On March 3, Nintendo Switch will usher in a new era of possibilities for video games by switching up the way we play.
When Nintendo first revealed its latest video game system in October, many were dismayed by its bland name: the Nintendo Switch. Sure, the trailer showed off that the system would act as both a home console and a portable unit — hence the “Switch” — but the name seemed too benign, too literal for a company that has prided itself on bucking industry conventions. Nintendo went beyond a mere teaser trailer three months later, offering an in-depth look at the Nintendo Switch. Right then it became clear the system was fittingly named not only for its variety of different modes of play but for its potential to change the way we see and interact with video games.
Let’s switch up our perceptions on what a piece of video game hardware can be, shall we?
The Nintendo Switch is a console that you will be able to play both at home and throughout your morning commute. It’s a system the family can play in the living room, the kids can enjoy in the car during long rides, and friends can share new experiences on.
How does this all work?
The Nintendo Switch comes with a 6.2-inch LCD screen. The screen is technically the console, as all the console’s power is drawn from the unit. For home console play, the screen slides into a docking station. When the system is docked, you can take the included controllers called Joy-Cons — shaped almost like small Wii remotes — and attach them to a center piece dubbed the Joy-Con grip. All connected, it has the look of a standard controller. From here, you can play the Nintendo Switch just like a standard video game system, with the picture displaying across your television screen.
Let’s say while playing you realize you have to catch the bus but you’re at a crucial juncture in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Okay, easy. Remove the console from the dock and the console seamlessly enters handheld mode. Don’t want to carry the bulky controller with you? Simply remove the left and right Joy-Cons from the grip and slide them into their respective sides of the portable screen. Now you’re holding Nintendo’s most powerful handheld system in Nintendo’s over-25-year history of making beloved handheld gaming systems.
Those modes of play comprise the two most popular forms of playing dedicated video game systems, but the Nintendo Switch can do even more.
The LCD screen is also a touchscreen. Unlike previous Nintendo touchscreens of the Wii U and Nintendo DS lines, the Nintendo Switch’s touchscreen can register more than a single finger-press at one time. This is accomplished through the implemented capacitive technology, which allows for up to 10 unique gestures at once in games that take advantage of touchscreen controls. For people used to playing games on their phones, the Nintendo Switch will offer a more dynamic style of play. The screen will also be fitted with haptic technology, which simulates the feeling of touching physical buttons on-screen with vibrating feedback.
You will be swapping the Joy-Con controllers on and off the grip and onto the sides of the screen often, but sometimes you may just want to keep them off. If a loved one is watching a movie on the TB, but you don’t feel like holding the portable unit in your hands, the screen has a kickstand to prop the unit up on a surface. With one Joy-Con turned to the side — now resembling an NES controller — you can play games on the portable screen without holding the device. A friend can even pick up the other one to play with you.
The combination of Nintendo’s history of consoles at play in the Nintendo Switch is remarkable, but its ability to build on previous systems is what truly makes the Switch revolutionary.
In console mode, you can attach the Joy-Con controllers to dedicated wrist straps, which also add another button to each controller. Both Joy-Cons are fitted with a tiny camera, a motion detector, an accelerometer, HD Rumble and a gyro sensor. Additionally the right Joy-Con is equipped with an infrared camera that detects distance. What all this means is that the Joy-Cons also offer the means to play games similar to those of the Nintendo Wii but in a much more precise and immersive fashion.
When the Joy-Con controllers are moved during motion-oriented games, it feels as if you’re harnessing the power of what’s being simulated on-screen. This precise technology allows you to play games without even facing the screen in the assortment of games in the launch title, 1-2 Switch. In this game, you stand at the side of your television screen with one Joy-Con while facing another person on the other side of the screen holding a Joy-Con. You play an assortment of activities including table tennis, sword fighting, baseball, and a Western-style duel, all while looking at one another.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the Nintendo Switch will be deciding how you want to interact with the console. The astounding variety alone makes it Nintendo’s most versatile console in its storied history.
The Nintendo Switch will certainly shake things up, but how exactly will it change the way we think about video games today?
With emerging technologies such as VR, the prevalence of superpowered gaming PCs and the graphical capabilities of Nintendo’s so-called rival consoles from Microsoft and Sony setting the industry standard for modern gaming, the Nintendo Switch will enter the crowded environment with a different agenda in mind.
Nintendo wants to redefine our video game experiences, but it looks to do this by casting a wide net, capable of wrangling in people across all ages and walks of life. The notion that Nintendo is somehow competing with the rest of the industry is up for debate externally, but internally Nintendo is walking a path that has room for itself alone.
The Nintendo Switch is a culmination of Nintendo’s tireless efforts to shape the video game industry one console iteration at a time. It combines Nintendo’s most successful business venture, handheld gaming, with the typical preference for core gamers, home console play. In this sense, Nintendo gave the people what they wanted with the initial Nintendo Switch trailer. When it came time to demonstrate its full range of capabilities, the Nintendo Switch started to embody the name it was given. For those who casually play games on phones, the Nintendo Switch will refine and build on that appeal. For people who clung to their Wii consoles during the underwhelming Wii U era, Nintendo is introducing an elevated motion experience.
But for the legions of Nintendo fans who have stuck by through the highs and lows, the Nintendo Switch seeks to give you the games you know and love, in bigger and better formats. Starting with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at launch and continuing through the holiday season with what promises to be the most expansive tale of the plumber yet (Super Mario Odyssey), the Nintendo Switch will provide the classic Nintendo experience we know and love.