To say that Nintendo hasn’t been doing great in the home console market the last couple of years would be a bit of an understatement. The announcement, reveal and launch of the Wii U were disasters that the console never fully recovered from; I don’t think the general public ever really understood that it was even a separate console to the Wii. Couple that with the fact that third parties dropped their support fairly sharpish, and Nintendo dropped their own support after a while, too, and the console was essentially dead on arrival.
So far, at least, Nintendo’s messaging is a lot better. The general features of the Switch have been heavily rumoured for what feels like years, and it looks like a lot of the rumours were true. The Nintendo Switch (neé NX) is indeed a combination handheld/home console: it features a controller with a screen that you can take on the go and keep playing with, and then when you get back home you simply put the screen back in the charging dock & take the two halves of your controller (or Joycons™ as Nintendo calls them) to keep playing on your television. In theory, it sounds absolutely fantastic.
My main concern, however, is that the Switch is being marketed somewhat disingenuously. The system is being positioned and talked about as a home console that you can also play on the go, with the portable screen in the controller. My worry is that it’s actually just a beefed-up handheld that you can plug into your TV.
This worry is lent some credibility due to the rumour that the screen will have a battery life of just three hours; that’s not even enough to get you through a bus journey to Dublin. Whatever witchcraft is going on in the system, the handheld portion clearly can’t cope with it. On the flip side, I’m worried that the system won’t really be able to handle overly ambitious titles due to the handheld aspect holding it back. Of course, I’m no scientician, so I may be totally misrepresenting how computers work.
Aside from the system itself, the announcement video didn’t really give us a whole lot else to chew on. We saw an updated version of Splatoon being played in a laughably huge arena, we saw an updated version of Mario Kart 8 being played in an old van, we saw a mysterious new Mario game that looked very pretty (as Mario games are wont to do), we saw LoZ: Breath of the Wild, which is a game that’s also coming to the Wii U, and we saw Skyrim.
There’s been a bit of a hullabaloo over this whole Skyrim situation because Bethesda have said that, while they are working with Nintendo, they can’t name any specific titles at this time. On the face of it, that seems very strange since we have a video showing Skyrim being played on the Switch. Does that mean Skyrim isn’t coming to the Switch? The short answer is: almost definitely not.
The long answer is that this is probably a marketing tactic called “keep your mouth shut so you can take people’s money twice.” Bethesda have an updated version of Skyrim that just came out on PS4, Xbox One and PC. They want people to buy them right now. Once people have spent their money to buy those versions, then they’ll officially announce the Switch version so that they can take their money all over again! That’s what I think, anyway. It may seem cynical, but it happens to PC gamers all the time.
Enough Nintendo-bashing, though, they’ve had to deal with that since the Wii U got announced, the poor devils: on to the positives, of which there are some.
Now that Nintendo have consolidated their handheld and home console branches into one overarching team, their game output will no longer be split between two systems. For the last few years, the 3DS has received decent support from both Nintendo and third party developers while the Wii U has gotten the leftovers. Now, though, Nintendo can focus its considerable development might on one system. Hopefully, this will translate into a big Nintendo game every couple of months. That sounds like a good time to me.
There’s also the big one: a real Pokémon on your TV. Since the dawn of time, people have wanted a way to play a for realsies Pokémon game on a big screen with top-of-the-line graphics, and that day may soon be fast approaching. Of course, there’s no way to know what direction the series will take now in this unified console future, but one thing is for sure: the dream is closer than ever.
Personally, the thing I’m most looking forward to is the price of the Wii U going down at last so that I can finally play Pokkén Tournament outside of a Japanese arcade.