venerdì 21 ottobre 2016

5 quick takeaways from the Nintendo Switch annoucement

Striking while the iron is hot, shall we? Not more than a few hours ago, the Nintendo Switch was annouced as the next home console from the japanese company - with a catch: it's a modular device that you can hook up to your HDTV, or carry outside and play on the go on a (supposedly touch) compact display. Just a look at the announcement video embedded below, and you can see how the whole thing screams Nintendo Difference from every angle: the diversity from the traditional setup of the PS4 and Xbox One is stark. And there are a few key concepts that we can already associate to this new product to better understand the impact of its nature on software development.


It's a crossroad between home consoles, portable devices and smartphones, and it can lend itself to all these kinds of gaming experiences. Developers will have the outmost freedom in terms of design, ranging from orthodox couch experiences to casual mobile stuff and everything in between. They will even be able to create specific mechanics for specific scenarios of use in the framework of a single game. Once again, Nintendo came up with a console able to provoke software maker's creativity, without treading too far from its recent past: it's basically a more refined take on the WiiU that accounts for true portability while not messing with the 3DS's market position. In particular, the fact of having two tiny controllers in the portable setup brings up interesting social applications.

The company should not be afraid of tackling highly popular genres as third person action adventures or shooters, bringing its own exquisite taste for quality, refinement and incremental experimentation as a precious added value.

It's powered by a custom new generation NVidia Tegra chipset, which makes it very easy to port stuff from mobile to Switch and viceversa, while offering enough power to support home console level contents. Unfortunately, the exact specs of the machine remains unknown, with only The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (this one as a simple proof of concept, not an actual product) giving a rough idea of its power. It should be noted, though, that Nintendo specifically required *fast* APIs, audio and video renderers from NVidia, so we might be looking at something that in the right hands, may produce visuals not too far behind the PS4 and Xbox One's. Support for resolutions higher than 1080p, though, seems unplausible at the moment.

Third party publishers are there, but... as per usual with Nintendo, we'll have to wait 12 to 18 months to actually see whether they'll stick to the console, or slowly distance themselves from it just like it happened with the WiiU. You may have noticed a change in tone for the advertising campaing of the Switch, which appears to be focused much more on the so called "millennials" rather than the whole family. New software propositions from Nintendo itself outside of their well known brands may encourage third parties to be just as daring and caring: the company should not be afraid of tackling highly popular genres as third person action adventures or shooters, bringing its own exquisite taste for quality, refinement and incremental experimentation as a precious added value.  

The aestethic element seems to have taken a backseat this time around. The Switch is definitely not the best looking console from Nintendo, and not because of its grim choice of colours: the Joy-Con specular design is neat, but when attached to the massive central square element that makes them work as a traditional joypad they look very awkward, especially in comparison to other more refined controllers. The rest of the components (the TV connecting base, the secondary display etc.) sports an angular, deep black design that frankly isn't anything to write home about.

A proper acknowledgement of e-Sports is probably one of the most interesting parts of the Switch announcement. We can see people bringing their own consoles to a tournament stage in the video, and crowds of people cheering them. Considering how crucial is Internet viewership to all of this, we might as well speculate about an alleged newfound interest from Nintendo towards the online world. The Nintendo Network, the StreetPass and NFC technologies, the Miis and their social features may receive special attention from now on and grow into a more cohesive, better integrated and connected whole.


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