For a long time I considered myself a diehard Nintendo fan. Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Link, Pikachu, and the rest of their friends have been with me practically since I was born. To this day the video games I’m most interested in playing still come from Nintendo.
However in recent years I’ve grown increasingly disenchanted with Nintendo. Their latest games for the Wii U (and, to a lesser extent, the 3DS) have been uninspired ports, HD remakes, and “mini-game” experiences billed as major titles (Mario Maker, Metroid Prime: Federation Force, and Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer come to mind). We’ve known for nearly two years that Nintendo was working on their next console – the mysterious “NX” – but as I got more frustrated with the company I once held so dear, I became increasingly skeptical of their ability to deliver an exciting new console.
Last Thursday, Nintendo finally unveiled the “NX”, officially called Nintendo Switch, and they surprised the hell out of me. Confirming rumours, the Switch is a home console and handheld all in one, and it doesn’t look like a toy. I’m in, Nintendo. So. Damn. In.
With Wii U, Nintendo fumbled their marketing message right out of the gate. The public never really understood what the Wii U was (a new controller for the Wii, right?), Nintendo was never able to make a game that really demonstrated why the Wii U GamePad was necessary, and third-party developers understandably gave up supporting the console as its sales numbers deflated.
Conversely, Nintendo delivered a simple message in the Switch reveal trailer: home console games that you can take anywhere. Freedom to play. It’s a simple, understandable message and they nailed it. Not all that revolutionary from a technical perspective, yet it’s never been done this way before in the consumer gaming world.
Sure, some of Nintendo’s real-world examples in the trailer are a tad outlandish (“Let’s stop playing real basketball and play virtual basketball on our Switches instead!”) but the trailer accomplished its goal of visualizing how and where you can play the Switch.
When rumours started swirling that NX would be a home/handheld hybrid console, I had tons of questions and concerns about how Nintendo would pull that off. In hindsight, it makes perfect sense to put all (or most) of the power in the handheld device, and dock it to the TV for at-home play. I just wasn’t sure if Nintendo could fit a modern gaming processor, presumably one capable of rendering better looking graphics than the Wii U, into a handheld. That’s a question we still won’t fully know the answer to until Nintendo reveals more about the custom NVIDIA chip powering the Switch.
Regardless, I love what I’ve seen of the Nintendo Switch so far. I think the system in handheld mode looks really beautiful, and I’m glad it looks more like a gadget than a toy. The Switch Dock isn’t the prettiest piece of kit; I wish it was a little sleeker seeing as it will have to be front-and-centre on my TV stand so I can dock and undock my Switch as needed.
The Switch has so many cool little features that I can’t mention them all here. Some standouts for me:
- Joy-Cons are a cool idea, but look too tiny to be comfortable for extended play sessions. I’ll be leaning on the Grip and Pro controllers a lot. Also, I fully expect some additional Joy-Cons with different buttons or colours by Holiday 2017. No way Nintendo will miss out on that obvious accessory market.
- Kickstand is a big plus for portable play, glad they thought of that.
- The Grip controller is adorable – sad puppy, amirite? Pro controller looks great too; better grips and offset analog sticks are big improvements over the Wii U Pro controller. And translucent plastic? ADORE!
- My best guess is the Switch screen is around 6.2 or 6.5 inches. I think the display just looks bigger because of the large bezel around it and the 16:9 aspect ratio.
- Game Cards instead of discs is obvious for anything with a handheld component. It should mean faster load times for games, too. I hope Nintendo have been able to cram a lot of storage into these cards, while also keeping the component cost low for developers. Is that too much to ask?
If your response to the Switch is something along the lines of “Nintendo should just make games for the iPhone” or “Why didn’t Nintendo just make a hardware controller for tablets?”, please stop talking about Nintendo. You don’t understand the gaming industry.
Nintendo is doing smartphone games, and they’re going to be successful. But a game like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild can’t exist on a smartphone or tablet. Phones and tablets aren’t powerful enough, and that style of game is too deep and expensive to succeed in an App Store market. Likewise, nobody would buy an expensive Nintendo controller or snap-on accessory for their smart device. Those already exist and I don’t know anyone who owns one. Just like Apple builds their own hardware to run their software, Nintendo needs to build and sell the hardware that will run their games.
Nintendo reconfirmed that the Switch will launch globally in March 2017, and it sounds like we won’t be getting anymore info about the system until January. That won’t stop me from speculating on all the details Nintendo have yet to announce.
- Price: I’m guessing $299, but $349 wouldn’t surprise me either. I think $399 is out of the question, as that’s the same starting price as the PS4 Pro which is decidedly more powerful.
- Bundle: I’m leaning toward one bundle at launch, so Nintendo can keep their marketing simple. Switch console with left and right Joy-Cons, Switch Dock with all the necessary cables, Joy-Con Grip controller, and that’s it. No pack-in game, and Switch Pro controller sold separately.
- Launch Titles: Breath of the Wild is practically confirmed for launch. Based on what was shown in the trailer, I’d say updated Splatoon and Mario Kart 9 are likely to be there at launch as well. I expect that new 3D Mario game shortly after launch, though if they can make it for day one that would be a hell of a lineup.