The Nintendo Switch
Is there a nerd who hasn’t felt the sweet breath of obsessive-compulsive disorder whisper in her ear as she is forced by the cruel demands of life to quit her gaming den to sleep and/or go to work: I wish I could keep playing in bed and/or on the subway. That voice does not encourage you to just play a different game on your phone on the subway, it wants you to keep playing this game on the subway, which of course is never possible.
Nintendo understands this more than most companies, having for decades produced both portable and home consoles, yet only now producing one that is both at the same time.
The Switch feels like a remix of everything Nintendo’s ever made. It’s physically similar to the failed Wii U GamePad, as it’s a games-specific tablet. The slide-off “Joy-Con” controllers are motion-sensitive like the Wii Remote, yet physically evoke the tiny NES gamepads. The tablet screen is touch-sensitive, like that of the DS and 3DS.
From the pictures before the launch, I couldn’t really place the size of the thing. I knew it had a 6.1” screen which didn’t sound that big… my phone’s is 5.5”. Yet in hand, it’s much larger. It’s more the size of an iPad Mini, except thicker and more squat. Compared to Apple engineering, it feels clumsy, or amateurish: too thick, too heavy, too much bezel, too much plastic. Yet of course your hands are given space away from the screen, making the viewable area bigger compared to using a phone.
I’ve had it only a couple weeks, and already I am in love. The convenience of this thing is unparalleled. Let alone taking it out of the house, it’s really handy in the house as well. We don’t have a TV in our tiny living room; it’s in the rec room in the basement. I love playing down there, but there are times where it doesn’t make a certain kind of sense to go down there (killing ten minutes while cooking, waiting to make sure the kid has settled), let alone those times when someone else is using the TV.
The Switch is by nature a compromise device, sitting somewhere between portability and immersion. That it never feels like it is remarkable. That compromise is instead its very essence, cleverly captured by its name and brand identity.
It feels fetishistic to discuss a console without talking about the actual games, and the only one I have so far is Zelda, so I will move on to that in the next couple days. But a quick word first! Nintendo’s historical weakness is third-party software. They come up with quirky, underpowered hardware, so unlike their competitors’ machines that third party publishers either dial in low-quality ports (Wii), or ignore the platform altogether (Wii U). Traditionally, they make up for it with stellar first party titles (Mario, Mario Kart, Zelda, Metroid, Fire Emblem, Pokemon, etc. etc.). I’m sure that will continue to be the case, but the really encouraging thing is the developing slate of indies. Sounds like the Switch is easier to develop for, and Nintendo is doing a better job of talking to independents, so if this keeps up it could be a pretty good situation.
Report: SNES Classic Edition is on the way
Would explain (partially? Unsatisfactorily?) The discontinuation of the NES version
A passionate argument for why you should play Nier: Automata
Multiple Rashomon-style storylines? Mechs? Post-apocalyptic battle to reclaim earth? Sexy androids? Count me in.
The Xbox One is struggling because video game exclusives still matter
The Dazzling Reinvention of Zelda
“They said, ‘Change anything you want,’ ” Fujibayashi recalled. “So we wrote down all of the stress points, the things that make Zelda games less enjoyable, and we replaced them with new ideas.”
Path Finder Update : No Man’s Sky
Huge expansion of a game that was a little thin at launch.
Humble Freedom Bundle
$30 for waaaay too many good games, proceeds to the ACLU among others. Wish PC gaming didn’t wreck my body now.
Sony sold more consoles last fall than in any quarter in PlayStation history
Poised to become the best-selling console ever.
This Switch thing coming from Nintendo is interesting. Here’s the full announcement video for reference:
Some random thoughts now that we have some more details on the thing:
- This is totally unlike Apple product introductions, the only other product intro presentation I typically watch. They are interestingly dressed! And the sense of humour is…. strange.
- The Joy-con controllers (the ones that snap on to the side of the tablet) have accelerometers, so they can function like the Wii remote.
- The Switch screen is 720p, 6.2″, and multi-touch. Size-wise it’s between an iPhone Whatever Plus and an iPad Mini. When it’s hooked up to a TV it can do 1080p.
- It’s only got 32GB of internal storage, but it has a MicroSD card slot and the games come on their own cards anyway.
- Nintendo remains firmly behind in hardware specs. This thing isn’t interested in 4K and it’s essentially a juiced-up phone chip running in it.
- The games look insane, and great.
- 1-2 Switch looks to be the console’s Wii Sports equivalent, a party mini-game bundle that showcases the possibilities of the hardware. Seems like the idea is one-on-one faceoffs, where the players are staring at each other rather than the screen, and using the joy-cons for various ludicrous things: gun duels, sword fights, cow milking? Why.
- The Zelda game is the first one to have voice acting and cut scenes and such like. It looks phenomenal.
- The Mario game takes place in “New Donk City”, an NYC-alike offering some degree of sandbox play. (Will Mario steal any cars?) There are semi-realistic humans walking around in it, but Mario is like half their height. And his hat has become sentient? It looks profoundly strange.
- The online strategy is not great (you only get your monthly free game for the month and then you have to pay for it), but I expect them to revise this before the holidays.
- Similarly, the pricing is high but may well come down (or feature more bundles at least) before the holidays. There’s a long time between March and November, so it’s like they’re almost doing a long beta.
- I want one of these things real bad.
Nintendo Switch launches worldwide March 3, $299 in US
with the new Zelda alongside it.