Can this upcoming Nintendo console turn the “Switch” on to hardcore gamers? David skips through memory lane before diving into the Big N’s next venture–the Nintendo Switch.
There’s a reason why the announcement of new Nintendo hardware always seems to command the attention of everyone who is invested in this industry. Since the 1980s, the company has proven that they are not afraid to play by the beat of their own drum – usually to great success – compared to their competition. Before we look at the Nintendo Switch, let’s take a history lesson, shall we?
Starting with the NES, Nintendo dove headfirst into an industry that was on life support after the video game collapse of 1983 and Atari’s split the following year. Titles such as Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, and many more helped propel the company and the industry as a whole back from a 97% drop within a two year span.
Not only that, the NES also brought forth the use of peripherals with the Zapper Light Gun, Power Glove, Power Pad, and more. There was even a disc-carrying robot named R.O.B. which launched with the console that, while not all that popular, became a sure sign that you can expect the unexpected from Nintendo.
You may not think there was a whole lot changed from the NES to the SNES asides from a graphics bump at first glance, but think again. This was the console that brought us a budget creative studio (Mario Paint) complete with its own mouse, and the bazooka-like Super Scope which was quite the upgrade from the NES Zapper. Let’s also not forget the Super Game Boy which gave the kids out there who didn’t own a Game Boy (i.e.: me) a reason to play those games on a home console.
While the N64 may have been holding onto the past a tad too long with its aging cartridge format, it still innovated with the three-pronged controller not for its odd shape, but rather for introducing the now standard trigger button. This revolutionary addition made it possible for first person shooters (Goldeneye 007, Perfect Dark) to thrive on home consoles. Throw in the Rumble Pak and you got yourself a double whammy of trend-setting changes that took traditional gaming to the way we know it now.
Once again, Nintendo seemed to be behind the curve when releasing the GameCube. The decision to go with minidiscs as opposed to the more common DVD format didn’t catch gamers by storm, but there was a feature that could have very well started the thought process to what we have seen so far from the Switch – connecting handheld gaming to the home experience. Being able to link up a Game Boy Advance to the small, purple box was a pretty big deal, especially to Sony when they allowed a more robust type of connectivity between the Vita and their last couple of home consoles.
Wii (and Wii U)
The Wii took the world by storm with its simple approach towards motion control gaming. Despite having the more powerful hardware, both Microsoft and Sony followed suit with their own attempts proving once again that Nintendo knows how to lead the industry. This was then followed by the considerably less successful Wii U with its fumbled marketing message, but did bring its own brand of tablet gaming. It seemed so close yet so far to bringing a legitimate home gaming experience on the go. That finally leads us to the Nintendo Switch.
Upon watching the Switch trailer in full for the first time, I couldn’t help but instantly notice the lack of focus on families playing together. This has been Nintendo’s modus operandi from when they wouldn’t allow any games with a certain amount of mature content receive the famous seal of approval to having family gaming days be a big part of their commercials. In this first look at the console in action, we get a single guy, a single girl, a group of guy friends at a basketball court, and an esports team. Has the Big N moved past their bread and butter target demographic, or are we simply not getting the entire message?
My belief is that we still have yet to see the next trailer or set of commercials which will show the family bunched up together enjoying some Mario Kart. It’s made clear from the start, however, that this is a whole new venture that Nintendo is embarking upon. The aforementioned esports team shown at the end is Nintendo declaring loud and clear that they are pushing forward with Twitch streaming Millennials. That’s a far cry from their stance not too long ago with charity streams showcasing Smash Bros. tournaments.
We also have to bring up the overall design of the console itself. It’s such a simple concept to create a home experience that you can take on the road with you, but Nintendo appears to have legitimately brought this if the trailer is any indication.
There is a dock which houses the tablet-like device and (I imagine) charges it as well. At home, a traditional Xbox One/360-like controller can be used. This same controller can still be used when the tablet is taken out of its dock, or simply held and played with the controls on either side. A standee is pulled out if you wish to still use the traditional controller, as well as a traditional auxiliary port for headphones which could be seen as a slight rub against Apple and their iPhone 7. This is where Nintendo’s tendency to hold onto older technology really works in the consumer’s favor.
True to its name, the Switch can also be played by pulling out the side controllers from the tablet and use them much like the original Wiimotes. This is rather ingenious as it also allows for instant 2 player gaming. There is also apparently some sort of (assumed) wireless play with another Switch console to make for 2 vs 2 situations, or even team play as shown with Splatoon. The fidelity on display here is truly a marvel, especially if the battery life can hold up for at least 3-4 hours. That will remain a major question mark until Nintendo confirms it, or likely when the console is out in the wild.
Another major question is games which, surprisingly, has largely been answered through the Nintendo Switch trailer. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was proudly on display at the beginning, but we also saw what looks like ports of Splatoon, Mario Kart 8, and Skyrim Remastered. Also exciting is what appears to be gameplay of a brand new 3D Mario game. No Nintendo console launch feels complete without Nintendo’s red-clad mascot. Sorry, Luigi!
Nintendo Switch Third-Party Lineup
Also surprising is the amount of third party support drummed up already for the Nintendo Switch. This is a major deal since Nintendo has slowly been losing this from the N64 and on. Among the image of company logos, a couple of the most surprising to see included are EA and Activision. During the Wii U’s life cycle, both of these heavy hitters publicly decided to not support the console, and now here they are back in the fold. This likely means then that the basketball game shown during the trailer was NBA Live ’17. Non-Mario related sports games are back!
The reception has been largely positive for the Nintendo Switch announcement, but its success will ultimately come down to the ever-looming question of price. Nintendo consoles have traditionally priced themselves slightly below the competition, and that’s what will need to happen here for the Switch to succeed right out of the gate. Considering that the Wii U released at $299.99 and $349.99 (Basic vs Deluxe sets), it’s feasible to think Nintendo will aim for roughly the same target price points. Likely the difference between Switch editions will come down to hard drive space or game/controller bundles.
There’s still so much more we have to learn, but so far Nintendo has the hype on their side. We will likely learn more via a Nintendo Direct some time during the holiday season, but until then gamers around the world can’t wait for that March 2017 release.