubt there were already development kits. But they were bound by Nintendo’s legendary draconian non-disclosure agreements and embargoes. The rest of us, despite being involved in game development and all its woes. Were just as excited as the average nerds. Several people planned to go to Target or GameStop or whatever. Where Americans usually buy their consoles for the midnight launch, but I didn’t join them. After all, I did not have a permanent address – so why should I buy a home console. Even a hybrid one? Instead, I vicariously enjoyed the Switch during its first week of life. At the dorm, many of us stopped by, someone hooked up their brand new Switch to the only shared TV in the common area. And we all crammed into this tiny, windowless cinema room to sit on bean bags and watch the first hour of Breath. Wildlife.
Forgive me for being incredibly sentimental and maybe little this is an exaggeration,
But at that moment, the Switch changed the world of gaming. And the presence of game developers made it even more exciting. Link, stepping out of the cave into the bright sun of Hyrule 100 years later. Felt poignant as if it were a metaphor US a transition from the disappointing Nintendo Wii U era to something new. Unknown, and full of possibilities. For the first few minutes, we were all like children again. And then quickly everyone in the room seemed to simultaneously remember. That we could make games like that too.
(If you’re thinking “Haven’t you already told that story?” you’re right – I talked about it in my article about the Switch being the perfect travel companion!) No wonder we all felt like kids at that moment. The Switch felt like a toy for the first time in a long time. As consoles gradually moved away from their reputation as things. For kids and more towards luxury gadgets for cool adults. The Wii U was Nintendo’s attempt at trying to break into that market. And no one really wanted it – so the Switch forced them to return to their homeland. Accept their position as “Jolly Uncle” and go for broke.
On March 1, the developers from the BOTW team spoke. I didn’t hit. There were too many followers so I went for bubble tea instead. (Image: Nintendo)
The opportunities for indie games were clear from the start, thanks to the excellent launcher game Snipperclips. Which managed to capture the family game feel of the Wii era, bringing it into the present day. It was beautifully presented and well received as people gathered in groups. To play games and every single person immediately wanted to buy a Switch for themselves. She practically sold herself, and that was enough for game developers to convince them to join her too.
I forgot who was in that room at an accurate time, but the people I met that year at the GDC continued to make games like Celeste, Flinthook, Beast Breaker, Untitled Goose Game, and Wargroove that exemplify what the Switch can do. Yes, we’ve had some fantastic first-person games, from Breath of the Wild to Super Mario Odyssey, and about fifty Pokémon games… but what I remember most about Switch is the breadth and depth of its indie. It’s incredibly cool to think that I spent the first week after the Switch surrounded by game developers who helped define what the Switch would be like. At that moment, none of us knew what to expect from this shiny new rectangle, but it quickly became clear that its potential was huge and that we all want to be a part of it.
It was only a week or two after that first magical day before I bought my own Switch. It didn’t last a full five years, and a lot has changed in that time, too, but there hasn’t been a day that I haven’t had a switch in one form or another. Whether I’m spending 8 hours a day playing Skyrim for the first time (!) or popping into my Animal Crossing: New Horizons island to check out what’s out there, there’s always something to do. The switch defined the last five years of my life, as did that trip to San Francisco with a bunch of other jerks. I may not have appreciated it at the time, but there was nothing better to launch the Switch – and nothing more suitable for a console that both indie and AAA studios could rally around.
Thanks for the memories Switch! I hope that I will be somewhere as cool for the next launch.