Will the Nintendo Switch Change Handhelds Forever?
For over two decades, handheld gaming has gone through its ebbs and its flows and today we’re still searching for that perfect device. Nintendo has always been on the forefront of the handheld world and has released a number of amazing devices over the years. However, Nintendo has always operated in two separate hardware markets: the handheld and the home console. Their home consoles have never sold as well as their handhelds, and they failed in their first attempt to meld the two together with the Wii U. The Nintendo Switch is their second attempt, and with it, they may have created something truly magical. But first, how did we get here?
A Brief History of Nintendo Handhelds
Nintendo released the first Game Boy on April 21st, 1989. It was an overnight success and made video gaming more mainstream than ever before. For the very first time, people could play their video game console wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted and with whoever they wanted. Nearly a decade later, Nintendo improved on that experience with the release of the Game Boy Color. It was smaller, more powerful, and played games in full color. It was also the first console that Nintendo offered in a variety of different colors At the turn of the century, Nintendo would release its final Game Boy, the Game Boy Advance. It was even more powerful than the Color, had a larger screen, and added shoulder buttons. But perhaps most importantly, the Game Boy Advance was the first portable that Nintendo ever tried to connect to your television (via the GameCube).
Nintendo’s next console was the DS, or the dual-screen. It was the first of its kind, a handheld with both a static and touchscreen exclusively for playing video games. Games would display normally on the static screen but would allow you to interact with them via the touchscreen in a variety of interesting ways. The DS was also one of the first video game handhelds with internet connectivity. In 2011, Nintendo would improve on its dual-screen device by releasing the 3DS. The 3DS was revolutionary, bringing stereoscopic 3D-effects into gaming (without glasses) for the first time. It was also the first Nintendo portable with an entire ecosystem; an app store, friends list, upgradable storage, and more.
One year later, Nintendo took its biggest risk to date. In 2012, Nintendo released the Wii U, a home console with a tablet-like controller. It took what made the DS such a great success and melded it with the power of a home console. There was, however, one caveat: you couldn’t take the tablet with you on-the-go. The device was clunky, had poor battery life and, worst of all, had to be within a certain range of your home console. The concept was interesting enough but the execution was not great. After years of success in handhelds, Nintendo’s first real attempt at bridging the home/handheld gap would be its worst selling console ever.
Enter the Switch
After the failure of the Wii U, many wondered what Nintendo’s next steps were going to be. How could they recover? What will their next handheld look like? On October 20th, 2016, they got their answer: Nintendo’s next home AND portable console would be the Nintendo Switch. The Switch is essentially the Wii U’s gaming tablet only much thinner, lighter and, most of all, you can take it anywhere. It is more powerful, has a larger screen, and features two detachable controllers with Wiimote-like gyroscopes. The Switch is also a home console. Simply slip your machine into the dock by your television to continue playing your games in seconds. No one has ever attempted to produce a piece of video game technology with this level of usability and portability. Could this be the future of gaming?
The Ultimate Device
Every iteration of Nintendo’s handhelds made its best ideas even better. The Switch is a culmination of these ideas, of over two decades of success and failure. For the first time ever, “handheld” gaming and “home console” gaming are no longer separate and that opens up a world of possibilities. A dad can take his kids to the park and play Splatoon 2 while he waits. He can head back home, dock his console, and play with his kids in seconds. Headed to a party? Bring your Switch! Pull off the dual Joy-Con controllers and you’re instantly the life of the party. You can even bring your dock to connect to a television so everyone can join in on the fun. The Switch can be used in almost any setting no matter where you are, what you’re doing or who you’re with. The possibilities are virtually endless.
The Switch also has a number of customization options. The Switch is releasing with the option for grey or blue and red controllers, but down the line we’ll certainly see more branded controllers that completely individualize the console. But what was once just a variety of color options now has a lot more substance. The player can now play their games in a variety of different ways. They can play on their television, play on the go, even play on their table top by detaching the Joy-Cons. Nintendo is also bringing back the ecosystem they started with the 3DS. Not only will they have a friends list, apps, and more, they will also be offering an online subscription as ubiquitous as Xbox Live or PSN. It will have monthly deals, online communities, free game downloads and even live streaming on the go. Up until this point, every single handheld in Nintendo’s history has had limitations. It seems Nintendo has finally built a console AND a handheld without any.
Just like with the original Game Boy, Nintendo has an opportunity to continue pushing gaming further and further. They have always been a company about bringing people together, and with the Switch, they’ve made this more possible than ever. This console will fundamentally change the way the world plays games, and soon we’ll be seeing people playing the Switch at the park, on the bus, and at home. Just as Nintendo’s consoles before it, The Switch will set the bar even higher for all future handhelds and home consoles and we are lucky enough to live to experience it. March 3rd is less than two months away…and I can’t wait until it’s time to Switch.
Featured Image Source: Nintendo