On Oct. 20, 2016, Nintendo finally announced its next gaming console, the Nintendo Switch (click here for the reveal trailer). While the 3-minute-and-36-second video was light on the details, what was shown was typical Nintendo: a forward-thinking gaming system that will eventually be home to a number of amazing games that can be enjoyed alone or as part of a communal event.
The “switch” in the console’s name is a nod to the key feature of the system, which is the ability to not only play games at home on a big-screen TV, but also to switch the system to a portable device when on the go. In the trailer, gamers are shown switching their gameplay style in a number of ways, such as from playing inside to playing outside and from starting a game as a one-player experience and switching it to a multiplayer experience. Overall, the Switch is made up of three integral parts: a tablet-like portable screen, a home docking station that connects the portable screen to your home TV, and the controllers. These three parts can be configured to make an individualized gaming experience. The Switch is a system that brings together many of Nintendo’s core qualities, and it can be customized to maximize the potential of the games that are developed by the system.
The Switch takes the idea of the struggling Wii U—Nintendo’s current home console—by offering a tablet-like device to play video games away from the TV and improves on it greatly. While the Wii U was home to many entertaining first-party Nintendo games, the system sold only 13.36 million units worldwide, failing to even come close to the more than 101 million units its predecessor, the Wii, sold. In the trailer, it is clear from the opening moments that the Switch is similar in some ways, but very, very different in others. Gone is the branding of the Wii U, replaced by a bold red logo and an icon that makes reference to the tablet system’s two small controllers, dubbed by Nintendo as “Joy-Con.” The Joy-Con controllers snap on to the tablet device when a single player is playing the system on the go or can be snapped in to a home controller dock when playing at home and used similarly to an Xbox or PlayStation controller.
While there are no official announcements about the games coming to the system or about any technical specs, the trailer offers hints of what is to come. Footage of games such as “Super Mario,” “The Legend of Zelda,” and “Mario Kart 8” show that Nintendo’s tried and true characters will be making quite a splash on the system. There are also brief hints that third parties will be developing games for the system: In just a few seconds of the trailer, users can be seen playing “Skyrim” and an NBA-licensed basketball game.
Perhaps one of the most revealing segments of the trailer is when a user is shown sliding a game cartridge in to the system. While Nintendo’s portable systems (the Game Boy, the Game Boy Advance, and the 3DS) have stuck with cartridge technology through the years, Nintendo abandoned cartridges for its home consoles in 2001 in favor of optical discs. The move to cartridges is worth noting for two reasons. First, it shows Nintendo nodding to its past identity and success with the cartridge format. Second, it reaffirms its choice to combine its home and portable gaming efforts into one system. By using microSD card technology (this has not been confirmed, but is heavily rumored), Nintendo is opting for a storage medium that is more durable and portable than an optical disc. From the looks of it, it seems likely the portable option for this device will be something that Nintendo will heavily feature in future marketing efforts.
Gaming at the Library
For public libraries, the Switch offers not only a chance to collect and share a new platform of games with their community, but also provides great opportunities to bring more community-based gaming activities to the library. Libraries can capitalize on the way the Switch’s portable features are being heavily highlighted in the trailer by bringing players together in the safe space of a public library. In the past, Nintendo has strongly emphasized the importance of including games for all ages and multiple players with its titles. The trailer continues this by showing most of the play being done with others either around the system or taking part in playing a game. As a video gaming platform that offers all-ages and multiplayer gaming, the Switch will easily cement its place in public libraries as the de facto console for game nights and more.
While details about the Switch have been few and far between, Nintendo Co., Ltd. president Tatsumi Kimishima announced that a public presentation revealing the launch date and pricing as well as offering a look at the lineup of games currently in development will occur on Jan. 12, 2017, in Japan and will be streamed live on the internet. While the system is still on track for Nintendo’s original March 2017 release window, those clamoring for more information will have to do exactly what Nintendo fans have long been used to doing: wait patiently.
Upcoming information will be available on the Switch website.