Last Friday Nintendo unveiled their upcoming console: the Nintendo Switch. You’ve likely seen the promotional video for the combination home and portable system by now, or at least seen some images of what it looks like. It’s an interesting looking system which comes with both a dock which allows you to connect the console directly to your television and a screen which the controller to that allows you to play it on the go. You can even break the controller down further into two controllers for that multiplayer action on the run. The concept sounds strange, as I write it, but the promo video does a good job at establishing its versatility.
What I think the video really establishes for us, however, is just how perfect the very concept of the console is for a company like Nintendo.
It’s been a long time coming at this point. Maybe we didn’t quite have the technology to make it happen. Or maybe no one had simply come up with an idea strong enough to stand on its own two legs the way the Switch looks like it will be able to. What looks so excellent about the Switch is a perfect storm of handheld, console, and Nintendo all being mixed into one. It’s the answer to the complaints of the WiiU controller not being portable. But it’s also the answer to the WiiU being something of an in-between console in the first place.
Nintendo hasn’t been a console powerhouse in a very long time. Sure the Wii enjoyed enormous commercial success, and there’s a lot to be said for the strategy which the company employed. There’s even a lot to be said for the cultural impact of the Wii. But at the end of the day the console left a lot to be desired by core gamers. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that. There isn’t inherently a problem with a console being marketed toward a casual gaming crowd. The argument could be made that it’s almost necessary.
What Nintendo has excelled at is the handheld market. No one can touch Nintendo’s crown when it comes to the enormous success of systems like the 3DS. Sure there have been attempts by mostly Sony to grab a share of that market, but it’s just never gotten the support from users or developers the way that Nintendo’s systems have. The argument can’t be made for mobile gaming because phone games tend to cut into Nintendo’s market about as much as the Wii’s market cut into the Xbox 360 and PS3’s market (it kind of didn’t).
It’s fine to be cautiously optimistic then, given that Nintendo is a handheld powerhouse but hasn’t delivered an entirely compelling console offering lately. I, on the other hand, am fully optimistic about the Switch. My optimism is almost fully based on Nintendo’s dominance in the handheld market. I think that Nintendo focusing their efforts into a singular system rather than dividing their efforts is the absolutely best thing they can do.
Despite Nintendo promoting the console as a combination home and handheld console, I think it’s going to occupy the handheld space entirely. This is not a console that will even slightly compete for market share with the next Sony or Microsoft consoles. The Switch is going to be exceptionally well made, as Nintendo products often are. But it simply will not contain the power to break into the core console market which is now wholly dominated by the aforementioned companies. That said, this is a positive thing through and through and through.
Nintendo will essentially be focusing all their efforts into the handheld market going forward. That will be good for Nintendo and it will be good for gamers. It’s not really a question that a huge amount of actual handheld gaming occurs at home. The ability to dock the system at any time and play the latest Animal Crossing or Pokemon on your TV isn’t a new idea, but if it’s executed anything at all like the promo video shows the Switch will likely be the perfect handheld console from Nintendo.
All that said, Nintendo needs say only two words to secure a pre-order from me: Animal Crossing.