This past week Nintendo quietly unveiled its new console, the Switch. The three-minute introductory video showed us the gaming company’s new vision - combining living room and mobile gaming into one experience. My question is this: will the Switch deliver on the vision of a unified gaming experience, or will it be remembered as one of many failed efforts?
Discussing the future of console gaming can be a controversial topic. There are gamers, and there are "gamers." I’m comfortable arguing that the majority of gaming (and by majority I mean hours played) is done on smartphones and tablets, while traditional console gaming is undertaken by a large minority of the population. Mobile gaming recently overtook traditional gaming in revenue. Why? Convenience. Similar to the saying "the best camera is the one you have on you," now the best console is the one you have with you. You heard it here first;) In my case that's usually an iPad. Games like Sword and Sorcery, 80 Days, Monument Valley, and Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic are all ideal for this platform. I probably have more mobile games than I'll ever complete. The success of mobile gaming aside, there's something missing from the tablet and phone experience. A physical controller and an immersive experience.
The Nintendo Switch
-- The Switch promises a one stop shop for all gaming.
The modular tablet design is clever. Controllers can easily be added to the tablet for mobile play - with proper stand alone controllers available for when the tablet is connected to your living room experience. The switch from optical discs to card based (presumably) flash storage is better, and you have to expect internal storage for digital downloads.
Most impressive is the promise of graphics parity. This is something Sony tried twice with the PSP and PS Vita, but never got it quite right. Moving to one console (even though Nintendo denies it) allows me to have an equivalent gaming experience at home and on the road.
Despite all the promise, there are some serious unanswered questions. With the NX project, it was rumoured that said that Nintendo would finally design a more powerful console and get more third party developers on board. Given that the Switch is essentially a gaming tablet running Nvidia’s Tegra technology, how could Nintendo possibly pack enough graphical punch into such a small package?
Battery life is also a concern. The Wii U’s tablet controller and original 3DS got pretty poor battery life. While it's likely that a modern tablet would pack a larger battery capacity, how long will the Switch last on the road when playing something like like Skyrim or the new Zelda? Also, if this machine is so powerful why demo a 5 year old game? How will the Switch handle heat? My concern is that outside of its dock, Nintendo's new offering will be lucky to last a couple of hours.
I love the concept of the Switch, but the expectations are very high. If the graphical capability and battery life is there, I'm sold - regardless of price. Given the astounding games that are available on the iPad, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the power of the Wii U or greater inside the Switch, while cleverly bringing mobile and living room gaming together. But, if battery life is weak, I'm not going to trade in my 9.7" iPad Pro.