After more than a year and a half of speculation, we finally know what Nintendo’s NX project is: the Nintendo Switch. The company revealed the first details today via a three-minute video posted to its website. You can watch it above, and read our breakdown of the trailer here.
The Switch isn’t a surprise to anyone who’s been following rumors surrounding the system. It is, as has been reported, a hybrid device — the console itself is essentially a tablet, yet it’s designed to be hooked up to a TV for home use. The tablet has two controller modules that attach onto the side for regular portable play, and they can be detached for on-the-go multiplayer or attached together to form something that resembles a regular controller.
It is simultaneously low-key and extraordinarily ambitious. Here are a few quick thoughts based on the trailer.
All in all, the Switch looks like a unique product that will no doubt serve as an effective canvas for Nintendo’s frequently dazzling software output over the next few years. It’s a smarter, more flexible realization of the Wii U concept, and I’m going to buy one.
But then I always was, and it’s reasonable to wonder who else will. The Wii U, which was largely a disaster for Nintendo, traded on a similar but less practical hybrid approach where the tablet-style controller only worked inside the home and was used differently across various games. It was mishandled at every level, causing Nintendo to squander the dominant position it attained with the Wii.
Nintendo’s genius with the Wii was to identify and define an untapped userbase, resulting in what was to all intents and purposes a market of one — tens of millions of people bought Wiis that would never have considered an Xbox. But by the time the Wii U launched, that userbase had moved on; the rise of mobile gaming appeared to have captured the same type of customer that would have been interested in a casual console. Or there was the possibility that the Nintendo Wii’s success was more like a novel toy than a game console.
The Wii U was a feeble effort to keep up with the shift of non-traditional gamers to touchscreen gaming, seeing Nintendo losing its nerve and chasing the puck rather than skating to where it was going to be. The system was slow, the tablet hardware was laughable, and the platform was archaic. As a vector for excellent software for Nintendo fans, it was well worth buying; for almost anyone else, it wasn’t. Since its late 2012 launch it’s sold just 13 million units, the lowest figure for any Nintendo home console by some distance.
I don’t know if the Switch can sell any fewer than 13 million units — my suspicion is that that figure isn’t a great deal larger than the absolute baseline of Nintendo fans who will buy every system no matter what. But how many more can it sell?
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