Every couple of years, the big three gaming companies, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, introduce new game consoles for gamers to spend their hard-earned cash on.
Sony and Microsoft always promise the same thing for their new consoles; slightly improved graphics, better resolution and internet connectivity. Nintendo, however, has always tried to be more creative.
Sometimes Nintendo's approach has been wildly successful – the Wii's motion controls made it a household name. Other times it's been disastrous – the Wii's successor, the Wii U, had middling sales and ended up dead last in this generation’s console wars.
For the next iteration of consoles, Nintendo has finally unveiled the successor of the unfortunate Wii U; the Nintendo Switch. Long in development under the “NX” label, the Switch is called the first hybrid game console that works as both a mobile and home device, and will be available in March of next year.
The Switch consists of a portable screen that is plugged into a docking station connected to a TV, allowing for gaming at home or on the go. The controllers, called “Joy Con” controllers, are detachable. You can use them on a regular controller, attach them to the sides of the portable screen, or use each one individually.
This allows for all sorts of gaming styles, as Nintendo demonstrated in its introductory video. We see people play the Switch like a normal game system at home, pull out the screen and take it with them outside, and pull off the controllers and give one to a friend for co-op games.
Instead of using disks, like nearly every console the past few generations, the Switch will instead return to cartridges. About the size of a 3DS cartridge, they plug right into the mobile device.
According to Eurogamer, Nintendo has no intention of supplanting its current mobile console, the 3DS, with the Switch, and will continue to support the 3DS for the foreseeable future.
Critics have both praised and panned the Switch since its official announcement on Oct. 20. Some have lauded the Switch for being unique and with an easily understood concept, in comparison to the Wii U, which confused many at first thanks to a terrible marketing plan that didn't make it clear if it was even a new console. Others have decried the Switch, saying among other things that the screen's too big to fit in a pocket, gamers already have cell phones they can play on and the controllers will be too easy to lose.
The game system doesn't seem much more powerful than the Wii U. This isn't surprising – Nintendo has a history of skimping on the graphics to keep the price and size low, and its success with the Wii proves an underpowered console can still come out on top. A bigger problem, however, is the switch from disks to cartridges means the Switch won't be able to play games from the Wii and Wii U. Since the Switch will by necessity have very little games at first release, the lack of backward compatibility has the potential to be a real problem, although that might be mitigated by downloads later on down the line.
But of course the biggest question for Nintendo's newest system, and perhaps the only one worth asking, is this; will there be lots of games for the Switch, and will any of them be any good? Nintendo is famous for being the home to some legendary game series, such as Mario and Zelda, but infamous for being terrible with third-party support. The Wii may have sold gangbusters, but came up short in the way of solid games. As a result, Nintendo fans often miss out on games series such as “Dark Souls” and “The Witcher,” both of which came out on every system except for the Wii or Wii U. True, many third parties have pledged support for the Switch – but then again that's what they did for the last two of Nintendo's consoles, and both of those saw most third-party support dry up after a few months.
Don’t get your hopes up just because people are playing the Xbox and Playstation game “The Elder Scrolls:’Skyrim” in the promotional video – there's been no confirmation what games the Switch will have, and one several-year old game is not proof of better support.
So, will the Nintendo Switch be worth the price? Without knowing details, like the list of games on release, the battery life for the portable system or even the price for the thing, it's impossible to say for sure. All that can be said right now is that the Switch is an intriguing console with a unique concept, and since it's only four months away, Nintendo should have more information available soon.
Also of note is Nintendo's NES Classic Edition, set for release on Friday. Designed to look like the original Nintendo Entertainment System but smaller, the Classic comes bundled with 30 games from the system, such as “Super Mario Bros. 3” and the original “The Legend of Zelda.” There's different viewing modes, including one that emulates old TV settings, which is sure to leave older gamers in the throws of nostalgia and newer gamers wondering why anyone would want their games to look worse.