Just a couple of days ago, news got out that Nintendo were due to give everyone a first look at their upcoming console, previously codenamed the Nintendo NX. The world was in two minds about it. The fact that news of a Nintendo NX was out only three years after the tepid release of the poor-selling Wii U was both disappointing and enticing. Nintendo very much appeared to have noticed that their latest ‘revolutionary’ control method had not got off of the ground, and were either in deep trouble, or had a brilliant idea. Or both.
Nintendo could either be trying again, or had decided to shake off the stigma as soon as possible by a return to normality. Precisely the opposite of the GameCube – as it came third in the sales race of the generation, Nintendo made a point of all-change with the Wii, and the sales went through the roof. After Wii U came across as “revolution for the sake of revolution”, it wasn’t heading anywhere. It’s a pity, because they are great fun to play, yet I feel like I am one of three people to own one.
Today (20 October), Nintendo finally unveiled the Nintendo Switch, their next console. It is considered a ‘hybrid’ console, made to connect to your TV for big screen play, and be able to be played with on the go, with its big screen. From there, the controller pieces can be removed and split into two controllers for multiplayer. It looks like great fun. Here are some of my first thoughts.
1. THE CONTROLLERS ARE SPECIAL, BUT THE CONTROL SCHEME ISN’T. THIS IS A BRILLIANT IDEA TO GET THIRD PARTY SUPPORT
In the past, Nintendo has given game developers the option to use ‘normal’ controls, in spite of including a new method. The Wii U had a ‘Pro Controller’ (almost identical to the Xbox 360 controller), Wii had a very unusual looking dual stick controller that could be plugged into the Wii Remote, and even the Nintendo 64 included an almost completely unused D-Pad, so to simulate the NES/SNES controllers. Needless to say, this approach of including something new, but not being obliged to use it has been relatively successful, as the 3D stick on the N64, and Wii Remote were embraced very quickly. Unfortunately, the Wii U GamePad was far more forced upon players, and the Pro Controller was completely overlooked, in spite of the fact that third-party developers did not feel that creating, or even adapting multi-platform games, was worth the effort.
Nintendo Switch on the other hand has yet to make any point of this. Although the controller is dismantled and used in different ways, the alterations of control schemes are no more complex than that of changing button functionality in a game menu. For example, one scene that made me look twice was this guy removing the two controller pieces, apparently named the ‘Joy-Cons’ and playing his game as he would on a more standard controller. In fact, I think this looks even more comfortable, and not a far cry from the Wii Remote and Nunchuk.
This to me means that the design no longer seems to be a reason for third-party developers to ignore it.
2. HOWEVER, THE TINY JOY-CONS, USED IN MULTIPLAYER, GOES BACK ON THIS A LITTLE…
And I do mean really little.
While I did find this to be very clever, and we have seen on handheld consoles such as the Game Boy, and if you want to get even tinier, the Pokemon Mini, that small controllers can work. However, the examples used in the Nintendo Switch video were far more complicated, showing four players huddled around the Switch screen, playing NBA 2k17. In my opinion, it might be too complicated to control. Going back ever so slightly on saying that the controls should no longer be of any issue to developers, the independent Joy-Cons are a bit off-putting.
One other concern that turned out to be a genuine problem with the Wii U, was its battery life. The GamePad needed to run its screen and speakers, and be in connection with the Wii U itself. Nintendo Switch also seems to be asking for more trouble as the screen itself is the base unit, and the controller units connect to it.
3. DO I NEED ALL OF THAT FUNCTIONALITY? AT THE MOMENT, PROBABLY NOT
Good news! Your Nintendo Switch can do this! But… do you want to?
Unfortunately, Nintendo haven’t been especially thorough with their specifications and its capabilities. As yet, we can see the controller options, but do I actually need my console to do that, and how many people do? For the first time in quite a while, the processing power might be of massive importance to Nintendo’s sales, as since N64, excluding maybe the GameCube, this has been glossed over due to their unusual functionality.
Odds are that unless I am dragged on a dull caravan holiday, that the Nintendo Switch would not leave my house very often, and I’m not taking it to hip rooftop parties. For starters, I seriously doubt that fellow twenty-somethings will be distracted from alcohol and barbecues in favour of Nick’s awesome Nintendo Switch. Then there’s the fact that this is the first such party that I have seen that isn’t in an American sitcom.
4. HOW SIMPLE IS THIS TO REPLICATE BY OTHER CONSOLES (AND HOW WORRIED ARE NINTENDO)?
Nintendo have faced this problem before, as Microsoft were quick to mention how the more powerful Xbox One could connect to tablets, announcing in just months after the release of the Wii U. This massively diluted anything special about the Wii U. I mentioned how there is no revolutionary control scheme for the Nintendo Switch. This could mean that Sony and Microsoft could be very quick to shoot down, especially around next year’s E3.
The N64/PS1 era was very much the launch of 3D. The GC/Xbox/PS2 era was the launch of online console play. The Wii/360/PS3 era was that of motion control. The current era has recently been in pursuit of Virtual Reality, and Nintendo have totally neglected anything of the sort. Is the revelation of the console’s functionality, the final confirmation that Nintendo aiming to be their own entity, and not in competition? This is difficult to figure out at the moment, because the release date is unusual – not appearing to start an era, or be part of it.
5. THAT SAID I DON’T THINK THAT THIS IS THE THIRD PILLAR THAT NINTENDO HAVE CLAIMED IT TO BE… AND HOPEFULLY THAT IS FOR THE BETTER
Nintendo have made this statement before, most notably with the release of the Nintendo DS, claiming that it was not a replacement to the Game Boy line. They were clearly for the sake of being able to fall back on it were it a failure. It then sold over 150 million units, and subsequently, the last hardware named after the Game Boy from Nintendo was the Game Boy Player peripheral for the Gamecube, released in 2003.
While the Nintendo Switch is promoted as portable, and ‘different’, I don’t for a minute believe that this isn’t an excuse to fall back upon if it is not successful.
However, I really do hope that Nintendo Switch is a massive success, as many have looked upon Nintendo unfavourably as though the “kid’s toy” Wii was Nintendo’s last hurrah. Fingers crossed that things go well and Nintendo Switch has enough power not to be moaned about by underaged Call of Duty addicts.
Nintendo Switch looks awesome.