Once upon a time, every Tom, Dick and Harry (and maybe even Harry’s grandma) had felt the sharp-but-inevitable pain of being smacked in the face by a Wiimote whilst playing Wii Sports tennis.
The Wii was a resounding success for Nintendo. Yet part of what made the console such a lucrative product also proved to be its biggest setback. With the amount of casual gamers it attracted, the number of ever-so-slightly rubbish casual minigame compilations skyrocketed (Carnival: Funfair Games anybody?) and dominated the market. Don’t get me wrong, the Wii was an ingenious console with some really great titles: Super Mario Galaxy, WarioWare: Smooth Moves, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and the questionably ‘new’ New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
In the end though, nobody really cared about motion control gaming, The gimmick grew stale and so did the Wii. Nintendo’s answer? The Wii U. Basically the Wii on steroids with a new touchpad controller. Graphically pretty impressive and also (eventually) home to a fair few great titles, the console suffered from poor marketing by Nintendo, who maybe overestimated its immediate appeal. At its core remained the motion controls nobody was bothered about anymore, and the controller really proved a difficult hurdle for third party developers to get past.
Whilst the Wii sold in excess of 101 million consoles worldwide, the Wii U managed a fraction of that. Even 2001’s GameCube reached sales of just over 21 million in a considerably smaller market. Understandably there was a fair amount of pressure on Nintendo to produce something that people actually wanted.
Predictions over their mysterious new project (working title ‘NX’) were pretty varied – until last Thursday. After over a year of waiting Nintendo’s new console was revealed: the Nintendo Switch. The majority of the speculation ended up being pretty spot on in the end, with the Switch doubling up as both a home and portable console. It achieves this by having a central control dock that plugs into the TV and a 720p glass screened control pad. There’s a separate ‘Pro’ controller that’s distinctly Xbox-esque, while the sides slide off the main control pad to form two mini controllers. This means you can play multiplayer games on the go without dragging around a load of bulky controllers – a move which brings the Mario Kart to predrinks.
If rumours are to be believed it’s going to ship with a custom Nvidia Tegra processor, which should nicely align it with the Xbox One and PS4’s specifications. Plus, it’s always nice to see Nintendo catching up with the so-called ‘serious’ gaming machines. For those still unsure, there’s a reveal trailer that has a variety of millennials with nice apartments and enthusiastic friendship groups showcasing all of these features. There’s a particularly good bit where somebody’s trying to play but keeps getting pestered by their dog, so they take it out for a walk whilst continuing to play. Why bother with warm, friendly animal companionship when you’ve got Super Mario Brothers?
Not many launch titles have been announced, but we know the list will include the hotly anticipated Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and an as-yet unannounced 3D Mario game. Skyrim: Special Edition along with an array of some of the better Wii U games in Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon have also been previewed. If Nintendo learns from its mistakes, the Switch could be a complete game changer.
As the undisputed leaders of the portable gaming industry, the hybridity of the Switch allows for new and interesting possibilities for both formats – maybe even the first Pokémon game on a home console (we can dream, right?). It’s even got one of those endangered headphone jacks. With the right marketing, a reasonable price point and a respectable array of games to please both serious and more casual gamers, the Switch might just be the commercial saviour Nintendo both needs and deserves.