Nintendo’s next gaming system isn’t a portable machine or a home console—it’s both.
The Japanese company has long been teasing its next console, which it had codenamed the NX, but today (Oct. 20), it finally revealed some details about the follow-up to its underwhelming Nintendo Wii U console. The system will be called the Nintendo Switch, and will be released in March 2017, according to a video the company released this morning. No pricing information was provided.
Since Nintendo’s earliest forays into electronic gaming, the company has focused on both handheld systems and home consoles, but the Switch will be the first to combine the two worlds. The company has had massive successes in the past with its portable Game Boy and DX consoles, as well as with household systems like the Nintendo 64 and the Wii. But in recent years, the home console market has become dominated by Sony and Microsoft, and Nintendo has been left to fight against smartphones for the casual portable gaming market. It wasn’t until this year that the company released its first mobile games.
The Switch appears to be a system designed for gamers who want a Nintendo machine at home, but also something that lets them play the same games on the go. The system essentially comprises a dock, a tablet, and removable controllers that slide on and off the tablet, either letting the user control the system wirelessly while the Switch is plugged into a television, or connected to the tablet. The video shows that it also has a little kickstand so gamers can play to their heart’s content while sitting on a plane.
There will likely have to be some tradeoffs for a system that’s so flexible—chip processor Nvidia said in a release today that a custom version of its Tegra chip powers the Switch. The Tegra can be found in the company’s own tablet-cum-gaming machine, and while it can output 4K video, it’s likely not as powerful as the processors found in rival systems from Sony and Microsoft. Nintendo’s video didn’t mention anything about the tablet’s battery life, and it appears that games will be loaded into the machine through cartridges—much like the DX—which means they’re likely to be smaller than the Blu-Ray discs used for Xbox One games, for example.
It remains to be seen whether there will be any demand for this sort of console, given the fracturing nature of the gaming market between powerful home systems and mobile games, but it does seem to play to one of Nintendo’s oldest gaming strengths: multiplayer games. In the video, we see groups of friends crowded around one Switch, each with a controller, playing Mario Kart, and groups of players linked through their own machines playing Splatoon together. Perhaps if Nintendo can rekindle the communal gaming spirit that made the original Wii so wildly popular, or what has led many to consider some older Nintendo games among the best multiplayer games of all time, the company may be onto something with the Switch. Hopefully Domino’s doesn’t have any issues with the logo.