We’re less than a month away from the arrival of Nintendo’s newest condole, the Switch. It’s been ten years since Nintendo’s last new home console was launched – yet the Switch is, thankfully, very similar. It’s also very different. And it’s going to be a big hit.
Why the Wii worked
In 2006, the Xbox and Xbox 360, along with the PS2 and imminent PS3, were the consoles of choice for “gamers”. Nintendo’s Wii ignored that market, and targeted the “casual” demographic – people who normally couldn’t care less about gaming on their TV were suddenly fighting over the Wii-motes to beat their family at tennis or boxing. No hard-to-remember button combos – just swing your hand and you were playing! Parties were no longer complete without a quick go on the Wii, and once people had a taste they’d be off to buy one for their own home. The Wii made gaming accessible to everyone.
Why the Wii U didn’t work
Six years later, and the Wii U was launched to a distinct lack of interest. It dropped the Wii-motes (although they were compatible), instead debuting the GamePad. The GamePad was a large, cumbersome controller/display unit which had a built-in touchscreen. The benefits of this were never fully realised, as it was too much work for developers to build in decent GamePad support to ported games from other consoles (although Arkham City gave it a good try). There had been similar promises made with the PS3/PS4 and PSP/Vita support, but again, not much came of it. It would have been ideal for RPG and action games, to display maps, loadouts, inventories and so on – but it never really caught on. The only real benefit was that you could play games on the GamePad’s screen when someone else was using the TV – if you were close enough.
There was also a lot of confusion for the very people the Wii had attracted – the casual audience. There was no real reason to get the Wii U if you had a Wii; the Wii U could play the same games, but then if you’ve got a Wii, you can do that anyway…
Why the Switch will work
The Switch goes back to what made the Wii so popular: party/social gaming. Once again, you have two controllers which can be shared easily, giving anyone the chance to join in just by shaking their hands in the air like they just don’t care. So far, so Wii. The Switch’s party piece (pun totes intended) however, is that you don’t need to have it connected to a TV. You can take it anywhere – just slot the controllers onto the Switch’s display, pull it out of the dock, and off you go. Take it to Grandma’s, take it to the park, take it to your bedroom – it’s go-anywhere fun. Up to eight Switches can be linked together, so if you and a few friends are getting together, have a multiplayer Mario Kart game wherever you want.
Not a social person? No problem – now you can take your console-quality Zelda game on the train, or play it in your lunchbreak. Sony’s Vita handheld never really got the love it deserved, but Nintendo’s 3DS, despite being as advanced as a water wheel, continues to see quality games released every month. Nintendo reckon the Switch won’t change that – but I know I can’t wait to play a Pokemon game on my Switch some day.
The Switch brings together all the good bits about the Wii (ease of use, casual or pro controls, quality Nintendo games), the one good bit about the Wii U (the screen) and the portability of the 3DS without that annoying need for a TV and mains power supply. And good riddance to 3D, too…