As we get closer to the early January online event that should blow the lid off more Nintendo Switch details, most of which will have probably been leaked with varying degrees of accuracy beforehand, opinions are starting to crystallise. The flashy millennial-filled reveal trailer seemed to generally achieve its goals - it went viral and accumulated impressive view numbers, was rather well received and also seemed to get the word out to plenty of potential buyers still blissfully unaware of Wii U. As far as first impressions and good starts go, it was - we'd argue - a success.
Over the past month or so there's been an interesting division of how people perceive the Switch, and it's hard to tell with any certainty whether that's a positive or a negative. The entire concept, which is in the name and at the heart of the reveal video, is that the system can be whatever kind of gaming experience people want - a home console or a portable.
Does this matter? Yes, in a word, because when the time comes for Nintendo to position it in the market it'll rely upon the idea exciting a significant section of the public. The term 'Jack of all trades' that we've used in the headline can be deemed in a positive or negative light, too. Flexibility is nice, as is the ability to do various things with a degree of quality, but it's also considered a bad thing in many walks of life if a product doesn't truly excel in any area. If it fails to stand out, will anyone spend their hard-earned money on it?
Let's break down the three key perceptions that are likely to form around the Switch.
Home Console and Portable in Equal Measure
This is probably the ideal from Nintendo's perspective, for potential consumers to see a device that is equally enjoyable regardless of how they're playing. We say that, though Nintendo's own website describes Switch as the 'next home gaming system', so maybe this isn't actually the perception Nintendo wants.
We'd suggest that the concept video shoots for this angle, however - it makes much of the core feature of seamlessly 'switching' from the TV to tablet/portable form, and also clipping the Joy-Con controllers on and off for various gaming configurations. The idea is simple - home console level games that you can pop in your bag and play at the airport, or next to a basketball court with friends. Nah, we won't try that last one in real life.
Primarily A Home Console
With the Wii U having sold poorly and gone largely unnoticed by the wider world (it seems), Nintendo is clearly making a play for Switch as its next living room console, playing into the strategy of keeping the 3DS active as the company's dedicated portable into 2017. With that in mind it'll need key games best-suited to TVs; the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and potential third-party ports like Skyrim play right into this. Based on some of the more trustworthy 'leaks' and rumours, it certainly looks like a range of ports, remasters and new games will cater to TV gaming.
Potential issues with this revolve around what value Nintendo can offer. With the PS4's updated 'slim' model and Xbox One S in the middle of a price war, it's easy to grab bundles with a few games at tasty prices. Yes, the Nintendo Switch will have unique first-party games and that portable feature-set (plus other tricks, we're sure), but pricing and the capabilities of the machine will be key.
Indications are that the system can run games of the 'current generation', at least in terms of PS4 and Xbox One (likely not PS4 Pro or Xbox Scorpio) level. It'll inevitably not be bleeding edge tech for TV gaming (primarily as it's a tablet device, remember), so content will be key in persuading buyers; Nintendo, as has been the case for a few generations, will likely be near the back of the queue for top-notch multi-platform third-party releases.
Even if the dock enables the console (tablet) to run a little quicker and deliver a stronger resolution on a TV (1080p, probably), Nintendo will once again be relying on the concept and content to deliver big sales; that worked well with Wii, though, so there's reason for optimism.
Primarily a Portable
This writer's social media timelines have included a number of people that see the Switch - first and foremost - as a powerful portable. It's not an unreasonable stance; a decent chunk of gaming enthusiasts will already own a PS4 / Xbox One and/or PC for the flashiest games. Nintendo's portables have an enduring appeal, as sales figures show, and it's worth emphasizing that the console itself is a portable. In fact, if you consider the strong likelihood that it has a touch screen and how it utilises those detachable controllers, in some respects it's a Nintendo gaming tablet. Yes, we're aware that sentence will annoy some people.
With a number of leaked and potential games all over the web thought has turned to the charm of having these major titles on the go - major 3D Legend of Zelda, Skyrim, possibly the likes of Dark Souls 3 by From Software, all available while on the bus. It's also worth being honest and saying that the 3DS is ageing technology, and plenty are ready for a high resolution set of handheld experiences from the big N.
Question marks around the Switch as a portable include its battery life, of course, though the 3DS survived despite its modest capabilities in this area. It'll also be interesting to see how much effort Nintendo puts into the portability of the system in terms of features - will it have StreetPass, connectivity through Wi-Fi hotzones and so on? We know that playing on the go, and with friends, are key selling points, but how much of the 3DS-style experience will carry across?
Games will be another interesting area. Nintendo merged its hardware and software departments some time ago, but some rumours suggest there will be a 3DS successor down the line - another dedicated portable. Whatever the case - we're unconvinced by those rumours at this stage - what'll be fascinating is whether titles readily associated with portable play will get their chance on Switch. It looks like Pokémon Sun and Moon will have a third edition on Switch, but what about all those RPGs we saw on 3DS, and franchises like Fire Emblem that found portable success? Will experiences largely associated with the 3DS era get equivalents on Switch?
We hope so, but it'll be interesting to see how the game library shapes up.
Where Do You Stand?
Nintendo Switch will be unique on the market in that it'll offer a home console experience that's easily unplugged and played on the go. It's an interesting idea, and the early 'home gaming system' marketing is a quirky spin on the concept - after all, the 'console' is a handheld device, with the dock merely being a conduit to deliver the image onto a TV screen.
Early reactions to the concept seemed positive after the reveal trailer, but Nintendo still faces an important task in the New Year. Analysts are likely right when they talk about Nintendo targeting an audience more used to smart device and tablet gaming, but are perhaps ready for a step-up that Nintendo can offer. At the same time, Nintendo will need existing fans and more gaming enthusiasts to be excited by it. The game library will be key, and while a Skyrim port (as one example) may not interest many that have played it already elsewhere, it may find an audience in those upgrading from 3DS or tablet gaming. Likewise exclusive content, like Breath of the Wild and so on, has the potential to tempt a wide audience, including 'enthusiasts' that have other current-gen home consoles.
There's potential, then, for the Jack of all trades approach to pay off in a big way, luring in a vast audience of diverse gamers; it's just as possible that it'll struggle to stand out, and be considered a luxury not worth buying by those respective audiences.
Time will tell, but let us know how you think of the Switch right now. Is it a home console first, or a powerful portable, or both in equal measure? Hit up the poll and comments to share your view.