Nintendo Switch Microconsole

Now that the dust has settled on the reveal of the upcoming Nintendo Switch, everyone seems to have shared their opinions on Nintendo's chances of turning the concept into a success. While many are very positive about the Nintendo Switch reveal, there are also some analysts who have raised concerns around cost and making a clear use case message. After all, it's a portable device that's primarily being pitched as a 'home gaming system'.

One thing that has been widely discussed is that the Nintendo Switch will likely be aiming to be a supplementary second home console, rather than necessarily taking on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One directly. Naturally it's also going to try and win over lapsed Wii and DS (maybe even 3DS) gamers that aren't currently part of the home console scene, or smart device gamers interested in Nintendo franchises. Ultimately, though, there could be a significant audience that has a Sony or Microsoft system and will consider adding Switch to their collection for unique content and games.

While the concept of the Nintendo Switch - with its powerful portable handheld gaming and quirky detachable Joy-Con controllers - will hopefully appeal to many gamers, there are other parts of the gaming community that won't be interested in the portable aspect. With this in mind we wanted to consider the possibilities for a Nintendo Switch microconsole, to come in the future, which could serve as an alternative to the full system that was revealed last week. It would likely be a mid-generation idea and require some smart branding, effectively a twist on the Switch name. After all, it'd be a Switch without that key 'Switch' between TV and portable, but rather a spin-off iteration with some packed in multiplayer controls.

Nintendo Switch Joy Con

Nintendo has made a notable move like this in the past. When the 3DS was first released the 3D effect was touted as one of its key features and it was sold at a premium; it was too costly for many consumers. With a ⅓ price discount and then the XL design it sold better, but only a few years into its lifespan the 2DS was released minus that 3D hook; it appears to have been a hit with parents of younger children due to its much lower cost and durability, while also taking away a feature that wasn't required or recommended for that target audience.

One of Nintendo's main goals with the Nintendo Switch will be to grow the install base as quickly as possible.

The Nintendo Switch is, in essence, a powerful handheld gaming device, powered by an NVIDIA "custom Tegra processor" which will be powerful enough to play upcoming games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. That's impressive tech, which will come at a price. On top of this there are the following desirable - but not necessarily essential - features that will inevitably add to the base cost when it launches in March next year.

For starters, the screen appears to be of a decent quality, described by Nintendo as a "bright high-definition display". While Nintendo hasn't confirmed that it is a touchscreen, there's certainly chatter that it will be; perhaps it just wasn't a focus for the initial marketing message. But when you are playing at home, you'll be docking your Switch into a dock to connect to your TV, and will clearly not be able to make use of the screen - it's a single-screen experience at its core. All games playable on the TV, logic suggests, will have to be designed to work without the screen, and that's certainly the key pitch being made in the preview trailer. That's already a key distinction from Wii U, for which some key releases can only function fully with the GamePad's capabilities and second screen.

In addition to the screen, the Nintendo Switch will need a high capacity battery to achieve an acceptable amount of gameplay on the go; another cost cut. A potential micro-console could still offer the Joy-Con controllers with a Grip, however; though some aren't that keen on the size of these little controllers when detached into their local multiplayer form, it'd be an inclusion that'd still allow cheap multiplayer for two right out of the box. When connected to the Grip and played conventionally, they shouldn't be too small; an alternative could be to also bundle with a Pro Controller.

One of Nintendo's main goals with the Nintendo Switch, ultimately, will be to grow the install base quickly at launch but to also sustain momentum after a couple of years. A key reason for this isn't just to make financial results look better, but also to tempt in more third-parties and in the process secure more game releases. As we saw with the Wii U, once indications of poor sales and low momentum emerged early on it didn't take long for tentative third-party support to drift away. Though many will focus on graphical power when considering third-party support, an important point is that successful systems typically attract third-party content regardless of their power. Ports, exclusives, spin-offs - all were a factor on Wii and DS, and the 3DS has seen its share of third-party exclusives as well. Those systems all have one thing in common - strong sales.

With this in mind it would make sense to eventually offer a lower-priced SKU which is more akin in form to a microconsole, or Apple TV / Kindle Fire TV - no extra screen, no high capacity battery, and no dock. Just a box with the guts of the tablet-like console we've been shown so far.

Nintendo Switch Pro Controller

Of course the home only unit would have a card slot for Switch games - just imagine what a space saver not having a disc drive would be; it'd certainly be a small device. What's unclear right now is whether any games or features of the Switch will be portable-only and necessitate that console screen - that, of course, would be a dividing point between the iterations we're suggesting. Though as with the 2DS, you pay a cheaper price and go without the 3D screen or the built-in amiibo scanning of the New 3DS model. Or like the (less successful, we suspect) Wii Mini, which had no Wi-Fi connection. You pay less, but get a system catered to your specific needs.

Nintendo will be facing stiff competition from PS4 and Xbox One, which are in the middle of their lifespan and reduced in price.

Nintendo will be facing stiff competition from PS4 and Xbox One in the dedicated home console space, which are in the middle of their lifespan and reduced in price as a result of PS4 Pro (out this year) and Xbox One Scorpio (due Holiday 2017). So having a low cost option could be a valuable tool in competing to be the second console in a gamer's household.

So how much might it cost? Let's assume (for now) Nintendo Switch retails at somewhere between $250 and $300, as most analysts suggest would be sensible… we might expect a home console version to retail at $150 - $200, initially. Remember, also, that we're looking ahead, to the 18 month / 2 year mark when Nintendo tends to consider iterations, in its portable generations in any case.

Of course, it's likely that Nintendo will not want to confuse consumers during the launch of the Nintendo Switch, so it's right that only the revealed concept is offered initially. There may be multiple options and bundles at launch, similar to the 'Basic' and 'Deluxe' approach taken with Wii U, to offer gamers a simpler console experience, or to go all in with a Pro Controller and Dock. At this stage we don't know, but further down the line offering a stripped down home console version could be a big hit.

It's food for thought, anyway. Having read valid concerns about the structure of the Switch concept, it's tempting to think of a future where a simpler, less flexible option is offered at a cheaper price. Like the 2DS it'd require a tweak in branding, a name to suit its simpler intentions - all while being an affordable part of the Switch family.

It'd switch things up, certainly.