Friday, October 21, 2016

Nintendo Switch: Facts, Speculation, and Questions

So, Nintendo has finally shown their hand (most of it anyway).  We have been hearing about the NX for almost a year now, and a few months before the system’s release, Nintendo reveals a trailer officially announcing that it will be called the Switch.  This actually reminds me a lot of the move Nintendo made back in 2006 when they announced that the system that was codenamed the Revolution would be called the Wii just a few months before it was supposed to come out.  This trailer is the first official news we have received about the Switch, everything to this point has been speculation.  How do the rumors stack up to what we know?

The biggest rumor was that the Switch would be some sort of hybrid portable and home console.  Based on what we saw in the trailer, this appears to be shockingly accurate.  What does the system come with?  We’re not entirely sure yet.  As I describe the items that were shown off in the trailer, keep in mind there is no information whether they will come with the console at purchase or much be bought separately.  The console itself will be a tablet like screen that is roughly seven inches (based on analysis from the trailer).  There is also a dock that will more than likely be used to charge the console and connect it to the television.  There is a controller that is being called the Joy-Con.  The Joy-Con can be a whole or split into multiple parts.  When split apart, the controller can be used to allow multiple people play a game or the pieces can be attached to the side of the console to allow the player to take it on the go.  It looks like this can be done without even turning the game off or even pausing.  There will also be a Switch Pro Controller available that resembles a more traditional game controller.  However, if experience is any indicator, this will be sold separately. 

            Another rumor was that the system would use cartridges for its games, much like the 3DS.  Again, this rumor was spot on.  Nintendo has decided to abandon the disk based home console that the industry has become known for.  After seeing how the console operates, I believe this is not only smart but also necessary.  Nintendo is doing a great deal to promote the Switch as a home console that can go on the move.  The thing about disks is they are incredibly fragile and prone to disruption.  Just look at a few previous examples.  In the Xbox 360, if you so much as moved the console while a disk was in use, it would scratch and in many cases become unusable.  The Sony PSP was a portable console that utilized disks in a casing.  Sort of a disk/cartridge hybrid.  Even this modified disk would disrupt gameplay if the system was moved to quickly or shaken around too much.  However, the downside is that cartridges can’t hold as much information as a disk.  It would be interesting to see how Nintendo plans to get around this drawback.  So far, the games shown for the Switch look gorgeous so it is hard to believe that they are coming simply from the cartridge.  My theory is that the game cartridge will have some data on it, but the rest of the game will be downloaded.  This will allow for more freedom without the drawbacks of cartridge-based gaming.  However, this raises another question.

            How much data will the Switch be able to hold?  Memory storage technology has come a long way in previous years but so far there is not word how the Switch will manage this.  Previous Nintendo consoles have used memory cards, and that may be the best option for a system that is designed to go on the move.  Memory cards tend to hold less information but are much more durable.  Hard drives like the ones we see in phones and tablets would be another viable option.  While they can hold more, hard drives can’t take as much punishment as a memory card.  For now, we will just have to wait and see.

            Another thing we saw in the trailer was wireless multiplayer between two Switch systems.  Considering the guys were playing on a park bench, it can be implied that wi-fi will not be necessary for this feature.  If I had to speculate, it will probably work similar to the 3DS which has the possibility to connect with other systems based on proximity.  I’m sure you’ll be able to connect over the internet as well.  It seems that when it comes to multiplayer, the Switch will be the best of both worlds.  It will have the benefits of being a home and portable console, without many of the drawbacks of either. 

            Let’s move onto the things that gamers really care about, the games.  Nintendo showed off a great lineup in this first trailer, starting with Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  This game was announced for the Switch (then known as the NX) months ago, but it was still great to see this eagerly anticipated title.  Nintendo also showed off a few other first-party titles, such as Mario Kart, Splatoon, and a new unnamed 3D Mario Platformer.  While none of these titles were particularly shocking, it was still good to see Nintendo putting a strong foot forward.  Now onto an area that Nintendo has traditionally struggled, third-party games.  There were two third-party games shown in the trailer, Skyrim and an NBA game (presumably 2K17).  Skyrim was one of the prominent games shown off in the trailer.  However, a spokesmen from Bethesda has said that while they gave Nintendo permission to use the game footage in the trailer, Skyrim is not actually confirmed for they system.  You can read more about that here:
However, even with that weirdness, Nintendo released a graphic showing some of the developers who are developing games for the system.  There are some very impressive names on the list and I’m sure we’re in for some quality products.

Even though the Switch trailer showed off a lot of the console’s impressive features, there are still a lot of questions left to answer.  One of the biggest questions on everyone’s mind is, what is the price?  Some speculation has put it around $299, but there is little to base this on.  As it may have become clear throughout the article, one of my biggest questions revolves around the durability of the system.  If it is meant to go with you, how much punishment can it take?  With so many interlocking parts, how long until connections start to fade and become unsteady?  Nintendo has built an impressive track record for making products that are sturdy and can stand the test of time.  However, this seems like new territory for them.  Hopefully we will receive more information as we get closer to the slated March 2017 release date.  That being said, I don’t plan to SWITCH how enthusiastic I am for this product.  I’ll see myself out.

-Big O

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