Friday, January 5, 2018

Thoughts on Nintendo Switch

Hi all!

Are you digging the Nintendo Switch yet? Or still just a curious observer?

I got my Switch back in August of 2017, starting out with Breath of the Wild, Mario vs Rabbids and Sonic Mania :). With a recent influx of games received over the holidays, my collection now includes Super Mario Odyssey, Rime, Just Dance 2018, Cave Story+ and Axiom Verge.

Since I've always been a Nintendo fan, the Switch is unsurprisingly my favorite console to date. It's very similar to what I imagined the successor to the Wii U would be, a smaller version of the Wii U Gamepad, which could also act as a dedicated console.

The Joy Cons were a wonderful surprised, as I didn't expect them at all. The Wii Remote redefined the gaming controller, and the Joy Cons have refined the concept to near perfection with a slimmed down design, analog sticks instead of D Pads, and amazing haptic feedback. Playing Just Dance on the Switch with the Joy Cons is much nicer than the clunkier Wii Remotes, with excellent motion tracking (though I do also long for a controller-less design, a la the now discontinued Kinect) and the ability to use both Joy Cons at once (even if not for songs).

Likewise, the Pro Controller is great to use when you want a more classic feel.

Multi-cartridge support?

While the eShop is great, I'm always a fan of physical cartridges over eShop versions of the game. While I bought Sonic Mania digitally, since I didn't see any evidence of a physical release, I specifically waited for Axion Verge on the cartridge since I knew one was coming. I may also end up buying Blossom Tales digitally, though I'll still wait for a bit in the hopes of a physical release. 

It would be nice to have the convenience of eShop games, but being able to retain the cartridge form factor. While this would have been prohibitive with optical media, the Switch's cartridge form factor allows a unique opportunity. While the Switch in "portable mode" makes sense to have a single cartridge, I'd love to see an attachment that connects to the dock allowing us to load multiple cartridges as once, so that you can easily switch between games on different cartridges. This makes perfect sense in a home console, and the USB ports on the Switch Dock would make the connections easy. A separate dock could also be sold which would have the multiple cartridge ports built-in.

A 2DS Player?

I'm disappointed that we have not yet seen any way to officially play 3DS games on a TV (in 2D mode), having to resort to very expensive hacks. Not only do I long to play several 3DS games on my TV (Luigi's Mansion, Link Between Worlds, Mario Kart 7, etc), it just feels "right" as a follow up to Nintendo's previous attachments for allowing portable games on your TV (the Super Game Boy for the SNES, and the Game Boy Player for the GameCube).

The Wii U would have seemed the perfect console to create an attachment to allow this, already having a separate touch screen that allows asymmetric game play. While I've seen some arguments that the resolution of a 3DS game (400x240) would make for poor playing on a TV, even a simple 4.5x linear scaling, or less depending on your TV's resolution, should still be playable. And the fact that DS games are available on the Wii U eShop (at 256 x 192 resolution no less) kind of nullifies that argument (though I have not personally played any). It's entirely possible the resolutions could be improved for the TV, in some way.

I suspect one reason a 3DS Adapter never materialized for the Wii U was simple due to poor sales of the console. If it had seen wider success, maybe I could finally play New Super Mario Bros 2 on my TV.

Therefore, with sales of the Switch, the natural question is whether or not we could see any way to play 3DS games on a TV, via the Switch. It would be a bit more difficult for the Switch than the Wii U, but certainly possible. I expect we could see some form of "2DS Player", as an accessory for the Switch. I imagine it would take the form of the "lower" section of the 2DS XL, which the cartridge could be inserted into, supplying the circle pads and controls, as well as the lower touch screen. This could then connect (maybe even wirelessly) to an attachment that would plug into the Switch itself, which would then render itself as the "top" screen, either in handheld or docked mode. I can only imagine a case allowing you to use it in handheld mode as the "2DS XXL" :).

There is also the question of whether or not there is business case for such a perphial. A Wii U/3DS adapter may simply have been nixed due to fear of it negatively impacting 3DS/2DS sales. There is also the factor of potentially missing the 3DS eShop on the adapter. But I personally think if set at a decent price point (< $100, less than the cost of an original 2DS), such an adapter would be a huge hit and generate a decent profit margin. Even the Game Boy Player was somewhat limited compared to the Game Boy Advance, and the same could be true of a 2DS Player - for example, perhaps the eShop capabilities wouldn't exist, requiring games on a physical cartridge only. Some people suspect the 3DS may be near its lifetime, and so it would not be crazy to wait until then to release such an adapter.

Or perhaps it's all just a crazy pipe dream, and I'll have to replace my 3DS with a 2DS XL so I can play Samus Returns on a larger screen :). 

What might we see in a Switch 2?

While the Switch is still flying off shelves, rumors are flying that Nintendo is already working on a successor. Given the rapid pace of technology, this would not surprise me in the slightest.

I doubt that the Switch successor will be a brand new concept. Like the Wii U built on top of the Wii (adding a touch screen), I suspect the Switch 2 will take the Switch concept and refine it further.

When I first heard about the Switch, one thing that really surprised me was that the dock was wired. Given the precedence set by the Wii U for wireless video transfer, I expected the Switch to connect to the TV wirelessly as well (via a "Chromecast-like" dongle). The physical dock works fine, but it is a bit cumbersome. I suspect the Switch 2 will see some sort of wireless dock feature. Using a wireless dock would also solve the missing screen issue for a 2DS Player, using the Switch itself as the lower screen, but there I go dreaming again :).

The Joy Cons could also use a bit of improvement. I find constantly sliding them on and off the respective rails, depending on what mode you want to use, a bit tiresome. Perhaps we will see Joy Cons that are a bit more self contained, but still usable in a similar way, maybe with NFC syncing and wireless charging.

4K Gaming? Maybe, but I wouldn't hold my breath. We don't even have Netflix for the Switch yet, so I won't guess on any multimedia features it may have. But for now, I'll happily keep rocking the Switch and am excited for all of the new games coming up.


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