Yesterday’s announcement of the Nintendo Switch — the new console from the Japanese giant — was a big deal for everyone who’s into games, and it turned out to be one of the biggest reveals of the year. But after watching the trailer for a few times, I’m left thinking it might be big news for everyone.
I’m not a gamer. Right now, the only time I ever play games is on my phone, when I have a few minutes to kill on a flight or when waiting for someone. And why would I bother buying a 3DS or other mobile gaming device if I already have a smartphone in my pocket?
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Things used to be different. Eleven years ago, I remember keeping a close eye on Nintendo’s press conference during E3 2005 — the place they always announce their next big thing. After a lot of hype, fake videos and anticipation, they finally released this legendary trailer:
The Revolution would later be rebranded as Wii, and it went on to become one of the most-sold consoles of all time. Everyone and their mom had one in their home, and Nintendo was doing better than ever. Together with the success of the DS, the money was rolling in.
That all changed with its next generation of devices. The Wii U and 3DS have failed to attract the same amount of customers, and the company has not been doing well for the last couple of years. It desperately needs a new strategy to survive.
One part of Nintendo’s new plan is to start creating games for smartphones, so they can reach a market of millions of people who don’t own one of their devices. The other part is a new, exciting hybrid console.
The first step for the company was to accept that selling its games on existing mobile devices makes more sense than developing its own handheld platform, and the second is ditching the idea of handheld versus console devices altogether, creating one piece of hardware that does both.
All information we have about the Switch right now comes from the three-minute long trailer above, but it’s clear what the device’s single most important feature will be — you can play it in a lot of different ways. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the bus or at home, it’s possible to bring your game anywhere. The same goes for multiplayer mode — you can bring your screen anywhere and hand out the attached controllers.
And that’s exactly what made the Wii such a big mainstream success. The focus on creating a device that’s great for casual multiplayer made it the center of attention at parties and other social gatherings, and it looks like the Switch is built around the same idea — except now, you can take it with you.
Mobile gaming is great for single player, but there aren’t a lot of them out there with stellar local multiplayer like Mario Kart. Also, the phones might not be compatible with each other, and the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection between devices often causes a laggy experience. Because of this, home consoles are still the best way to play games with friends in the same room — and the Switch is making that experience portable.
The popularity of accessible mobile games like Candy Crush and Pokémon Go show us that loads of people have the potential to be a gamer. The Switch has the potential to make them realize they can do it on other devices than their phone, too.