What We Want To See With The Nintendo Switch
Today we got our first look at the Nintendo Switch, previously codenamed the Nintendo NX, and we are eager to know more. Even after Nintendo simply teased that an announcement was coming today, the company's stock value raised by $1 billion overnight. Anticipation continues to rise, but we still have a lot of questions. Will Nintendo continue to support the 3DS if the Nintendo Switch is more of a unified console, blending functionalities of a home console and handheld device? Will third-party support continue to grow or be more successful than it was on the Wii U?
Game Informer editors share their concerns and hopes for what they would like to see with the Nintendo Switch, as we near its March 2017 release.
One Platform To Unite Them All
Although Nintendo is touting its strong third-party support for the Switch, we all saw how that worked out for Wii U. The age-old defense from Nintendo fans has always been, “Nobody buys Nintendo consoles for non-Nintendo games,” but when there are huge gaps between big releases, that argument doesn’t hold much water. It could be a long shot given how enormously successful the 3DS still is, and how Nintendo has insisted that it won’t be replacing existing platforms, but if the console/handheld hybrid design inspires Nintendo to focus on one platform rather than two as it has since the introduction of the Game Boy, it could make the Switch a must-have. Imagine having each successive Pokémon game appearing alongside the new console-level Zelda and Mario games. It would get rid of Nintendo’s issue with gaps between major first-party releases, and hopefully deliver us a more focused approach that gives you all of your games on one system.
As a parent (the worst way to begin a sentence, I know), I’m particularly excited about what the Switch could mean for my kids. My oldest son is obsessed with getting his own 3DS, but I’ve been pushing back. After seeing the trailer this morning, I’m even more comfortable with that decision. I like that it’s something that he’d be able to play by himself on the couch, and also shift over to a TV when it’s available. Yes, I’m aware that you can do that on the Wii U, but the GamePad is too bulky and awkward for that to be a long-term option for him – not to mention its abysmal battery life. I also like the form factor; instead of hunching over a 3DS in isolation, other people will be able to play games with him on it thanks to its unconventional controls. Of course, that is all dependent on the price. If it’s ridiculously expensive, I suspect he’ll have to suffer without his own console for a while longer. Life is hard, guys.
Backwards Compatibility, Please
Backwards compatibility has become a favorable feature as we jump from one console generation to the next. The 3DS can play DS games, the Wii U allows you to play Wii games, and for older titles, the Virtual Console has been a great way for players to return to old favorites on platforms like the Nintendo 64 and earlier. However, I don't want to have to buy several older games again just to play them on a new platform. Once the Nintendo Switch releases, it will have been around four years since the Wii U's release, and outside of a strong line-up of launch titles, backwards compatibility could be a good selling point to entice consumers. From today's teaser, we saw that the new console uses cartridge-based games, which makes me wonder if 3DS or DS games will also be compatible.
It's unclear whether the console uses discs at this point, but Wii U and Wii backwards compatibility would be a great step forward. Especially if Nintendo hopes to market a more "unified" console that embraces a handheld and home console in one, I hope to be able to use both my older handheld and Wii games on the Nintendo Switch. This also begs the question about a second screen, considering several DS/3DS games use that functionality, and whether the Nintendo Switch will have a touchscreen. I suppose we'll find out in due time, but this would definitely be a profitable and anticipated feature.
Will Pokémon Go Big?
The first thing I thought when saw the Switch was, “We may finally get the Pokémon console game we’ve all been waiting for.” The Pokémon Company has already stated that it will be making games for the new system, but the video reveal was the first confirmation that the unit seamlessly transitions between a home console and a handheld unit. While we still don’t know if that will bring an end to the DS lines of hardware (unifying the two markets seems like the obvious goal, but you can’t rule anything out with Nintendo), it seems all but certain that the mainline Pokémon RPG series will show up on the Switch in the next couple years.
In that case, the real question becomes, “Will it change the series?” Part of the reason Pokémon fans have wanted the series on a Nintendo home console is the prospect of a bigger and deeper experience afforded by the added horsepower. While we still don’t have specs for the Switch, the video showed glimpses of Skyrim (presumably the upcoming remastered version) running on it, so it’s probably a safe assumption that it will be more powerful than a normal handheld. Will Game Freak treat it that way? Will the developer continue to follow the familiar blueprint of all the other portable Pokémon games? Or will it craft an experience that’s worthy of hogging up the living-room television for hours on end? I’m hoping the Switch, combined with the massive success of Pokémon Go, has convinced Game Freak to take the series to the next level. A more in-depth open world complete with quests and activities, updated visuals (maybe a new art style altogether), voiced dialogue, and a more integrated multiplayer experience are just a few of many additions and enhancements Game Freak could make to the series, and Nintendo’s new hybrid system is the perfect opportunity to experiment.
The All-Important Third Party
The first video for the Nintendo Switch mostly showcases familiar Nintendo properties on the screen, but it’s notable that we got at least a couple of glances of third-party properties. And that, as far as I’m concerned, is the all-important issue. I attribute most of the challenges that Nintendo has faced with its recent consoles to the absence of adequate third-party support, and I suspect the Switch will be made or broken by the power of Nintendo’s partnerships. Third-party support is essential to make the Switch a viable console, and while Nintendo has already stated that it is working with big third-party companies like Activision, Ubisoft, and EA, I hope that Nintendo is working hard to keep them in the fold. Equally important, Nintendo would be remiss at this point to not attempt direct outreach to the huge number of talented indie development studios working today. Many players want their home platform to include great independent titles, and Nintendo can’t afford to just sit back and wait for those indie teams to come to their door.
A Smoother, Better Online Experience
A lot of what we saw in that trailer – the main concept, the form factor, the different types of controllers – shows that Nintendo seems to finally “get it,” iterating on concepts other companies have thought up instead of working inside its own little bubble. But I’m still a little concerned about the system at the OS level. Is Nintendo’s console still going to feel like some sort of gaming silo that just happens to have internet, or will it be an ecosystem?
Nintendo went out of its way to show third-party games, but without a great online infrastructure, I doubt people are going to line up to buy the Switch version of NBA 2K17 so they can play with their friends. The Wii U had a proper friends list (instead of friend codes) and the ability to download full games, but it never felt like a go-to destination for online games outside of its own exclusives. A lot of this is interface, I think – building a friends list, inviting people to games, and chatting with them needs to feel quick and natural, and Nintendo’s never been a leader there. I think the Wii U was a step in the right direction, but they need to take a couple more steps to reach parity on that front. I say all of this because I really, really want a portable version of Overwatch. That would be amazing.
Is there anything we missed? What do you hope to see with the Nintendo Switch? Let us know in the comments! You can also watch our special edition of The Game Informer Show below to learn even more about our early impressions of Nintendo's bold future.