If you’re one of the two people who haven’t seen it yet, below is the “reveal” video for the Nintendo Switch, the new official name for what was previously known only as the NX.
Now, because everybody else has weighed in on it, I thought I’d go ahead and share my own thoughts on it too. I know you didn’t ask for ’em, but them’s the breaks, innit!?
First off, I think it’s fair to say that I’m both intrigued and excited – and that’s really not a bad note for a reveal to hit. Whilst the video was notable for a total absence of the real, actual kind of cold hard details that’ll ultimately decide whether I purchase the Switch or not, it was positively packed with the kind of potential that might make me consider it.
In the case of the latter, the Switch is clearly aiming to be the first device to successfully marry the worlds of portable and console gaming, and that’s undoubtedly an exciting prospect. I spend a fair amount of time stuck in various states of “travelling”, and my PSVita is much-loved precisely because it often distracts me from, say, thinking about the fact that I’m in a pressurised tube, 30 000 feet above the ground, and totally at the mercy of, like, physics and shit. As great as that is however, and as much as I love my Vita, there’s no denying that I’ll nearly always favour playing a console instead – all other things being equal. Screen size, processing power, games etc. all mean that the console is (more often than not) going to win the battle for my (increasingly precious) gaming time.
Should the Switch genuinely allow me to get the best of both worlds, therefore, that in-and-of-itself may just be enough for me to jump on board the Switch Train as it leaves the station: Toot TOOT, etc, etc. If I can be immersed in a world of console size and scope, and legitimately pick that up and take it with me anywhere, I’m all about that shit! Truly. #shutupandtakemymoney right now! Regardless of how many 3rd party developers embrace it, no matter how many exclusives there’ll be, that – right there – will be a huuuuge incentive for me. Like, murrrrfuckin’ mahoosive.
That said though, even though this was clearly the impression Nintendo wanted us to take away from the video, given the aforementioned lack of actual details I’m currently not entirely convinced of the reality of this. Notwithstanding the fact that “reveals” are often specifically and deliberately engineered to be vague (generating excitement without actually ruining it with facts and such), there are some very real, and ultimately quite important questions that need to be answered before the Switch can be considered what it’s currently being claimed to be. Indeed, there are quite a few reasons why handheld gaming has frequently been inferior to console gaming, and those reasons ain’t nothing. Admittedly, with recent advances in computing, batteries, mobile communications and whatnot, they’re increasingly surmountable – but had Nintendo truly cracked some of them, I think they’d have been shouting that shit from the rooftops already, right!?
Anyways, battery life, for example, is a thing, but it isn’t quite the problem it once was. Regular tablets, Gaming Tablets, Mobile Phones can all come with a decent degree of juice these days. Ditto processing power. My tablet, for example, is ridiculously light, impressively fast, and (with a bit of tweaking) can comfortably play movies and games for a decent chunk of time between charges. Because of this – and even though Nintendo didn’t exactly push the limits with the Wii U controller – I’m reasonably prepared to remain optimistic about the Switch’s capabilities in at least these areas. My Vita battery lasts about 5-6 hours and that’s by no means phenomenal, but it’s a decent chunk, and anything in that ballpark would be acceptable, I think. Longer would be better, obviously, but again, I’m happy to wait and see what the Switch is capable of and, unless it’s something daft like 15 minutes, battery won’t necessarily be a dealbreaker for me.
What I’m slightly more concerned with, however, is the lack of details elsewhere. More specifically – how, when, and to what degree is the Switch truly a “best of both worlds” option!? To start with, because there was so little actual information, we don’t even know if the screen bit of the Switch is anything other than a Switch branded tablet acting as a second screen. Why does that matter? Well, it matters quite a bit actually!
If, for the sake of argument, the dude playing the Switch on the plane is doing so because that’s one of the new-fangled planes with Wi-Fi, and not because the “screen” is doing any real work (because it’s streaming what the box is doing back home), then all Nintendo are bringing to the table is the elimination of the current ‘same network’ limitations for second screens. I mean, that’s cool and all, but it wouldn’t be too hard for Sony or Microsoft to do that too, and for my tablet (which already gives me a second screen option) to become a potential means of me playing my PS4 even more remotely. More importantly, it’d also mean I wouldn’t be playing it on that plane if it didn’t have Wi-Fi.
Admittedly, we also see Airplane playing dude inserting some kind of cartridge into his Switch screen, which would suggest he’s playing the game through it – but a) I’ll direct you back to the whole vagueness of reveals thing, and b) if it is doing that, we’re then back to the question of just how powerful (read: console-ish) the Switch can truly be. I mean, my tablet’s pretty good, but it’s not PlayStation 4 good! And at this point, we don’t even know what that little box in front of the TV is, right?
Is it doing anything? Is it just a handy stand whilst your Switch does what any tablet with chromecast can do, but with a wireless controller in the mix too? Indeed, can we hook the screen up to any TV anywhere, or do we need that box (à la the PlayStation TV whatsit) to physically link them?
Hell, perhaps it’s actually literally both a handheld and a console – with the ability to genuinely play cartridges on the go, but play console quality games at home through the box-ey doodah (and/or stream them when you do have all the right conditions in place)!? Again, that’s pretty cool, but it’s not necessarily what we’ve been led to believe, and it’s certainly not cracking the console-gaming-on-the-go conundrum. It means you’d get a twofer with the Switch, for sure, but it wouldn’t mean you’d get a ‘play anywhere console experience’. The former’s a nice touch, but the latter’s a genuine Gamechanger.
Which brings me right back to the ‘too little information’ thing, and that leaves me with little option but to wait and see as more information comes out. The Nintendo lover in me wants me to be optimistic, wants to believe we’re about to see something close to what the video hints at, but the cynic in me (and the current limitations of technology) are ultimately urging caution. I’d love to be proved wrong, but until Nintendo actually tell me differently, I’ma err on the side of caution and expect at least some of that video to have contained a wee bit of “creative suggestion” that might ultimately be found wanting as inconvenient things like, say, reality enter the equation.
Again, I really, really hope I’m wrong. I’m officially wrong 99.4% of the time, but then, on the other hand, it’d be just my luck for this to be one of the 0.6%!
October 27, 2016 at 4:47 pm
You may have heard this already, but Nvidia clarified that the system has a Tegra-derived SoC running in the tablet, and that the dock basically has no on-board processing power. It’s just a charging station/HDMI pass-through.
I doubt the system will be much of a jump over the Wii U. Which will make it very impressive for a handheld, but not so much for a console. I don’t think it will really matter, since at least 90% of the games I or anyone else will play on it will be Nintendo games, and they will definitely get the most of the system. They know how to use limited technology to make games that look great regardless.
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October 27, 2016 at 5:51 pm
Yeah, just as I was about to post the piece, I lost power/Internet for 24+hrs, so by the time I’d posted and caught up, I already looked a bit behind.
But, yes, I agree with everything else you say. It’ll basically be a great handheld with TV hook-up, but it’ll ultimately be the Nintendo in-house stuff that’ll sell it, really.
I mean, that’s great (I’ve said the Wii U is still great for much the same reason), but then on the other hand, it’s basically the same strategy that everybody deemed a failure with the Wii U, right!?
Nintendo fans will be onboard, obviously, but I do worry it might not be entirely well-received by on-the-fencers!?