Does Nintendo Switch Mean Nintendo is Switching its Endgame?

For those who missed it, Nintendo recently revealed the long awaited NX as the Nintendo Switch. As predicted, it’s a kind of home/mobile console hybrid. While Nintendo discussed the system a bit back in March 2015 at an investor’s meeting, a certain image from Nintendo’s presentation showed the 3DS and Wii U aligned with what is now known as the Switch.

Interestingly enough, the three consoles were shown aligned with tablets, smartphones, and PCs in reference to the company’s plan to “develop and operate a new membership system.” At the same time, the company was said to have “stronger passion and vision for the dedicated video game system business than ever.” So what’s going on now that we have a better idea of what the Switch is doing?

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Phasing out the old

Despite the above image, remember that said image was used when the new system was not yet released. Having the other two consoles near the secret project was to show continued work for the time being. There’s a few big hints that the new system aims to replace both the current gen systems.

First is portability. Outside of the smart phone market, Nintendo is hands down the king of portables. Even Sony gave up on the market, noting that mobile was saturated without specifically mentioning Nintendo’s console taking away flagship titles like Monster Hunter. Nintendo would be foolish to compete against themselves, and a portable version of Elder Scrolls is a selling point that clearly targets the Xbox/Playstation crowd. There are some other considerations for this topic, but I’ll return to those later.

The home console situation seems more obvious. Like the GameCube and Wii with Zelda: Twilight Princess, our next Zelda title, Breath of the Wild, is coming out for two systems. However, unlike with the GC/Wii version, the Wii U version of Breath of Wild had no control scheme in my demo that hinted that it made use of the system’s unique features. Nintendo was willing to make more immersive controls for Twilight Princess, but the lack of this for the Wii U seems to signal the demise of the system and priority on the new one and that’s something we need to discuss.

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The end of gimmicky controls?

We don’t have all the details out, but as things stand the Nintendo Switch doesn’t seem to use a lot of gimmicks for it’s home console mode. There are some rumors about motion control in a Joy-Con controller and portable touchscreens but we’ll get to that later. The simple fact of the matter is that the screen is hidden by its docking station as a home console, and it would be very difficult to wave a controller at in its mobile mode. This is key because, well, the new system isn’t very good at backwards compatibility. The Switch isn’t including any support for the current generation of physical Wii U disks or 3DS cartridges and also lacks dual screens, a feature of both of Nintendo’s current gen systems.

While it is possible that the system could have a touchscreen for its mobile titles, that almost seems to defeat the purpose of the system’s dual nature. It’s entirely possible, as most of Nintendo’s gimmicks are rarely well used by third party developers aside from Ubisoft and ZombiU, but seems unlikely given the fact that none of the early reveals showed off any features from Nintendo’s past. The one consistent “gimmick” was the fusion of mobile and home gaming, something Nintendo has been working towards since the Super GameBoy add-on for the Super Nintendo.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: It was later revealed after this article was written that the Nintendo Switch will indeed have a touch screen. However, the point of the feature not affecting home console play still stands as the portable screen hides from view while docked.)

Since Nintendo has been pushing their eShop and ability to sell older titles, this seems to present a bit of a challenge. Going back to the March 2015 investors meeting, Nintendo had said that they “will not port dedicated video game system software titles just as they are.” Though the discussion was mostly about developing titles for smart phones, the late Satoru Iwata continued, saying, “… if I can talk a bit further about our game development plan, we will continue doing our best to develop dedicated game titles for our dedicated game hardware platforms just as we have been doing.” This could have been a hint that Nintendo would be willing to modify old games to fit new technologies and platforms. This has already been done with smartphones. As Nintendo mentioned tablets and PC, well, couldn’t the Switch be Nintendo’s first step towards PC markets?

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Expanding Markets

Plainly speaking, Nintendo’s Switch finally pushes Nintendo consoles into a single, home/mobile hybrid the company has been gravitating towards for years. The company finally branched into the mobile market and has been expanding their Steam-lite digital vendor, the eShop, playing with a little cross-system carry over in terms of titles, not just with their amiibo game but with Super Mario Maker 3DS. How can Nintendo try to box two very different playstyles into a single console after a lifetime of gimmicky peripherals?

The first idea would be to simply kill off titles that don’t carry over well. We’ve not seen the original ROB game back in action, nor anything that used the Power Pad. Another is that Nintendo finds a way around it, such as simply unlocking options that were restricted by a device, as they did with some e-reader card content. I have a feeling amiibo content will end up the same, but that’s a whole other article.

This is where, admittedly, I may be reaching. There is another option though: Nintendo always for PC play. A good deal of Nintendo’s best games don’t use gimmicks. Dual screen can be simple enough to emulate on a PC screen, which is important because they’ve added a lot for some games, a loss that could be sorely felt. Adapters could be made for the Wii remotes and even the Game Pad, making games like Nintendo Land safe to port and share with future generations.

While I’ve detailed Japan’s issue with PCs in the past, Nintendo did mention wanting to connect players in new ways and did mention PC. Currently, the PC aspect only seems to be social media stuff like Miiverse, though Miiverse seems primarily aimed at those using dedicated Nintendo consoles. Even worse, Nintendo’s eshop can’t even be run on a web browser, making Nintendo’s Internet connection their weakest link at the moment.

However, I imagine Nintendo sees the Switch more like a computer. The specs for the Switch could just be seen as the minimal specs for PC play. Peripherals could be sold to PC players to help ensure that Nintendo’s products are reaching a broader audience, which they’ve seen with Smart Phones. PCs certainly don’t have the same reach as smart phones, but as tablets, which are also on our diagram, catch up, PC design could help Nintendo be ready for a day tablets take over. It’s a long shot idea, but one thing’s for certain: the Switch is certainly moving Nintendo to it’s old end game goal, but seems to put them at odds with their past emphasis on unique control styles.

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