Today Nintendo unveiled their new upcoming console, the Switch. The form of this console had been rumored for many months to be a hybrid of a console and a tablet. Today’s reveal confirmed those rumors were true. The product that was shown today is a tablet, that plugs into a dock that sits next to a TV. When you want to play games on it you can simply play as if it were a regular console. However, the real uniqueness of the system happens when you pull the tablet out of the docking station.
What was previewed in the short trailer is a tablet with detachable micro-controllers, that slide onto both sides, giving the tablet a feel much like the current Wii U Gamepad. However, unlike the Gamepad, the Switch tablet is a full featured console itself. When you detach it from the dock, and bring it along with you, it appears to still be a full version of the system. This means you can take the micro-controllers (called Joy-Cons) and play multiplayer games with friends. It even appears that you can connect multiple consoles and play multiplayer games with many people.
There wasn’t a ton of specific detail in the short video today, but that is the basics of what we saw. What excites me the most about this reveal is that it shows Nintendo is trying to push the boundaries of how and where we play games again. The Wii was a revolution to the console industry, with it’s motion controls. The Wii U tried to be a revolution with it’s Gamepad, but it didn’t quite catch on. Now Nintendo is trying to radically change the paradigm by bridging mobile gaming devices with a traditional console.
One thing that isn’t clear is if this device will eventually usher in a new single line of systems, that merge the DS portable line and the consoles. Nintendo has struggled for years against the bigger console makers, but it’s handheld gaming devices have remained strong. That was until the advent of the tablet revolution. Tablets provide a totally different gaming experience, but one that has caught the public’s attention. Even as I type this blog my wife is playing a game on her tablet.
What Nintendo has in it’s corner is it’s library of characters, and it’s reputation. By creating a gaming experience that can be both tablet based and mobile, yet feel like a console, they will be cornering a market all to their own. There have certainly been some attempts to graft console gaming onto the tablet form factor, but they have been small and niche. Nintendo has the reputation, and the licensed properties to blow that niche wide open. Even at it’s lowest point, the Wii U still sold 13 million units. That’s not a number that third party game developers can simply ignore. If the Switch can capture at least that much attention, it has a bright future ahead of it.
For now, we’re left wanting more details. Hopefully, the coming weeks will answer all of our questions and make us even more excited about what is to come.