I’m a new Wii U owner, finally biting the bullet now that we know the console is on the way out, and thought I’d shoot you an e-mail about it, because my experience with the Wii U makes me think the Switch is going to be a big winner.
I’ve primarily become a handheld gamer over the last half-decade. Console gaming on the TV feels restrictive, you’re tethered to the television and the couch and every thing that comes up interrupts the flow of gaming. Handheld gaming allows you to multi-task, you can carry it around the house with you, pause and put it down for a little bit, do something else, then jump right back into it, gaming at your own convenience. Off-TV play on the Wii U Gamepad almost combines the best of both worlds. Firing up a downscaled HD Mario Kart 8 still looks stunning on the Gamepad screen, but it also doesn’t feel like a downgrade to be playing an old virtual console game on it either. Upgrading to a new console generation used to feel like an upgrade in power and ideas, and it would feel a little cheap to play older-style or older-looking games on it, but this just feels like a “machine for games”, where low, high(ish), and medium end can all exist comfortably simultaneously. The range on the console at least allows me to play away from the TV, in the next room with the door closed, at my desk, in my bed. It feels good to have the option to play on TV or (mostly) away from the TV (some games don’t support off-TV play). It feels like how gaming should be done. Almost.
I would liken the Wii U as a console to how phones have advanced over the years. I’m old enough to remember corded phones, and how awful it was talking on a tethered phone because you really couldn’t do anything else. Then the cordless phones came out and you could at least wander your house while talking on the phone. Then cell and mobile phones finally developed to the point where you could talk on the phone anywhere, or just use text. Each upgrade in technology offered more and more options. The Wii U is the cordless phone of consoles, it’s cool to experience it but it’s not all that significant of an upgrade from the corded phone because you’re still restricted. If the Wii was meant to teach new gamers how to play video games so they can move up to the advanced games, I think the Wii U was supposed to teach gamers that they didn’t need the TV to play console games anymore, except we’re already technologically advanced enough as a society to understand that kind of thing when we see it. Or maybe the technology wasn’t there yet and this was just a stop-gap, I’m not totally certain.
I think Switch is going to change the game. It’s going to feel like a “Games Machine” that gives you the option to play however and whenever you want, and you’re going to be able to take it anywhere and people are going to look at that and just understand it instantly, and that’s how console video games are going to be in the future.
I also think Nintendo needs to slightly refine their marketing. There were the jokes from the initial reveal about the hipster roof parties and people flying on planes and single men living in giant houses what kind of people live like these people, when I think they should be hitting a little more close to home: show someone playing it in bed, show someone walking into their friends place with one, a dorm room, a cafe, there’s even probably a good lame joke showing someone in a cubicle or a meeting pretending to pay attention and playing one under their desk (even better, have someone sitting beside them sneering like they don’t approve, only to show them also playing one and losing to the other person at Mario Kart or something). The message shouldn’t be that it’s a quirky game box for single urban 30 somethings, the message should be that the future of playing any type of game you want is to play it anywhere, anytime, at your convenience, no matter your lifestyle.
I do not mean this to hit too close to home, but gaming has always centered around the Working Class. Especially the arcades. The arcades grew up in bars. Who hangs out in bars? The working class. PC gaming, on the other came, came from nerds. It had a different style to it.
I’ve long suspected Nintendo of America is becoming more and more out of touch by staying in Seattle, Washington or hanging out near Silicon Valley. The purpose of NOA is to interpret America for Nintendo HQ in Japan. How can they do this in their current location? Imagine if NOA was in West Virginia. Could it even do its job properly there? (The Switch marketing is clearly out of sync with normal people. Good thing the marketing was only purpose driven for the product, not identity driven of the people who played it.)
One thing that hasn’t been shown is what happens when multiple Switches interact with each other. Who wants to crowd around a Switch with those crappy controllers? No. Multiple switches playing locally will be an awesome multiplayer experience. Wait and see.
And if THIS is true, will there be Switch Download Play or Spawning? Can you play multiplayer of many Switches off of one Switch cartridge? Remember, the DS did it quite fantastically. (Mmmm 8 player bomberman from one cartridge. I still play it today!)