An old challenger returns!
Nintendo has been one of the video game industry’s leading innovators when it comes to designing hardware and creating memorable experiences. That’s one of the reasons why the company has managed to stay relevant even while struggling these past few years and losing a lot of ground to the competition. It’s no secret that Nintendo’s consoles have become “supplements” to hardware from the likes of Sony and Microsoft in the eyes of many video game lovers. Fortunately enough, that is something that may just change with the release of the recently announced Nintendo Switch.
To be fair, there are some very solid reasons why Nintendo consoles such as the Wii and Wii U are treated as supplements rather than full-fledged gaming behemoths, the biggest of which is that support outside of first-party studios is scarce at best, especially when it comes to AAA experiences. First party exclusives are a great way to draw attention, particularly when your library is full of series that have survived the better part of 30 years. But, it’s the side content that bolsters that library and gives developers time to fine tune their games. Content like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Grand Theft Auto V, Battlefield, and Call of Duty add variety to a console’s library and help to justify a purchase.
That lack of major third party support was a direct result of the underwhelming power in the box, and the overly gimmicky controller. Nintendo had over-innovated, something many thought to be an impossibility. In exchange for jaw-dropping visuals and immense gaming worlds, we got motion controls and a tablet that provided a built-in second-screen experience. Unfortunately, it was the traditional gaming experiences that ended up being more popular, costing Nintendo dearly on the Wii U gamble. However, it wasn’t all bad. There were some good elements to the Wii U that just needed to be reiterated and refined. Enter the Nintendo Switch.
Today marked the reveal of the long-awaited NX, a console/ handheld hybrid being developed to put the struggling member of the “big three” back on the map. After seeing the name, the first thought was that this would be yet another gimmick fest, pushing the once lauded company further to the side as the PlayStation and Xbox platforms continued to thrive, but then the trailer began in earnest.
The Nintendo Switch isn’t just some console with a controller you can take somewhere else in the house. That’s what the Wii U was, and the company promised us something different, something new. What the Switch does is break the mold of what it means to be a home console, and we’re not exaggerating when we say that. With the entire unit put together, you have a full console experience, complete with an HD display on your television, controllers, and all the usual fixings. However, the very core of the unit is a tablet that houses all of the power of the hardware. That controller you were just using? It comes apart and locks onto that tablet allowing you to take the game you were just playing with you at the snap of a finger. What’s more, it’s the exact same game, not some watered down experience that’s been reformatted for a handheld device. The only difference is that it’s no longer connected to your television. And where can you go with this now mobile version of your Switch? Anywhere.
Nintendo has managed to solve a problem with the Switch that its competitors have been trying to work out for years. How do you take the home console experience and make it mobile? Sure the PS Vita is an impressive piece of tech, but it has its limitations as a handheld. You can stream games to it while on the same network, but you’ll always know that it’s not the same as when you were just on your PS4. With the Switch, nothing is lost, and that puts Nintendo in a very special place. One they’re familiar with and have dominated for well over a decade.
The Nintendo Switch has the special privilege of existing in the home console and handheld space. It is on this foundation that the company will be able to launch its counterattack and once again become a true force to be reckoned with. Now, this is where some start wondering how. The PS4 Pro will launch next month and is pretty much guaranteed to be a much more powerful console. On the other side, you have Microsoft’s Project Scorpio, a VR-capable, 4K gaming machine. They boast power and both are betting pretty high on virtual reality being the future of gaming. You won’t be able to see a game run on the Switch quite as beautifully as on the PS4 Pro. You won’t have the luxury of popping on an Oculus headset and immersing yourself in other worlds. But you want to know what you can’t do on either of those machines? Slip them easily into your backpack, play them in the park, or enjoy them on a plane. But you can on the Switch.
That brings up an important question, though. Why would we even want to? A console is only as good as the games available on it. You’d be hard-pressed to find many who would argue against Nintendo having one of the best first party lineups in the history of gaming. But you can also get a majority of those games on the 3DS, so they do little in the way of helping the Nintendo Switch strike a blow against the competition. Thankfully, Nintendo has managed to return to the good graces of all those publishers who turned their backs on the struggling company, and have even attracted some new ones as well. Bethesda, Take-Two Interactive, Ubisoft, Activision, EA, and Epic Games are but a few major companies that will provide content for the upcoming console. While it’s not yet clear if the Nintendo Switch will be receiving the same titles as the PS4 and Xbox One from each of these publishers, the fact that they’ve returned from a long leave of absence speaks volumes. They clearly know something that we do not, something that made them reconsider their very good reasons for giving Nintendo a wide berth in the first place. They know that the Switch is a capable console, one that can deliver experiences that the Wii U only dreamed of, and allow players around the world to take them on the go, too.
Making all of this even more appealing is the fact that this preliminary announcement was so clear. While we don’t have all of the numbers needed to determine what kind of resolutions and framerates we can expect, we know exactly what the Nintendo Switch is. There’s no confusion, no overblown gimmick, just the simplicity of a home console that you happen to be able to take with you. It’s almost as if Nintendo is finally learning. While they’ve been known for being leaders in innovation, sometimes being in the front leaves you to miss the lessons going on behind you. Falling behind helped Nintendo realize that they were doing too much, and that was giving an advantage to everyone else, helping them to pass Nintendo by. A simple message, one that wasn’t connected to previous consoles, clear of confusion and weird ideas, helped set the world straight. Nintendo is back, and they’re coming for their rightful spot among the powerhouses.
The best part is that they’re still doing it their way. The Nintendo Switch doesn’t need 4K resolutions, HDR compatibility, and VR gaming (although, nobody would complain if they happened to toss them in). They just needed to stay true to what they do best – great gaming in new ways. Now that they have a gimmick that’s truly worth being excited for, and the renewed support of the biggest names in the industry, Nintendo can once again step out of the shadows of its peers. The Nintendo Switch is not a supplementary console, it is one that can stand on its own doing things that others are still trying to figure out in the console space. Get ready to see a shift in that pie as the Big Three get shaken up by a leaner, and definitely hungrier, Nintendo.