Has Nintendo Changed Strategies In Time With The Nintendo Switch?

As with every major console announcement, there’s a buzz of excitement in the air. With Nintendo’s official  unveiling of the Nintendo Switch it’s confirmed a few things, whilst creating a whole new range of questions that we’re itching to find the answers to. It being Nintendo, it’s clear once again that they’re not following in anyone else’s footsteps, nor remotely engaging with the console battle that Sony and Microsoft are embroiled in. Instead they’re offering new ways to play their games, with a console quite unlike anything that’s gone before. Whether that’s a good thing or not is open to debate.

Some fans were probably hoping for Nintendo to get right back into the fray by releasing a console with similar specifications to the PS4 and Xbox One, one that would enable multiplatform releases to appear easily and see Nintendo’s output on the technological cutting edge. However, they’ve clearly set that path aside a number of years ago, and though the Wii U will always be seen as a commercial failure, it seems likely that their success with the unequivocally different Wii continues to fuel their aspirations.

So, let’s put the Switch into focus. This is a home console/handheld hybrid that allows you to play your games on a television or on it’s own screen. It connects to the TV by sitting in an unassuming dock that will likely also charge the unit. The controllers either clip onto a frame to form a semi-regular controller – it looks like a dog – attach to either side of the screen when you’re out and about, can be played with separately a bit like a Wii remote and nunchuck, or can be utilised as teeny tiny controllers for multiplayer gaming on the fly. As with both of Nintendo’s previous consoles there’s also a more standardised Pro controller, though they’ve now adopted the Xbox thumbstick layout rather than sticking with the Wii U’s top-heavy one.

Simply put, it’s the kind of technological free-thinking that we’ve come to expect from Nintendo, and one that’ll be buoyed by their in-house developers, as well as a pleasing number of confirmed third party publishers. If the commercial is to be believed, it’s a console you’ll take out to walk the dog, play in the car, or take to roof-top parties with your friends, before snuggling down into your sofa at home for a continued bash at Skyrim. There are at least a couple of elephants in the room though, and at least one of them has to be the Wii U.
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There are a number of shared design characteristics between the Switch and Nintendo’s most recent home console, and the Switch reveal trailer appeared to show both Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon running on it, though this was merely representative as opposed to a tacit confirmation of these games making their way to the system. Firstly, the poor uptake for the Wii U has to have some kind of knock-on effect for consumer confidence, and for those that did buy one and found its third party software support distinctly lacklustre, it’s going to be an uphill battle to bring them back into the fold.

One of the questions we don’t really know the answer to is how the Switch fits Nintendo’s home and handheld hardware strategy. If it’s the successor to both the Wii U and the 3DS, the more focussed approach could pay dividends, and given that Nintendo brought all of their hardware designers under one roof a couple of years ago it would seem that it’s likely. With the handheld sector completely changed by the ubiquity and growing power of mobile phones and tablets, a console that works at home and beyond is an elegant solution to tackling a dwindling slice of the market.

The other side of that argument is that it’s a machine that simply doesn’t need to exist. The relative failure of the PlayStation Vita and the reduced sales of the 3DS over the DS point to the fact that dedicated handheld hardware is on the decline – that said, the 3DS is now at a very respectable 60 million units sold. The combination of tablets and bluetooth controllers – which the Switch riffs on in one of its configurations – are already capable of some pretty impressive gaming experiences.

Growth in the mobile sector could see games appear with ever-increasing production budgets and could in turn eventually rival those for home console AAA releases. You can then stream them to your television as well, or in some cases even connect directly via HDMI, but then is this an example where Nintendo are actually emulating somebody else rather than the innovation we expect to see? Sure, boasting Nintendo software and true home-console releases – portable Skyrim anybody? – sets the Switch at the head of the pack, but will it have the added functionality that people are used to from a tablet?

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But Nintendo hardware isn’t bought with the head, it’s bought with the heart, and I love what I’ve seen of the Switch so far. I’ve owned every single home and handheld console Nintendo have ever released – bar the Virtual Boy – and their franchises and their commitment to quality have never failed to capture my attention.

Mario, Zelda, Metroid, F-Zero, Fire Emblem, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Star Fox; they’re all simply integral to my very idea of gaming, and if Nintendo can bring compelling games to the Switch from those franchises it’ll be on the right path – for me at least. It’s everything I wished the Wii U was, and as much as I loved the gamepad and its host console’s often odd dual-screen philosophy, there were a great many times I wished that I could just carry it out of the house. This time though, here’s a portable console that is truly staking a claim on home console quality gaming.

They do however have to ensure that those third party games don’t dry up, and that developers and publishers see the value in bringing their best games to Nintendo’s unique platform, which might be tricky with the associated costs of releasing games on cartridge as opposed to disc. Seeing Skyrim and NBA 2K17 in the Switch trailer certainly sets the right tone, but it has to build on that. The other elephant-shaped question is simply whether the average consumer is going to get it.

Thankfully they’ve done away with the Wii moniker, and it seems that dual-screen functionality and even touch screen technology are on the way out – there wasn’t any sign of screen prodding in that trailer – but this amalgamation might not work on either front. Potentially too expensive for a dedicated handheld, and not powerful enough to compete as a home console, the Nintendo Switch has a lot to prove, but then there’s a lot left to discover between now and March.

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Written by
TSA's Reviews Editor - a hoarder of headsets who regularly argues that the Sega Saturn was the best console ever released.

21 Comments

  1. One area that hasn’t been talked about is that when the Switch is undocked everyone thinks that you have to go outside with it. I’m liking the fact that I can go to bed and play on it, go to another room while the main TV is used, or stay in the same room and still be able to play.

    Yes my PS4/Vita Remote Play combo can kind of do that but not as elegantly. Plus using the same controller whilst mobile appeals massively. The Vita lacks full controller buttons and the smaller thumb sticks combined with even the tiniest bit of lag make games like Rocket League too difficult to play as well as with a DS4 on the PS4 directly. Also if you have no console at the moment to do this with Sony you need a £250 PS4 and a £150 (?) Vita. I’m hoping the Switch will be £249 possibly with a game. Could be being a tad too optimistic there!

    • I never understood the complain about the vita Lack of controls when you can easily map out your control buttons on the vita. As for lag, people connect the vita to their wifi instead of disconnecting it, that way it doesn’t lag.

      • Yeah I use Wifi direct which for most games it works fine but those that you need split second responses like Rocket League (and mostly racing games) it just isn’t quite the same. And as for remapping the buttons, some games use more buttons that the Vita has and also the change in button location makes switching between PS4 and Vita tricky at times.

        I’m not saying it is beyond useless, what I’m saying is that these niggles will be non-existent on the Switch.

      • Don’t connect your vita directly to the wifi & it will be lag free forever.

      • What do you mean by “Don’t connect your vita directly to the wifi”? I use the option in the PS4 Remote Play settings that says “Connect Directly to PS Vita” – is this wrong?

      • I think he means connect directly to the PS4 wifi instead of via your home wifi.

      • What TS said lol sorry English is my 4th language haha

      • That’s what I do!! Still shit!

  2. I think the Switch is another massive gamble, one I like the look of but from the reaction I’m not totally sure will be successful enough. I don’t think it’s quite unlike anything that’s gone before, it’s very similar to a Linx Windows tablet that docks in a huge, ugly controller frame, giving normal controller options to a tablet and presumably allowing some sort of XBox remote play. It also harkens back to the PSP Go that had a video out and let you connect a DualShock 3. There’s probably more examples but this is just the most mainstream dockable-portable console so far, and unfortunately the format hasn’t made an impression. If anyone has got a good chance of making a success of the idea though it’s Nintendo, but they really have got to get these things flying off the shelves. They need to make sure there’s plenty of recognisable games on release, probably lean on ports for a few nostalgia sales, get the back catalogue of old Ninty games running straight away to appeal to the local multiplayer fans and most definitely be clear on whether this replaces or sits next to the 3DS. Support and clarity, if they manage that then I reckon I’ll buy one :)

  3. This another Nintendo attempt to differentiate themselves but they need to just make a console that connects to the tv & that’s it. All these extra continue your game while you on the go, is waste of resourceful things they could have done.

    By the way the controller has to be one of the worst looking in a long time

  4. I love it. I was very dubious about the concept before but after watching the reveal I couldn’t pre-order it fast enough.
    I’ve no intention of playing 3rd party games on it that I will be able to get on Xbox One/Scorpio/PC – but I am excited to be playing Nintendo games (Zelda/Mario) on it along with JRPG games. Being able to take it anywhere in addition to having it set-up in the living room where I can game with the kids and wife is a really neat feature. Those times where I am too knackered to get into some hardcore gaming with my dedicated set-up will see me able to just take the switch up to bed and lose myself in a “Nintendo” world before nodding off.
    The dedicated controller looks functional but not the best. But the removable controllers are genius and standing the switch up on a table to play some local MP Mario Kart/Party will see the Monopoly board gather dust.

    I’d like to see Nintendo chase the 3rd party games and go for the biggest audience, but at the same time I’m happy if they just provide a way and the only way to play those magic games they come up with. I do hope they see fit to add some sort of achievement system and better online (friends list/matchmaking) but that isn’t a dealbreaker.

    Personally, I’m getting this over PS4 Pro and VR as funds are tighter (especially with Scorpio on the way) and I’m not ready for VR yet – seems too early for the tech. Happy to stick with the old ways of on the TV or in my hands, the switch being a new enough idea in how to play my games but not an entirely new way to play games.

  5. Looks like a surface with side controls attached. You can already connect other controllers to a surface and dock it etc… though this will be cheaper.

    Seems like unless you’re desperate to play Nintendo games (personally I’m not a fan of zelda, Mario etc…) there’s not much new with the switch.

  6. So apparently 2k and Bethesda have both released statements along the lines of .. “we were pleased to collaborate with Nintendo for the Switch reveal trailer but we are not confirming any titles yet”.

    • Why say that when the games are clearly shown in the advert?
      If those games are not coming to the switch then is that not false advertising?
      Talk about trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted.

      • I know, you’d think if those games were definite they wouldn’t have a problem confirming them now that they’ve been included in the trailer. Perhaps there’s still some licencing issues to sort out?

  7. Aside from the Nintendo fan that’ll buy it anyway, I think they’re appealing to a very niche audience that certainly won’t get them any kind of sales figures that will worry Sony or Microsoft. Though maybe they’re content with that? I’m surprised they didn’t show a Pokemon Go type of game in the reveal, surely that would’ve gotten more buzz than a 5 year old game everyone has played (that want’s to play it)

  8. Still not sure what to make of the Nintendo Switch. In many ways, it feels like the next logical step for Nintendo after the Wii U, but it can’t be denied that it’s a huge risk. Arguably the main thing that killed the Wii U was a lack of third-party support, which was mainly due to the console’s low amount of power compared to the PS4 and Xbox One, and it looks like that will also be the case with the Switch. Sure, handheld Skyrim should be awesome, but that suggests the hardware is going to be comparable to the PS4/Xbox One absolute max, rather than something more powerful. That begs the question, is this the first console in the ninth generation, or Nintendo’s second home console in the eighth? For that matter, are console generations even relevant anymore?

  9. I like it, I am psyched for it…but I don’t know if I would jump the gun and buy it.

  10. I can feel my pants tightening to the thought of Nintendo putting all their games on this one system going forward.

    They can have a large enough output on their own to combat prolonged draughts.

    A lot of people see this as aimed against the PS4/Xbone, but I don’t think it’s a direct competitor. It is possible to own and love more than one system after all. And if you can only afford one? Well, the Switch can play Splatoon in bed. So there’s that.

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