Nintendo’s Switch offers some exciting possibilities, but limited horsepower and potential hardware pitfalls could hamstring the console-handheld hybrid
After an excruciatingly long wait, we finally know a bit more about what Nintendo’s new system, formerly known as the NX, is all about. Dubbed the Nintendo Switch, the latest console from the longtime console juggernaut is surprisingly close to what analysts had been anticipating in the months leading up to this morning’s reveal trailer. It’s a console-handheld hybrid that features a tablet that docks within the console itself, allowing players to seamlessly switch between the TV-bound experience to freewheeling handheld gaming by simply sliding a pair of controller nubs onto the edges of the tablet and taking it on the go.
It’s a neat premise, and the tablet-based concept seems like a natural evolution of the Wii U’s ill-fated Gamepad tech.
Calling it a handheld almost seems like a misnomer, though. As the sizzle reel also showcased the tablet’s kickstand capabilities and wireless controllers being used in conjunction by a handful of players to start an impromptu Splatoon LAN party. Pretty cool, right? It’s not hard to imagine legions of gamers busting out their NXs from their backpacks and starting on-the-go Smash Bros. tournies or going a few laps in Mario Kart just as easily as doing so in their living rooms.
Nintendo has always, for better or for worse, embraced unconventional tech to move the industry forward, and it looks like the Switch could be a winning gamble. And I say that as someone who woke up this morning fully ready to dismiss whatever oddball gimmick Nintendo had in store for players this console generation. Not to be a Negative Nancy, but after the Wii and Wii U, I, like many other consumers, was fresh out of good will.
While most of what Nintendo showcased in the three-minute trailer was intriguing, there are some serious concerns that reared their head during this brief showcase of Nintendo’s newest tech. Firstly, as many expected, the console itself looks to be a far cry from a graphical powerhouse. No, I know that visuals aren’t everything, but the games that Nintendo chose to showcase the latest hardware – including The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8, Skyrim, and Splatoon, don’t look any better than what we’ve seen on the Wii U. In fact, there’s no guarantee that what we’re seeing is even representative of what these games will finally look like when the console releases early next year. Considering the launch is just six months away, that’s pretty worrisome, as a huge disparity in visual fidelity – especially with powerhouse machines like the Scorpio and PlayStation 4 Pro on the horizon – could cause many developers to gloss over the console in much the same way they abandoned support for the Wii and Wii U in favor of Sony and Microsoft’s more capable consoles.
Another area of concern was the controller nubs that attach to the tablet itself. They look incredibly small, and it’s hard to imagine those with bigger hands not struggling with them, especially in games that require a great deal of precision like fighting games and shooters. As someone with some pretty small hands (not Trump small, but small nontheless), I myself am a bit worried my mitts will be have some trouble coming to grips (pun intended) with Nintendo’s controller alternative when the console rolls out in early 2017. Thankfully, the Switch’s full-size controllers look to be more than up to the task, nearly mirroring those of the Xbox One and Wii U Pro controllers.
The Switch’s mobile capabilities are certainly interesting, but Nintendo will have to learn from their past mistakes to make this integral part of the console’s appeal work the way it should. After all, the Wii U’s Gamepad suffered from a pretty pitiful battery life, and it’s unclear just how much playtime a single charge will give those who take the Switch into the wild. Here’s hoping Nintendo has been taking notes, and ensures the tablet includes a battery that can handle extended gaming on the go, as this part of the package seems like it could well be the console’s biggest selling point. This seems like a no-brainer, but it is Nintendo we’re talking about here. That said, we’re just going to have to trust them until the console finally makes its retail debut.
As someone who’s admittedly a longtime naysayer when it comes to the Big N, I have to admit that the Switch has me hopeful that Nintendo can right their ship and make the console a success. The console is sleek, innovative, and could really change the multiplayer gaming landscape with its unique approach to incorporating both living room play and mobile gaming into one package. However, if the system is underpowered and unable to appeal to third parties, we could very likely see a repeat of the Wii U’s disastrous existence. Make no mistake, the Switch will not be a success without the unyielding support of third parties.
There are some amazing possibilities present in the Switch, but Nintendo is going to need to prove their hardware is up to the task to ensure the platform outlasts its honeymoon period. If Nintendo can prove the console has the muscle to power the kinds of games third parties want to make while delivering a console that is comfortable to use and can handle the tasks that make it such an appealing platform, the beleaguered hardware manufacturer could very well find success in the next console generation.
Only time will tell, but I’m sure excited to see where the Switch takes us when it releases in next March.
So, what are your thoughts on the Nintendo Switch? Do you think it has what it takes to compete with Microsoft and Sony? Furthermore, do you feel Nintendo needs to do so to make the Switch a success? Be sure to sound off in the comments section and let us know!