Today, on 20th October 2016, Nintendo revealed it’s next console iteration, in the form of ‘Nintendo Switch‘. As heavily rumoured throughout the year, the new system will aim to bridge the gap between home console and handheld system, capable of both high-end portable gaming and Full-HD gameplay via Television.
The design of the ‘Switch‘ is similar to the Wii U GamePad, except this time all the processing power comes from the portable handheld system, with it’s own built-in screen. Additionally, thanks to a TV-Docking station and the unit’s detachable controls, the Switch can become both ‘hard-core’ home console or portable playhouse, depending on your lifestyle. Read on for a brief account of my reactions, thoughts and opinions…
Shrouded in mystery for over a year, various leaks, rumours and assumptions have well prepared the gaming community for this announcement, but it was with some surprise that the console formerly known as ‘NX’ would be revealed today. Originally intended for a September announcement (apparently delayed due to unsatisfactory gameplay footage), it felt like the ‘NX’ itself could be the fabrication of an elaborate rumour. In the end, Nintendo Switch definitely outstayed it’s welcome in the rumour-mill, so I greeted today’s news with a sigh of relief rather than excitement.
As a Wii U owner, the last six months have been something of a trial. Any Nintendo fan will tell you that despite aiding it’s hard times with generous sales discounts and copious amounts of well-prices DLC, Nintendo has unceremoniously dropped the Wii U like a hot stone in it’s final months. Since this June’s E3, we’ve known that the upcoming Zelda instalment, ‘Breath of the Wild‘ would release on both the Wii U and ‘NX’, and that was all the notice Nintendo gave us that the current system was dead. Bar a slightly rushed Paper Mario game out this month, there is next to zero releasing on the system before Nintendo Switch arrives in March 2017. Still a some time away.
Needless to say then, the Switch has it’s work cut out. Despite the original Wii’s insane success, the poor, almost cock-i-ly weak, marketing of Wii U’s launch sent the company back to dark ages. Despite a net worth still in the hundreds of billions, Nintendo needs to make a strong move in the console market, as another public failure could call for more drastic measures – such as focusing purely on it’s DS range and possibly leaving the console market behind (no small statement).
It’s a bold move than, that Nintendo would appear to be holding on to some of what did worked with Wii U, whilst intelligently striping what didn’t. At first glance Nintendo Switch may seem complex, which is a mountain Nintendo may climb with consumers, but for software developers things are more comfortable than ever! Despite the portable interface, Switch’s controls and screen management are identical to that of the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.
A single screen, with the standardised two thumb sticks, eight face buttons and four triggers, and a processor presumable equal or slightly below a standard PS4. Rather than having to juggle a second screen, force in motion controls or a touch screen, third party developers (for the first time since GameCube) will be able to port their games to a Nintendo console with little effort at all.
That can only be a good thing, as more games means a potentially wider customer base. However, I start to get the feeling Nintendo still has three big issues remaining to be solved. I am aware we’re still months away from March, with many unknowns, but here are some thoughts on some of the known quantities…
The first issue is that, although they have enjoyed strong third party support in the past, it’s well proven at this point that fans of ‘COD’, ‘GTA’ and Resident Evil aren’t looking to buy an alternative version of those series on Nintendo. And by and large, Nintendo fans aren’t interested in those series either. Despite a range of exclusive ‘core’ titles such as Resident Evil 0, 1 & 4, and Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes, the GameCube still struggled in it’s generation and none sold especially well.
Likewise, antiquated editions of Call of Duty and WatchDogs failed to entice many buyers on Wii U. So despite the fact third parties may enjoy the Switch from a developmental stand point, it’ll take unique and wholly exclusive game series from those developers to wake up consumers. An example of this working well would be Bravely Default and Bravely Second for Nintendo 3DS, exclusive titles from SquareEnix. A market-stable platform with a strong user base invites developers to make something unique for it’s customers, and it’s that kind of marketplace which Switch must recreate if those games are to happen.
That leads into the second issue… Can Nintendo successfully convey this new ‘home and away’ concept to the general public? The easiest way to explain new concepts of this kind is to demonstrate them visually. If the company can ‘carpet bomb’ every screen in the world with silky smooth Switch commercials, they could be on to a winner. If they fail to show how this system functions and how it is actually different to the Wii U, they could end up cursing themselves all over again.
And so, the third problem. Today’s trailer shows us nothing but port after port after port. Despite how impressive it may be to see Mario Kart 8, Splatoon and Skyrim running on a portable device, you can’t escape the reality that these are old games. Personally I own both ‘MK8‘ and Splatoon on Wii U (the system’s very best offerings), and if I want Breath of the Wild, I don’t need to shell out for a new console, as that’ll be coming to Wii U in March also. I understand that the Mario footage shown in today’s trailer was from a new game, but at first glance I didn’t recognise it as any different to Super Mario 3D World (which I also already own).
Nintendo Switch looked very sleek today, but the big issue I have is that regardless of how useful or intuitive it’s design philosophy may be… It would appear that at least four of it’s key titles for launch have been out for years, if not otherwise available for a far cheaper price. A new cartridge format rules out backwards compatibility, and I don’t really want to re-buy anything with out sizeable improvements and/or expansions.
Again, I am aware we will see a lot more before March 2017, but until I do see something new, I won’t want to swallow a £300-350 price tag at launch for old software. I’d much sooner get Zelda on my Wii U and wait until Nintendo Switch does convince me. If other gamers end up doing the same, then Nintendo will not achieve the rebound it so desperately needs!
That being said, I’m still a big Nintendo fan. I’m pleased to have seen Nintendo Switch today, the ball is finally rolling! I would welcome a bigly updated Splatoon or Splatoon sequel without hesitation, so long as the system can “wow” me on it’s own merits. And once it’s done that, hopefully strong and unique (not just ported) third party support will quickly follow.
We haven’t even got into price, battery life or sharing the system between multiple users, so it’s definitely still too soon to pass judgement! … However, we are planning to record a full Switch themed podcast for this blog in the coming days, so if you’d like to hear more from us on this news, stay tuned!
If you have any thoughts or opinions before then, please let us know!!