Nintendo Switches It Up

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Though it was unveiled in October, the Nintendo Switch continues to spark conversation and conjecture among gamers.

Planned for a March 2017 release, the console’s selling point is that it can be used as both a portable gaming platform and a home console. Users can switch to portable mode by removing the Switch from its dock and sliding a two-piece controller into either side, allowing for a setup similar to the Wii U’s GamePad. Alternatively, the controller pieces can be held separately and used like the Wii’s WiiMote. 

At home, the Switch’s screen shuts off and it rests in a dock connected to a TV. The two-piece controllers can slide into a grip that allows them to be used as a traditional controller, or players can use a Pro controller that has a button and stick layout almost identical to an Xbox controller’s. The trailer did not demonstrate whether the Pro controller can be used in portable mode.

Besides demonstrating its hybrid capabilities, the Switch’s reveal trailer showed gameplay footage. The games demonstrated were “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” “NBA 2K17,” “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” and potential new installments in the “Mario Kart,” “Super Mario Bros.” and “Splatoon” franchises. Hard data such as battery life, graphics capabilities, and hardware specifications were not addressed. 

Though the trailer’s credits claim that the games demonstrated are subject to change, some of those chosen stand out from Nintendo’s usual fare. “Skyrim” and “2K17” appeal to fanbases that Nintendo’s flagship franchises tend to ignore, and “Splatoon,” a Nintendo original, was depicted in the competitive context of stadium E-sports. Additionally, the trailer’s actors portrayed independent young adults or older teenagers, suggesting that the Switch is targeting a college-age fanbase.

The trailer’s inclusion of professional gaming stood out to Connor Gulick, a competitive gamer and fourth-year at SUNY New Paltz majoring in English and psychology. 

“The direction they want to take the console is more important than the console itself,” said Gulick, who competes with others in the New Paltz Smash Club. “I think they’re looking to include competitive gamers in their demographic. I still don’t think they’re the focus, but I think they’re being considered.”

Konrad Osiowy, a fourth-year English major who identifies as a casual gamer, had different concerns about the Switch. 

“They haven’t had a strong console launch library since the Wii,” Osiowy said about Nintendo. “I want new titles that aren’t just remakes. I don’t want HD remakes.” 

Osiowy also said that the Switch would likely have to choose between long battery life and high-quality graphics when in portable mode. 

The Switch’s game format was of particular interest to Dennis Vilensky, a fourth-year digital media management major and competitive gamer. 

“Cartridges are easier to lose and different from other media, and eliminate backwards compatibility,” he said. “If there’s no way to use discs, there’s almost a guarantee of no backwards compatibility.” 

Ian Handschuh, a third-year accounting major who identifies as neither a casual nor competitive gamer, predicted that the Switch could cause serious industry change. 

“You have the Switch basically consolidating their handheld into their console. Handhelds will basically have to do what the Switch does, or it’ll just be mobile, cell phone gaming,” Handschuh said. “Handheld gaming, as we know it, is basically going to die with the Switch.”