It offers unique ways to play, but developers have repeatedly shunned that approach.
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Nintendo has revealed its new game console in typical Nintendo fashion: on its own terms and with little fanfare.
The Japanese company on Thursday released a three-minute video showing off the Nintendo Switch, a curious hybrid console that can be used at home or on the go. The Switch will go on sale in March and feature a high-performance Nvidia Tegra graphics chip.
Beyond that, not much is known about the console itself – its guts and its price are still under wraps.
The video does illustrate the Switch’s main attraction, which is the ability to play in many different ways thanks to the transformable controller and console unit itself.
Players can detach sections of the controller – called Joy-Cons – and slide them into the main unit, which then itself detaches and becomes a tablet-like device.
The video depicts people playing the same games at home on their TVs and while travelling. It also shows a number of people playing on the same device, meaning the Switch will feature local wireless multiplayer.
It’s difficult to judge the console based on so little information, but it’s obviously going to face several obstacles.
The Hybrid Factor:
It’s a general rule that hybrid devices – those that try to combine the functions of several – aren’t as good as dedicated products.
Hybrid manufacturers inevitably have to cut corners to squeeze more features in, which means those individual features are weaker than they would be on their own.
Tablets that convert into laptops, for example, are typically underpowered and have keyboards that are difficult to type on. Even Smartphones, which are incredibly useful for all that they do, don’t come close to taking better photos than single-lens reflex cameras.
The Nintendo Switch looks like it’s going to have the same issue. It’s big for a portable device and small for a home console, which means it will likely be underpowered compared to its competitors on that front.
Nintendo has released a graphic illustrating all of the third-party publisher support the Switch has, but as we know from previous consoles, that means very little.
Publishers including Activision, Warner Bros. and Electronic Arts are on board, but none have announced games for the Switch yet. Plenty were also on deck for the current Wii U console, but many deserted that ship quickly after its flop became apparent.
Ubisoft has pledged to make a Just Dance game available for the new Nintendo console, but beyond that, there isn’t much committed support to count on just yet. That may change soon, but there are also other issues third-party publishers are sure to be wary of…
Exclusive titles and franchises sell consoles, but the Switch appears light on that front so far.
The release video depicts several games: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Skyrim, Mario Kart 8, Splatoon and a new Super Mario game.
All of those, with the possible exception of Mario, are or will be available on other consoles, meaning that Nintendo will have to try and sell the public on the Switch’s unique gameplay capabilities. It will have to convince buyers that the Switch versions of those games are somehow better.
More importantly, the company will also have to convince developers that it’s worth putting extra effort into creating new gameplay options for the Switch.
That didn’t work out too well with the Wii U or its Wii predecessor. Third-party publishers found it too onerous to develop completely different games with radical gameplay styles for a relatively small install base.
They instead chose to focus on creating basically the same games for Sony and Microsoft consoles, which were relatively alike in hardware specifications and feature capability. Nintendo’s consoles were left comparatively barren of games.
As always, Nintendo deserves credit for doing something different. But being different has worked against the company with its previous consoles.
It’s still early for the Switch, but it doesn’t look like Nintendo has taken that lesson to heart – either that, or the company is willfully rebelling against it. In gauging the Switch’s prospects against its failed predecessors, at this point it sure looks like history is going to repeat itself.