Show of hands… are you ready to learn more about the Nintendo Switch? Nintendo’s normally airtight security was a bit leakier this time around (rumors of a console/handheld hybrid first appeared all the way back in 2014), but fans of the company are definitely excited now that we’ve seen a scant few minutes of the Switch in action. Though a part of me wishes they had pulled a Saturn and just dropped the thing in stores sight unseen.
But a new console from Nintendo is always cause to celebrate in my house, and while we know a bit about the Switch, we won’t learn everything until January 12, 2017. And because we’ve got a little more than two months to wait, let’s speculate about the Nintendo Switch…
A Lot of Games Are in Development for the Switch
It’s no secret that Nintendo has problems with third party support. Going back to the GameCube, the consolemaker has had trouble courting the biggest names in game development… as well as plenty of the small ones. But it looks like that might be turning around.
While less powerful than the PSP and Vita, the DS and 3DS have always received plenty of support from third parties. And while we don’t know how powerful the Switch will end up being, its status as a high-end handheld (in addition to being a home console) is likely an encouraging sign to many of those same developers. We’ve already seen this turnaround to some extent thanks to the list of publishers and developers Nintendo has already signed up for the Switch. Capcom, Sega, Image & Form, Level-5, Inti Creates, and others have all done good work on the 3DS, so knowing that they’re with the Switch from Day One is definitely an encouraging sign.
But the consolemaker has also been throwing a ton of money around in the last few years to produce Wii U exclusives that didn’t originate within the halls of Nintendo. This has allowed them to continually release new and compelling software after other third party developers like EA and Activision walked away from the console. A game like Bayonetta 2 or The Wonderful 101 or Tokyo Mirage Sessions FE might not be for everybody, but Nintendo is doing the work to get them out there. I’d also say there’s a great chance that Beyond Good & Evil 2 (another series with a small but very passionate fan base) will end up as a Switch exclusive with Nintendo backing at some point. And let’s not forget that Bethesda is most likely bringing a fully portable version of the Skyrim Special Edition to the Switch as well.
Of course, Nintendo has already hinted at plenty of homegrown content in development for the Switch. In addition to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, they’ve got a new Super Mario game lined up, as well as Mario Kart, Splatoon, and Pokemon. It’s possible Nintendo may even release them all in 2017. That kind of murderer’s row would drain my wallet, but make me a very happy gamer.
I tossed my theory out to the Warp Zoned staff, and UK Correspondent Andrew Rainnie reminded me that it’s been a few years since we’ve heard anything from Retro Studios or Monolith Soft: “Retro’s last game was Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze in February 2014. And Monolith Soft produced two of the most stunning and underappreciated RPGs on a Nintendo console, with Xenoblade Chronicles X hitting the Wii U in April 2014. That means by the time the Switch is released in March 2017, these two studios have had at least three years hopefully developing something fantastic. I truly hope Retro has returned to their roots with another Metroid game, while I pray Monolith Soft focuses more on a narrative story for its next outing.”
Now You’re Playing With Power
Nintendo has constantly plugged the Switch as a “new experience” that will change the way prospective players interact with video games. But what about the company’s rich history? By creating the first “unified” platform in the company’s history, the Switch grants Nintendo the possibility of bringing their entire back catalog to fans with a revamped and upgraded Virtual Console.
After starting strong on the Wii, it felt like the Virtual Console received short shrift on the Wii U. That said, Nintendo’s digital storefront still made some progress on the Wii U, such as opening up its shelves to DS and Wii games, and bringing EarthBound Beginnings to the US in an official capacity for the first time (though Mother 3/EarthBound 2 stubbornly remains out of reach).
But with the Switch, Nintendo will have access to enough processing power to create a Virtual Console ecosystem that could include games from the company’s entire history… NES, Super NES, Nintendo 64, GameCube, Wii, Game Boy, DS, 3DS… you name it. And with the Switch’s confirmed lack of backwards compatibility, I could see the consolemaker going down this route. Especially for a company as concerned with their legacy (and re-releasing past hits) as Nintendo.
The Switch Could Be Upgraded Every Few Years
Without a good look at the system specifications, speculating about the games lineup and a possible expansion of the Virtual Console is our best window into the inner workings of the Switch. But there’s a lot that Nintendo could do with the console’s tablet-like form factor.
Like a tablet, Nintendo could release upgraded versions of the Switch every few years for the foreseeable future. The PS4 Pro and Xbox One S have already paved the way for this a bit, and Microsoft’s mysterious “Scorpio” project could make these types of iterative upgrades more attractive to hardware manufacturers. And Nintendo even has some experience with relaunching hardware in bigger and better configurations going all the way back to the Nintendo 64 (long live the Expansion Pak), but more popularly seen in the DS and 3DS lines. Best of all, because of the Switch’s chip-based architecture, any upgrade wouldn’t run into compatibility problems with games.
And since we’re wildly speculating, Staff Editor Mike Ryan pointed out that Nintendo will still support the 3DS and might not give up on manufacturing a dedicated handheld: “We all know that Nintendo is combining the handheld environment with the console environment with the Switch. But are we really sure the Switch will be a combination of portable and console? I was initially excited at the thought of having all of Nintendo’s development houses working on one unified system, and a steady stream of quality Nintendo games, coupled with third party support, would make a strong case to me for a launch-day purchase. But if the Switch is the Big N’s next console, and a new handheld is also in the works, this may just put us right back in the same spot that we were in with the Wii U and 3DS.”
The Switch Needs a Tablet-Only Mode
It’ll likely be years before we know what Nintendo’s successor plan for the Switch is, but I hope they do embrace that mentality of tablet manufacturers, and I’d also love to see the console operate in some kind of “Tablet-Only Mode.” Of course, this idea is contingent on the Switch actually having a touchscreen, which is still a rumor at this point.
While it’s starting to wane in popularity, Pokemon Go is still one of the biggest mobile hits of all time. Nintendo, Niantic, and The Pokemon Company are making money hand over fist with the game, and a recent Halloween Event brought a ton of lapsed players back into its grasp. So ideally, Nintendo could design the Switch to double as a tablet, which would open up a whole world of games for the console including Pokemon Go and the upcoming Super Mario Run.
And, you know, the thousands and thousands of games that are currently available through the iOS App Store and Google Play Store.
We’re still 66 days away from Nintendo’s planned unveiling of the Switch, so we’ll have a lot more to speculate about between now and then. Like, what’s up with the Nintendo Switch Dock? And will it ever support virtual reality? Oh yeah, and how much is it going to cost?
Just 66 days…