I love Nintendo, I always have, they have always tried to do things in their own way, sometimes this had paid off for them and sometimes it has blown up in their face, but they never stop trying to innovate and with their brand new console the Nintendo Switch, it looks as though they might have finally got everything right and are ready to become a major player in the console wars again.
Nintendo has a varied past when it comes to their console releases, the NES and the SNES have gone down in history as some of the best machines ever assembled, the N64 was in my opinion their best ever console, it gave us games like Mario 64, Zelda: The Ocarina Of Time, GoldenEye, Mario Kart 64 and Diddy Kong Racing, all classics in their own right and in the cases of Mario 64 and Zelda, well they are regarded still to this day as some of the greatest games ever made on any machine ever. The Wii sold 100m plus consoles but it had a very poor games attach rate for the system, lots of developers dropped the system after a few years as they struggled to sell their games on the platform.
The Wii U proved to be a disaster for Nintendo, dropped by 3rd party developers early on in it's life as they choose to concentrate on the more powerful consoles from Sony and Microsoft, it looked as though Nintendo had lost their way in the console space, they were still dominating the handheld market thanks to the GameBoy/3DS machines but they were been left behind by both Sony and Microsoft in the console market, as they both opted to go for raw power with each new system they released leaving Nintendo to try carve out it's own identity in a market that was demanding HD gaming, smoother framerates and what is becoming an obsession these days for higher and higher resolutions rates.
So what is the Switch? It's a console/handheld hybrid system, it allows you play games on your TV at home as you would expect but it also allows you to remove the systems screen from it's docking station and play games on the go thanks to the two detachable controllers that bookend the screen called Joy-Cons, if you are playing on the TV, you can connect the Joy-Cons to a central module called the Joy-Con Grip. You can also use the very Xbox looking joypad called the Switch Pro Controller to play on the Switch. The screen also comes equipped with a stand so you can set it down in front of you on a table of on the floor if you wish and play away. It is still unclear if the actual screen itself has touch screen functionality, we are all still waiting on Nintendo to clarify this but in my opinion the answer is more than likely not, I think if it had, they would of surly shown it off to the world when they announced the system on Thursday.
The Switch looks like it will be powered by a custom Nvidia Mobile Tegra processor, rumours are that the development kits are powered by the Tegra X1 chip set, this is the same processor that's used in the Shield Android console but the difference is that it looks as though the Switch will not be underpinned by an Android operatingsystem. The X1 is powerful enough, it's not going to match up to the AMD processors that is housed in both the Xbox One and PS4 but it should easily out strip the Xbox 360 and PS3 in terms of raw power. The goal from Nintendo here is to have a powerful enough processor but also a machine that will offer good battery life when being played on the go. In this regard the Tegra X1 will be perfect.
There is also a slight possibility that Nintendo could use the X2 processor which is set to launch early next year from Tegra. This would certainly offer a considerable boost in power but it's worth keeping in mind that Nintendo has still not released any information on the resolution of it's screen that the Switch uses, if it's just 1080p then the X1 should prove to be enough. Nintendo might choose to only launch the system with a 720p screen, the lower pixel count may help with better battery life, we will have to wait on Nintendo to release the full breakdown of spec's for the Switch as there is no information on hard drive capacity or what type of memory the system will use.
Of course the single most important aspect for any new machine is the games that will be available on it. Thankfully it looks as though the Switch will be well supported from the word go. With the likes of EA, Sega, Activision, Bethesda, Ubisoft and Konami already on board and this is only a small sample of the developers that have pledged support, it looks good for Nintendo as in the past it has been the lack of proper 3rd party support that has ended up killing some of Nintendo's past consoles. Of course Nintendo themselves have a brilliant track record of producing some of the most playable and enjoyable games ever created. The Switch is set to launch with Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, this game looks incredible and could prove to be a real system seller, we will also see a new Splatoon and Mario get released at some stage and a new Mario Kart too. There was also footage of Skyrim shown but this has still to be confirmed.
The games will come in the form of mini cartridges, very much like what we see on the 3DS. I'm sure Nintendo will also have a store where games can be bought digitally but so far we have seen nothing of the system's UI. We also have no idea of the storage capacity of the cartridges, considering that games are becoming bigger and bigger, hopefully developers are not restricted when it comes to space on the Switch's mini cartridges.
So with the Switch set to launch in March of next year and with so much information still to be released by Nintendo it's hard to say if their new baby will prove to be a major threat to Sony and Microsoft or if Nintendo will be happy to continue to carve out it's own space in the console market. Don't get me wrong, what has be shown so far looks very promising indeed, after watching the unveiling video on Thursday, I was very much of the opinion that come March of next year I will be wanting one of these sitting under my TV at home. It looks stylish and packed with innovation and also it's got Nintendo and their unrivalled ability to produce top rate AAA titles time and time again going for it too.
What worries me is that with the whole industry now shifting towards 4K gaming and VR, are Nintendo going to be left behind again with an under power machine again or is the Switch going to be a system that everyone wants, not because of stupid resolution rates and pixel counts but because of innovation and brilliant gaming experiences from both Nintendo and from their 3rd party partners. There is one simple way to answer this question of course, there are going to be two brand new consoles released next year. One is the Nintendo Switch and the other is the Xbox Scorpio, Microsoft's new machine promises to be the most powerful console ever built, with native 4K gaming and high fidelity VR support, which one will you be buying?
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Image from BGR.com