The Nintendo NX finally made its debut operating under the name Nintendo Switch, and the Internet has been on fire. The system itself looks incredible and almost every rumour about what it was going to be has been confirmed. With all the excitement, here are five things to consider about the Nintendo Switch.
- No Touchscreen
From what we’ve seen of the Switch’s tablet screen, it would appear to function as just that: a screen. Throughout the trailer, at no point was touch-functionality shown off; given Nintendo’s previous attempt at a tablet controller, it seems odd that the Switch would drop the feature. While it makes sense given the added processing power required for touch-functionality coupled with how the tablet pairs with the dock, this may place concerns on the Switch’s potential backwards compatibility with Wii U games. Speaking of backwards compatibility.
- Switching to Flash-Based Media
The return to cartridges shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who was following the Switch’s initial conception since early patent designs clearly showed the absence of a disk drive in favour of one that read from flash drives. While this switch could have major implications that we’ll discuss in a moment, the real question is “how will the Switch be backwards compatible?” One of my favourite things about Nintendo’s recent consoles is their commitment to backwards compatibility; where other consoles would have you sitting on your hands waiting for new releases at least Nintendo let you play their old games on your new console. Not only that, it solved a big problem for less affluent gamers who wanted to trade in their old console to buy a new one, but didn’t have to fork over all their games. Given that so many of the Wii U’s best titles require the gamepad, without a touchscreen controller, or a disk drive it would appear Nintendo is poised to take a big step into the future while turning it’s back on the past.
I had concerns about the detachable controllers when rumours and potential designs about them first started to surface. That isn’t to say I didn’t think the idea of a tablet device with controllers you could safely remove and store for convenient gaming was incredible, I was more concerned about how they would look and feel. Now the Switch has confirmed what a lot of designs speculated, but I can’t help but wonder will it still work? I’m curious to know how well they snap into the tablet screen and if removal and return will wear it down to the point where they could slide out in your bag (as tends to happen with the storable stylus in the 3DS.) The joysticks and buttons look a little too close together to be comfortable in adult-sized hands such as my own. I even tried to simulate this feeling by holding my Wii U Gamepad sideways and seeing how it felt and while it seems really weird, I think with a bit of time, theoretically it could work. But I’ll be skeptical until I finally play something with those controllers.
- Powered By NVIDIA
On the NVIDIA website, there is a section that details a few of the Switch’s specs and it is pretty impressive. It uses a custom Tegra processor which includes an NVIDIA GPU “based on the same architecture as the as the world’s top-performing GeForce gaming graphics cards.” The post also says “The Nintendo Switch’s gaming experience is also supported by fully custom software, including a revamped physics engine, new libraries, advanced game tools and libraries. NVIDIA additionally created new gaming APIs to fully harness this performance. The newest API, NVN, was built specifically to bring lightweight, fast gaming to the masses.” I think this is a very important thing to consider. While the Wii and Wii U are both great systems, there’s no denying they were based more on a gimmick than actual hardware performance. The switch definitely has a gimmick, but it’s a gimmick that makes sense. Gaming is becoming a more mobile experience and the ability to take a console powerful enough to run something like Skyrim on the bus, or even to school to play between classes is more a selling feature to me than however many bits the PS4 Neo may have. Nintendo has embraced one of the leading companies in providing this kind of power (just look at the Geforce Notebooks), and developers are excited to get behind it.
- Rumoured Streaming Service and Potential Pricing
This is something I’ve wanted to discuss for a while and I’m going to squeeze it in here. Back in January The Verge reported on a Nintendo-client GFK that emerged online suggesting the Switch would offer a streaming service not unlike Netflix. If you signed up to it, for a monthly fee you would have access to the Switch's library. While several market analysts claimed this would be financially infeasible, and the survey has since been taken down, I think it’s worth speculating on given the potential this, coupled with a return to cartridge based media could have on shaping how games are priced in the future. If, hypothetically, flash based games could store whatever they need right to the cartridge, as opposed to discs needing not only the disc but extra memory for add-ons, and DLC, then this could put the onus back on the development side to price smaller games that require less data cheaper than bigger, more ambitious games. I see no reason why a Netflix-esk game delivery service couldn’t work coupled with actual physical release. Consumers have more than proven that they are willing to pay for convenience and if I can access any game I wanted, conveniently with a few button presses, I’d be more than willing to pay $15, even $20 a month for that (I already pay that for the luxury of getting to use Photoshop). Even at a hypothetically high price like $20 monthly, this would mean getting to access games you otherwise wouldn’t buy at an $80 price tag. What would further cement this is if Nintendo made their entire Virtual Console library accessible as well. Now you have years of gaming history at your fingertips, who wouldn’t want that? Even at a low price, I can’t help but think (or rather, hope) that the number of people willing to get behind this would balance the (seemingly) unrealistically low price of entry. This might push the rest of the game industry to compete for affordable, convenient distribution of games in the future, making it way more accessible.
Despite the speculation, the initial pitch of the Switch has me incredibly excited. Hopefully Nintendo will come out with actual hardware specifications and pricing soon to further build consumer trust while anticipation is high. If they execute this just right, many gamers will see this as the time to make the Switch to Nintendo.