Switching it Up Nintendo's latest punt on portable gaming

Looking at Nintendo’s strategic moves the past two decades, one is reminded of the words of Donald Trump (JUST HOLD ON A SECOND AND LET ME FINISH) when he spoke complimentarily of Hillary Clinton:

“She’s a fighter. She doesn’t quit. She doesn’t give up.”

Technically speaking, Nintendo did give up – on the Wii U. Just under four years after the release of the much anticipated sequel to the phenomenally successful Wii, Nintendo has effectively decided to move on from its beleaguered console . The Nintendo Switch was announced via social media last night, set for a worldwide release in March 2017.

Where Nintendo hasn’t quite given up has been their admirable commitment to innovation with every generation of their products. This time, they are putting their eggs all in one high quality portable basket.

The Switch is described as a home console/handheld hybrid system, allowing players to alternate between playing on a television via a docking station and playing on the move using a detachable screen. Importantly, the trailer showcased the technical capabilities of the Switch with no apparent downgrade in terms of graphical fidelity on the mobile setup.

TL;DR – The Switch is a high-end portable gaming device.

The mobility of a handheld is now added to the power of a home gaming system to enable unprecedented new video game play styles.

Do People Really Want Console-Quality Gaming on the Go?

This is the question, isn’t it? The belief that you want to be able to play the same kind of games in the comfort of your home as you do standing elbow-to-elbow on a subway train.  That nothing as trivial as a toilet break should interrupt the pleasure of you slicing and dicing enemies in Zelda.

I’m not sure. The success of the Nintendo DS, and ostensibly mobile gaming on iOS and Android devices, was built on games that were developed specifically for gaming on-the-go – short chapters/missions, simplified controls that translate well to a compact device; a focus on gameplay as opposed to a truly immersive graphical experience.

That said, you can’t help but be impressed with Nintendo’s vision here. Their track record of carving out new paradigms in gaming makes me feel like I might be missing something here. Regardless, I’m along for the ride. Take me away, Yoshi!

Other hot takes:

1. The Switch is huuuuugggee

The Switch looks about the size of the Wii U Gamepad, which at almost half a kg constitutes a mini-workout for me just by picking it up and putting it back down.

With portability being a key proposition, this has to be a concern – the iPad Pro and iPad Air both weigh less than the GamePad. That said, if the battery life can be anywhere near those devices (approximately 10 hours), I’m in, solely on the fact that this will take in-flight entertainment to a whole new level.

2. The screen looks gorgeous

It was quite a sight seeing NBA2K on the detached gamepad looking crisp and sharp, considering the fact that 2K hasn’t been on a Nintendo console since 2013. I absolutely adore my 3DS XL and its incredible library of games but you can’t deny that mobile versions of current-gen have always been inferior, stripped down versions of their console counterparts.

No, the port of Final Fantasy X on the Playstation Vita – a game released in 2000 (!) – excellent as it may be, does not count.

3. The games will decide its fate

Speaking of the PS Vita, and we’re entering into Clichéville here, but it remains to be seen the third-party support that the Switch will gather, which will determine if its ceiling is more Gamecube or Wii. The EAs and Konamis are all there in the press release, albeit without anything specifically announced. Obviously it’s early days, and we can expect to see more in the next six months, but this will matter – more so than anything else.

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