Nintendo have announced their new console: Nintendo Switch. The public declaration of the device’s existence comes to us via a snazzy trailer full of hip, young attractive people having fun. They choose to play video games when they could easily be doing something adventurous or exciting… so that must mean Nintendo video games and products are adventurous and exciting! We should all buy Nintendo video games and products.
I very much want to buy this Nintendo product. Not because I aspire to be a doe-eyed beauty on a clean urban rooftop taking a party full of eager young people to the next level by playing some Mario, though. The Switch, at least in the way it is being presented this morning, is the culmination of a lot of things Nintendo has done well in the last decade, while reminding me of a core truth I had forgotten: I really, really like Nintendo.
Whether the console will actually live up to such expectations is a whole other discussion, but for now I find myself reassured and impressed by a device that apparently takes the core strengths of the Nintendo Wii (an unmitigated success) and the more positive elements from the Wii U. I am also happy we are leaving that Wii branding behind.
Of course, everything about the console fits into a sterile, workshopped and focus grouped concept of young and vibrant lifestyles that include gaming as part of a healthy diet of playing basketball, having sex (come on Nintendo, we all know that’s what’s really going on here) and ignoring your dog. The mobile/console hybrid that basically makes this a tablet you might actually want to own in the wasteland of life after the iPad boom. Still, having two mini-controllers that make it possible to challenge someone to some Mario Kart more or less on the spot? Very Nintendo.
So yes, the branding is on message but more broadly the Switch seems to be the product of a company that has gotten its act together and is clearly focused on what is trying to do. That has hopefully produced a console every bit as exciting as advertised, and it also means advertising on message to the point of inducing nausea but we must take the rough with the smooth. Just think how irritating the “Switch” name would be if it wasn’t the least revolting name for a Nintendo console in decades.
It makes me wonder, too… is Nintendo basically a handheld device company now? For some time, portable Nintendo consoles have driven the company’s main share in the video game world. This new device feels like an embrace of that identity attempted with the Wii U but now more fully executed. Smartphones are genuinely infringing on Nintendo handheld territory at this point. The Switch seems a clear decision by the company to lean in and take the challenge head on.
One more thing that certainly deserves a mention: the video ends with a significant amount of time spent on two teams preparing to take the stage to compete against each other in professional Splatoon. I’m not entirely sure when we crossed this particular Rubicon but it seems that you can no longer make a major hardware announcement without mentioning (if not celebrating) the ways in which your new device fits into and expands the world of esports. For years, esports enthusiasts talked either directly or indirectly about a time when the pursuit would be taken seriously. Just like that, it’s happened.