James Montemagno
James Montemagno

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Motz's Thoughts: Nintendo Switch

James MontemagnoJames Montemagno

Last week something extremely interesting happened, when Nintendo was able to keep the announcement for their new console completely secret. They launched a short 3 minute 36 second trailer for their new console, the Nintendo Switch, and no one had any idea. No one knew the shape of the console, but the concept, joysticks, price, specs, games, name, or just about anything else besides the single rumor that it may be a “hybrid” that could bridge portable and home console.

To me and to other this was not only a huge surprise, but also completely refreshing as I can not remember the last Apple or Google event that I didn’t know nearly exactly what they were announcing.  If you haven’t had a chance to see it yet, do yourself a favor and check out the YouTube video here:

This blog is usually filled with code, but this is my first entry in “Motz’s Thoughts”, where I write about technology or other things happening in the industry and how it may have an impact on mobile as we know it.

The Nintendo Switch!

Let’s get it out of the way first, I love Nintendo! Everything that they have come out with since the original Nintendo NES I have scooped up and purchased nearly as soon as it came out (except for maybe the VirtualBoy). I love my Nintendo 3DS and have it by my side each night before bed and often when I am traveling to collect street passes. I don’t often “game” anymore and kind of fell out of love with games after being on a team developing a game for the Xbox 360′s XBLA. I do however still buy a lot of games and enjoy them when I do have time. When I got up at 7:00AM on Thursday, October 20th I didn’t know what to expect, but I was excited for whatever it had in store. Then I laid my eyes upon it and I was excited and a bit concerned all at the same time when I saw a 7 inch screen, dock, and multiple controllers.

It’s Still a Home Console

One of the key features of the Nintendo Switch is that you can change it from being a home console docked and outputting video and audio to your television, or take it on the go with you anywhere you go. While the latter is pretty awesome and I will get into it in a bit, let’s not forget that it is a home console and that is where the trailer started.

In a world of crowded entertainment spaced the tiny design of the Switch has me really excited. It will surely be front and center next to my television no matter what. My Wii U is huge and has external hard drives setup to it with a huge controller that needs its own power cord and when we moved I had to leave it all boxed up because I simply didn’t have any room (while I did have the old Xbox One, and now the Xbox One S… so maybe there is room…). The Switch is a perfect compliment to anyones home system from what I am seeing, although it does need some room if you want to make it portable.

Truly Portability

The Wii U was portable… if you were on the couch or your bedroom was directly next to your television, but the Switch feel like the Wii U done right. Simply apply the “Joy-Con”(terrible name) controllers and boom you have a 7-inch screen with full control to play the games that you love. Plug in some headphones and you no longer will disturbed anyone in the house. I have found the Xbox One’s headphones to work extremely well when you have other people sleeping in the house, but sometimes you don’t want to be tied to the television (or maybe someone else is using the television). Switch seems to have it covered in this area and of course it completely works without the Switch Dock no matter where you happen to be. The video shows bringing it on a plane, friends house, etc, just pick it up and go.

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You could say that the Nintendo 3DS is Nintendo’s portable system and some are saying that the Nintendo 3DS is now replaced with the Switch, but I don’t think that is the case just yet.  I will most likely find myself taking my 3DS with me everywhere I go, and it will be a nice option to take the Switch with me, but then I think of the multi-gamer household. I don’t expect families to be purchasing 4 Switch consoles for 2 adults and 2 children, that seems expensive! It is more likely that the Nintendo 3DS will have a successor or stick around for a long time with its amazing game collection. 

There are also a lot of unique features the 3DS has such as DS download play, retro titles, Street Pass, and a feeling that this is “mine” not the families.

Controllers

The largest concern for me is controllers. I have a crap ton of GameCube, Wii, and Wii U specific controllers that all seem to magically still work together. Finally, it looks like there will be a clean start! Time to get rid of all those controllers that are sitting there collecting dust and I can replace them with the… 3 different controllers? Maybe 4? Well it isn’t as bad as others and even myself are making it out to be. If you think about the “Joy-Con” (again horrible name) controllers that can be attached to the console, attached to a remote dock, or played apart then that is really just one controller… not bad. Then you have the pro-controller, which of course isn’t a terrible idea because it has the same layout of buttons and controls that the “Joy-Con”’s have in all of the configurations.


The problem really comes down the the weird multiplayer configuration of the split “Joy-Cons”.

This scares me a tiny bit as developers will have to opt in to support this mode and let’s be honest the controller looks tiny. I love the idea, but just not the final implementation.

Misc Thoughts

I will say that I love the idea of no more discs and going back to cartridges. They have worked so well on my 3DS system and it feels very natural now that this type of media has become so cheap. I am also hoping that you can expand the storage on the device without having to plug in a huge external hard drive. Let me buy a huge SD card and go to town. I have more thoughts, but what really struck me was when I read a Forbes article on 5 Questions that may Sink the Switch, which I found completely ridiculous and the wrong 5 questions. I already stated a few of my questions and concerns above, but I wanted to chime in really quick on their Questions and give you my answers. 

The “Forbes Questions”

1.) What is the Battery Life?

-> Well seeing it is based off the Nvidia Shield we could pretty much assume that it is similar to it. It only needs to reach about 4-5 hours without the dock seeing it isn’t ONLY a portable. That gets me across the entire US and if it is International then I will probably plug it in. Which gets to the important question, will it accept standard power adapters? Nintendo has always had their own charger, which meant I had to pack and worry about another charger, but if the Switch uses USB Micro then I think Battery Life isn’t a concern.

2.) How Much Does It Cost?

I personally believe that Nintendo has learned from their WiiU mistakes. My estimate is $300-350, which is a bargain compared to a $700-800 iPhone or Pixel device.  I am more interested in what types of connectivity will it have? Will it be Wi-Fi only? Will it have a cellular connection, and if so will that cost additional money? My assumption is Wi-Fi only just like the 3DS by the way :)

3.) How Extensive is Third Party Support, Really?

This is kind of a lack luster question to be asking this early seeing absolutely no price, games, or anything besides that it uses an Nvidia chip. The cool part there is that the collection of games on the WiiU is amazing that all could have HD remakes. This would be a huge start to the system seeing not that many people played them and could bring new life to those games. Additionally, there is word of Unreal 4 being officially supported, which is HUGE.

4.) Is It Comfortable?

Yes it will be.

5.) How Useful is The Mobility Gimmick, Really?

Look around at anyone on a bus, flight, or walking around playing Pokemon Go. People love portability and we are always on the move. Being able to start a game at home, take it with you anywhere in the house or outside of the house is a huge huge win for a lot of people that could be the core audience for this system. There is a whole group of gamers that carry around their consoles and allow them to take up half of their carry on bag, well no more with the Switch!

The State of Mobile Gaming

This all brings me to my final section which has weighed on me heavy so far, which is if or how the Switch will impact mobile gaming. Gaming on the go isn’t new and mobile phones and tablets have take casual gaming by storm. However, while I enjoy the casual brick breaking and jumping games whenever there is a game that has “virtual” joysticks I am immediately turned away. They just do not work… at all. There have been many companies that have attempted to bring attachments to the market to turn devices into a “gaming” machine, but our phones do have short battery lives, and we do actually want to use them as phones at some point to do other things. It is super annoying to get constant interruptions when playing a game and then having to switch to send an email or a text message. 

I got into developing games about two years back when we shipped CocosSharp2D and made a few small games. They were swipe touchscreen based and could be accomplished in under a few minutes. They were fun, but I really wanted to go back to the days of when I was developing for the Xbox 360, and I thought that the Apple TV and Android TV devices may have been it. Then something interesting happened. Apple didn’t release a real game controller, and every Android TV had it as an optional purchase had different controllers. You never knew what you were going to get into. As a developer I want to ensure that when I am developing something that all of my users have the full game potential. This is why mobile games work so well, they all have touch screens, so you have 100% coverage when you release a game. I asked Frank this week if we could discuss this and more on our weekly podcast Merge Conflict and I hope that you take a listen and chime in on the episode. What do you think of the Switch, mobile gaming, accessories, or just anything else on your mind. 

Live, Love, Bike, and Code

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