Since the mid-90s, Nintendo has been an outlier in the video game industry. Despite a museum exhibit’s worth of attempts by everyone from Sega to Nokia to break into the portable console market, Nintendo’s iconic Game Boy and its later incarnations have been the only real success. Over the last decade, with competitors Sony and Microsoft fighting against each other for the most realistic graphics and the highest-numbered specs in their home consoles, Nintendo’s Wii and Wii U have focused on innovations in gameplay. And while many who think of themselves as “serious” gamers have scoffed at being experimental and family-friendly over pure graphical power, Nintendo has kept to its own path.
And with Sony and Microsoft revealing, respectively, the PlayStation 4 Pro and the Scorpio this year, both systems that boost the specs of but don’t replace their predecessors, Nintendo has recently revealed that it will continue to do its own thing with a console called the Nintendo Switch.
For a while now there have been rumors of Nintendo working on a hybrid home/portable console under the codename “NX.” But the news-hungry depths of the internet could only speculate on what such a thing would look like — or if it was even real. The Wii U’s controller already sported a screen the size of a bigger smartphone. Would it be like that? Would it carry over anything significant from the DS and the 3DS, the revolutionary dual-screened clamshell that dominated the handheld market since 2004? Or would it be something entirely new?
The Switch, as it turns out, has more in common with the Wii U’s controller than the 3DS, but in practice it’s like a very high-end portable with a home docking station. The guts of the system reside behind a tablet-like screen that can be plugged into a dock to connect to a television. The controller can come apart and attach to the sides of the screen for portable use, though they can also be used individually for portable multiplayer — something that’s never been available without two separate consoles before. And like the 3DS but unlike any modern home consoles, the Switch uses cartridges for games.
At this point there are still very few specifics, though. A March 2017 release date was provided, but Nintendo hasn’t revealed the price tag yet. There’s no word on the exact size of the screen, though pictures of it being held suggest somewhere around nine inches. Will it have a touch screen or 3D mode like the DS or 3DS? (Likely not, since none of the promotional photos show anyone touching the screen, and the technology that allows 3D without glasses on the 3DS may very well not work with a screen that large.) Will the screen have the standard 1080p HD resolution? (Almost certainly, given even most new smartphones have at least that.) And what will be the effect of merging Nintendo’s portable market and their home one?
But regardless, this humble reporter was sold with one simple word: Skyrim. Okay, two words: portable Skyrim.