Switching up the gaming industry

Image via www.wccftech.com/
Image via www.wccftech.com/

Nintendo reveals newest console

By Caroline Ho, Arts Editor

Nintendo’s next gaming system isn’t quite a home or handheld console—it’s both. The Nintendo Switch, first shown in a short trailer posted on October 20, is scheduled to be released in March 2017. It looks to combine the capabilities of home gaming with the convenience of portable devices.

The Switch is made up of a tablet screen and two pieces called Joy-Cons that resemble small remotes. The Joy-Cons can be attached to the sides of the tablet, stuck together to form a gaming pad, or used as two separate controllers. The tablet and Joy-Cons can be taken and set up anywhere, and more Joy-Cons can be wirelessly linked to a single screen for games with more players. To use the system like a typical home console, there’s a docking station to connect the Switch to your TV.

The trailer demonstrates people playing their Switches in a variety of locations, including airplanes, cars, parks, parties, and more. While being able to play the same game on a large screen and on the go seems like a good idea, the Switch might not be the best platform for mobility. When the Joy-Cons are attached to the tablet, the system looks like a bulky, cumbersome 2DS or PSP. When separated, they look like impractically tiny versions of the Wiimote—although people who are used to playing games on four-and-a-half-inch smartphones probably won’t have too much trouble calibrating their thumbs. The trailer also shows the use of a more standard gaming controller, shaped like an Xbox controller, but it will more than likely be sold separately from the Switch, and carrying around an extra piece of hardware defeats the purpose of portability.

Nintendo’s last new home console, the Wii U, which debuted in 2012, was met with a somewhat lukewarm reception. Its lack of titles, scanty support of third-party game developers, and lower specifications compared to rival consoles, have long relegated the Nintendo home systems to a more casual gaming market than the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. While it’s too early to determine if the Switch will buck this trend, it’s notable that the trailer showed footage of gameplay from NBA 2K and Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. A large list of developers—including Ubisoft, Activision, and many more—have pledged their support for Nintendo’s new device. It’s a promising sign of a new age for third-party cooperation.

The distinction between handheld versus home consoles has been solid for a long time, and it’s an ambitious leap to bridge this divide. It could be that Nintendo isn’t just trying to win over hardcore gamers—it’s trying to compete with the smartphone, the primary gaming device for a lot of casual gamers. According to independent gaming website Eurogamer, the tablet part of the Switch will feature a touchscreen, suggesting that this is Nintendo’s direction. Although the gaming company has so far been silent about touchscreen possibilities, they’re bound to reveal more details at the Nintendo Switch media briefing planned on January 12, where they are also expected to announce the console’s release date.

For now, I’m happy enough with my 3DS—or, at least, I will be once Pokémon Sun and Moon are released.