Since the controversial news broke on the first of this month that some of the games developed for Nintendo’s latest hardware offering may require a MicroSD card in order to work in future, the reaction has unsurprisingly been strongly negative almost across the board. I say ‘unsurprisingly’ because it isn’t what anyone would call out of character for us gamers to backlash when something isn’t exactly how we want it. The fact of the matter is that memory was always going to be an issue, and I just wanted to offer my take on why this really isn’t the end of the world.
Many criticised Nintendo for only providing 32GB of storage space, a miniscule amount when compared to the several hundred GB and even TB models of the competition’s home consoles, but it’s important to remember that the Switch is, as much as Nintendo would loathe to admit it, a handheld console first and foremost. For any developer with the intention of bringing a new game to the system, their first limitation and likely concern is going to be that all of its hardware is encased in that small tablet. There’s no extra tech in the dock to boost performance for home console use, either – anything and everything that a game does has to be achievable with the hardware available in what is essentially a fairly advanced tablet. As a result, not all large AAA titles may necessarily be able to run on not exactly the most advanced hardware, while also managing to have a small install. It was just never reasonable to expect anything more than this, and for the system to work the way it does, some compromises needed to be made.
At face value, it may seem like an entirely anti-consumer situation, but the simple truth is that this will likely prove to be a benefit for the vast majority of people. From a business perspective, for the launch day iteration of the Switch, Nintendo were caught between a rock and a hard place: they were forced to choose between either offering limited storage space, but plenty of capability to expand it and a chance to offer the system at a lower price, or equipping it with as much storage space as possible, but making it prohibitively expensive. We have seen such storage capacities as 512GB with recent models of Apple’s iPad – a figure that, for comparison, is roughly equivalent to the first model of the PS4 – but they cost in excess of £1000 at retail (yes, I know they’re far from directly comparable, but still). Bear in mind that, as usual, a large amount of Nintendo’s target audience is composed of children, many of which will have the system bought for them by parents. How many of said parents would be agreeable to such a price tag, for what many of them will view as little more than a ludicrously expensive ‘toy’? And if we’re being perfectly honest, I sincerely doubt that many of us ‘core’ gamers would gladly fork over such a large sum either, Nintendo faithful or otherwise. No matter how you look at it, £279 for the system and then any additional costs for an expanded memory sounds far more attractive to me, and any other sane person, than spending over a grand on the same thing.
It’s already been proven that the Switch can competently run massive games with storage space to spare, such as the enormous and visually stunning Breath of the Wild. So far, the only title announced to have an SD card requirement is NBA 2K18 (something which struck me as slightly odd, as it isn’t immediately obvious that such a game would require a lot of space, but what do I know?) While obviously this doesn’t mean that others won’t be announced in the future, it’s a good sign that plenty of technically well-performing, content-filled games have been released in the first six months of the console’s lifespan without issue. Also worth mentioning, a representative of Nintendo of America was quoted as saying that “If you purchase a physical version of a game that requires an additional microSD memory card, you will be able to play a portion of the game right out of the box (for example, specific levels or modes)” which, although not exactly ideal, at least means these games will have accessible content regardless of whether you have an SD. What confuses me most of all about all of these naysayers is exactly what else they expected. Anyone looking to get an extended use out of their console, with only 32GB to play with, would inevitably need to purchase an SD card at some point. That much was clear from the very start (or at least, so I thought. Did everyone else suffer from a bout of amnesia? Memory pun, there). In any case, this will almost definitely be a case of ‘only time will tell’, but let’s try not to get our panties in a twist until then.