I already had a blog post prepared for this week, but then Nintendo went and blew up the internet and announced they were going to reveal their new console, the eagerly anticipated, Nintendo NX.
A new console reveal by any of the big three is always an exciting moment for the games industry. It means new hardware to develop games for, it means new first party games to play, it sometimes means innovations in technology and the way we play games. It’s always super exciting and after the tragic reign of the Wii-U, everyone was waiting to see what Nintendo would create to try and pull themselves out of the fire.
The Nintendo NX has a name! It’s not the Duo, but the Nintendo Switch. The latest hardware offering from Nintendo was revealed today in a very concise, informative, and generally exciting preview trailer.
Let’s talk about that first of all. Nintendo have admitted to no one’s surprise, that the Wii-U was a disaster in terms of communicating what it was and what it could do. When the Wii-U was revealed no one had a clue what it really was. Was it a new console or a tablet for the Wii? Nobody knew, and the messaging got even muddier as time went on.
The first time we are introduced to the Nintendo Switch is in a short (three minutes) advert style trailer that shows off the hardware beautifully and what it is capable of. As far as reveal trailers go this was a great one. We saw the hardware and all of its components as well as people using it in a myriad of different ways so that we understand what it is we’re looking at. We saw games being played on it, real games. Skyrim, Mario, Zelda, and Splatoon all took centre stage to show the varying possibilities this new hardware possesses.
Of course there are still many questions left unanswered, but Nintendo did in three minutes here what they couldn’t do in almost three years of discussion concerning the Wii-U. I think it is clear Nintendo have listened to what people have said and are starting to learn from their mistakes. Lets hope this is the first of many improvements to their overall strategy.
Now lets talk about the hardware itself. First off, holy shit it’s a good looking piece of hardware. It’s sleek, it’s well designed, it has proper controls, and it looks sexy in a living room. It’s nice to see Nintendo move away from the god awful cheap plastic toy look they’ve used for several consoles, and honestly, if the Switch had been branded with a Sony or Microsoft logo instead, I would have believed they were behind it.
The console itself is a tablet style device. You can use a controller wirelessly with it, or connect the Joy-con parts (yes, it’s really called that, I checked) to make it work a bit like a Wii-U game pad or Nvidia Shield. You can also connect it to a special dock so that the game can be played on your big TV.
What’s important to note here is that this device is primarily a handheld. The tablet component is the actual game console. It uses cartridges instead of discs so you can transport your collection around easily, and also to make construction of the device better for portability (everyone remembers how shit portable CD players were for reliability). How you choose to play this new handheld is really down to you. There are many options available which is clearly one of its greatest strengths, but to me this isn’t a home console.
It’s a system that will play your Nintendo games and probably some 3rd party stuff, but it won’t be the latest stuff, it simply won’t have the power. I don’t think it will have a focus on internet play with services like Playstation Plus. I think it will instead look to local multiplayer and gaming over bluetooth with people nearby. I think this kind of handheld gives them something no other handheld device can, but it also lets you play your favourite Nintendo games at home on the big TV and you don’t have to buy two consoles to do it. This new device will fulfil both roles, but I think it will excel more at the portable aspects.
I wrote a blog post a few months ago about what I thought Nintendo needed to do with their next console and how they needed to change focus with their next piece of hardware. The Switch does go to some lengths to course correct, more than I actually expected, but I don’t think we know enough to say for sure whether this is a move that’s going to pay off.
I think the big take away from this announcement trailer is that Nintendo are focused on gamers playing games on their hardware. They are so focused on it that they want you to be able to do it literally anywhere. Nintendo have tried to remove every possible barrier there could be between you and their games, and that is a good idea.
The new gimmick for the Switch is gaming how you want anywhere you want. For Nintendo that’s a pretty good gimmick to focus on. Oh sure, the controller has a really stupid name, and the battery life on the console itself is likely going to be awful, but if it’s priced correctly (as in cheap), and it has a strong first party launch lineup with plenty of 3rd party software support, then Nintendo could be on to a winner here.
I think you have to view this console as a successor to both the Wii-U and the 3DS. It’s a great looking console that has a tablet style focus much like how the Wii-U tried to have, and it’s going to let you play all of your favourite Nintendo games and more on the go just like the 3DS did with its absurdly good game library.
The Nintendo Switch is an elegantly designed way for Nintendo to bow out of the home console fight whilst solidifying its dominance of the handheld gaming theatre. It looks slick and stylish and it runs decent looking games and allows you to play them where you want, when you want. This is a promising start for Nintendo and I will now pay much closer attention to the details as they come out prior to launch in March. This could have been a lot worse, but thankfully it wasn’t.
Now show me a brand new Metroid game, a new Starfox game, a fully 3D open-world mmo Pokemon, and a new Smash Bros. Then we can talk about getting excited.