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Welcome newbs! This year is set to be a pretty exciting time to be a gamer, and I am once again at the helm to sort the surprisingly awesome from the painfully average. I’ve been writing about games for a few years now, with one of my key messages throughout that time being “games are for everyone.” I don’t discriminate here, but I do want you to share my joy in this hobby and if that means calling out bullshit, then so be it.
Nintendo are certainly a company that expresses similar goals, though these days they are more likely to generate bullshit. When they get it right, their games are capable of inducing players into a state of childlike glee that will stay with them throughout the experience. They are responsible for so many innovations that the entire gaming industry probably would have died had the NES not been a success thirty years ago. When they get it wrong, however, they seem incredibly out-of-touch with the gaming community and even with common sense, often innovating just for the sake of it — just look at the state of the Wii U and the forced scarcity of the NES Mini this past Christmas.
In spite of that, and with the future of the company at stake, they might just have something to get back in the good graces of gamers. Rumoured for many months, the Nintendo Switch is just a few weeks from launching, and while it may not have exactly lit a fire underneath the gaming public, there is still an air of hope surrounding it.
If you’ve been living under a rock for a while, the Switch is a hybrid console, able to play games both on your TV and in a portable tablet mode. The bundled Joy-Con controllers are detachable and can be used in a multitude of ways, including individually for multiplayer titles. It will be fully online capable, including online multiplayer with a new subscription service similar to Xbox Live and PS Plus launching later this year, plus integrating with various social media services for sharing features similar to the PS4’s Share button. While it likely won’t be as powerful as its competitors, it does appear to hold its own, especially against smartphones and tablets. The biggest factor in a console’s success, however, is the games and while the Switch has only ten games lined up for launch day that list includes The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild — pretty much guaranteeing some success.
This seems to be an attempt by Nintendo to retain its reputation for hardware innovation while at the same time potentially widening its customer base. We saw this with the Wii ten years ago and it could potentially happen again, though perhaps not on the same scale. But smart devices didn’t exist ten years ago, and they’ve taken up so much of the casual market that Nintendo aggressively targeted that mobile is now the biggest sector in the industry. Maybe by having a device that is essentially a tablet, Nintendo are investing their future in the mobile market, complete with games on iOS and Android, which is something I thought would never happen.
The small launch line-up of titles is also not indicative of the effort Nintendo has put in to bring back third-party developers, a notable failing of the Wii U. We may well see more, and more triple-A releases, on the Switch but they won’t sell systems, so Nintendo can also not afford to let their standards for first party titles slip. Their efforts to court independent studios is also quite impressive.
I really want the Switch to be successful. If it is, it may not necessarily change everything, but people will certainly be happy to fork over the cash for it. If it isn’t, it may well be the end of one of the biggest names in the industry.