“Nintendo Switch. We decided to.” The Google translated text on Nintendo Japan’s official site is probably all the explanation anyone really needs. Nintendo does what Nintendoes and that is almost always “100% Weird”. They did not disappoint us today.
So the NX is officially the Nintendo Switch, named as such because — look at it — it’s a home console tethered to a TV, it’s a tablet-sized portable, it supports multiplayer by breaking apart the controller and it even has a traditional Pro Controller option. You can switch to play however you want.
Peripherals and Game Carts
It looks like a peripheral bonanza for Nintendo to profit from. I fully expect at least one necessary charging cable to be sold extra along with a myriad of color options, battery packs, cables and headrest mounts (?). Games come on DS sized cartridges and slip into the Nintendo Switch whether you’re playing on the go or docked to a TV. I assumed the processing guts were in the large docking station but it seems that the Switch is fully encompassed in the tablet device.
Speaking of being docked to a TV, that base station features 2 USB ports on the side and seemingly no space for a disc drive, ruling out backward compatibility with any Wii U, Wii and GameCube discs we may own. If it is backward compatible we’ll likely be re-buying our games or engaging with an elaborate system to send in discs and have them exchanged for downloads. That sounds exhaustive for consumers and Nintendo alike. I expect a full break from disc-based backward compatibility, possibly ALL backward compatibility, from here on out.
Now I’m just Arguing with Myself
The number of permutations of this hardware reminds me of this old GameCube promo booklet. It took a 2-page spread to show all the ways you could hook a GameCube up to a Game Boy Advance for features that hardly anyone, even Nintendo, implemented. With the Switch it seems like people could just be confused by what to do with it. Being built around a tablet is a smart move but I think a lot of people may be put off by that familiar form factor inundated by controller add-ons and docking bases. “Why bother with that when my iPad already plays great looking games without extra stuff?”
However, while it wasn’t shown in the video the tablet may be all we need to play a whole bevvy of Nintendo games. Those who don’t want the bolt-on controllers can stick to a new Touch Generation of games à la Miitomo and even Pokemon GO. “The kids play with those controller doo-dads, I’ll stick to the brain scientist man myself,” Grandad could be seen saying in an advertorial in Home & Garden magazine. Rather than winning non-gamers over with a new motion control gimmick the Switch’s secret weapon may be that it can cater to everyone. Cue the advertising slogans urging family members to each buy their own.
Oh right, Games!
Every generation Nintendo trots out an image like the one above as proof that, this time, third party publishers are going to be on board with their wonky new console for the long haul. So let’s just say I’m not totally won over by this roster but I am nonetheless excited to see what people release on it. Here’s the official list without all the sneaky middleware names that Nintendo slid in:
ARC SYSTEM WORKS
BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment
Gungho Online Entertainment
KOEI TECMO GAMES
Konami Digital Entertainment
Nippon Ichi Software
Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc.
Tokyo RPG Factory
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
It’s an appreciable mix of all the big names from both Western and Eastern territories along with a handful of feel-good indie-sized studios. Are they all bringing totally new, original titles? Probably not, but having some of the games from these studios available on a portable only adds value to the Switch’s proposition.
No Gimmicks, Just Games
It didn’t hit me until an hour or so after the reveal (and well after I started this rambling post) but the Switch isn’t trying to revolutionize how anyone plays a game. Nintendo didn’t flaunt motion controls, accelerometers, dual screens or bean-shaped button layouts. Instead they showed us a series of gameplay options that caters to practically everyone, all with one device.
With the Switch we’ll be able to engage with Nintendo’s games in seemingly any form factor we choose. And probably more importantly, third parties don’t have to run their games through a gimmick machine to bring them to Nintendo’s new platform. Translating a game from PC to PlayStation to the Switch’s NVIDIA Tegra hardware may be more complicated than a simple copy and paste but the whole game doesn’t have to be re-designed for a change.
There’s still much, much more to learn about the Switch before it’s March 2017 release (price, hard drive capacity, battery life, launch lineup) but I’m pretty impressed with what has been shown. A TV is where I prefer to play but every now and then I’ve enlisted the Vita to remotely stream the PlayStation 4 and always wished it worked better. Clearly there are cases when even I want to play on a handheld device and the Switch caters to that out of the box. I’m impressed but not completely sold but that’s a fair deal better a response than I had from the Wii U.