Two days ago, Nintendo gave the world its first look at their new console: Nintendo Switch. My first impression was rather underwhelmed, but thinking back on the recent years, Nintendo hasn’t excited me with their hardware since they announced the Nintendo Revolution. They may have once been a titan in the home console market but I don’t feel 2016 Nintendo’s Wii-U is comparable to the current Xbox and PlayStation consoles. That said, it should be noted that Nintendo’s hand-held 3DS is outselling the competition by at least 15.9 million units. Knowing that their strength is in the hand-held market, it makes me wonder if those sales figures influenced Nintendo’s design of the Switch.
The video highlights that the Nintendo Switch is a tablet-like device which you dock to your television and can seamlessly switch between a home console and hand-held device. Unlike the home consoles in Nintendo’s past, you can be playing a game on your television and then simply undock the tablet and take it with you out the door without skipping a beat! Nintendo has already confirmed that the dock is simply a charging station and interface between the Switch and television.
This is a complete reversal from the Wii-U where the processing power is all in the box connected to the television but video can be streamed to the tablet-like controller. This feature of the Wii-U frees your television but you’re still effectively tethered to the area. The approach Nintendo took with the Switch makes so much more sense that I wonder why on earth they didn’t go this route to begin with! The concept of the Switch is far more appealing! The video also revealed some other noteworthy features including the practical kickstand, that the games would be in the form of cartridges rather than disks, and what I presume to be ad-hoc wireless networking with other Switches.
With a new console comes a new controller which this video shows off the versatility of what they’re calling the Joy-Con. This Joy-Con controller which works in one of two ways: first is a standalone controller when the Switch is connected to the TV and second is snapped onto the Switch itself for when you’re playing hand-held giving the console an almost PlayStation Portable feel to it. Another option for Switch gamers is the Pro Controller which looks like an updated version of the Wii U Pro controller and seems to be, in my opinion, a more solid controller since it doesn’t break down to snap onto the Switch itself.
I honestly thought there would be nothing interesting to see here since it seems that Nintendo’s efforts of late have been uninspiring. That said, I can’t help but look at the Nintendo Switch and think, “That’s really cool!” I sincerely wish I could muster the energy to get excited for a new console but at this point in my life I’m distracted by other pursuits.
While I know this has already been debunked by Nintendo, I can’t help but feel that this hybrid console/hand-held device could be a way for Nintendo to merge both their markets. Microsoft has certainly taken this route with their Windows operating system and Apple, following in Microsoft’s wake, seems to be well on the way on what I call the iOS-ification of macOS. The advantage here is that you’re now developing for a single platform and, given the sales figures, I’ve no doubt that Nintendo would love to have their home console sales on par with their hand-held sales.
As excellent a concept the Switch is for a console, it’s only as good as the games that get released on it. In that regard, I currently see the Nintendo Switch as simply being the new Super Mario/Legend of Zelda box and that’s enough for people to eventually buy it. As is the case with all hardware, if the software isn’t there then the hardware will fail. I experienced this with the Windows Phone where an excellent device and OS were undermined by a lack of developers. I hope this isn’t the case and, as damaging as it would be to my bank account, I hope to find myself once more wanting to buy a Nintendo console.