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Nintendo Switch: switching on the power

Austin Bell, Features Editor, Puma Press

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Nintendo is a video game company that other game companies and video game developers aspire to be. They have a long-standing business and have the ability to produce ideas that seem more rooted in magic than in a form of technology. Nintendo also played a very important role in the entertainment industry by jump starting the console industry and standardizing what it still is to this day. During the 1980s, arcades began to spread all across the United States. Prior to Nintendo’s involvement in the console space, Atari was the leading console manufacturer in the U.S. By 1983, the console space had been saturated by games that were not good by critics and consumer standards. It wouldn’t be until 1985 when Nintendo’s first console, the Nintendo Entertainment System, came to the U.S. With that release, not only was their quality control to their games, but they eventually created a template that the competition that Nintendo would follow for the next 30 years.

Fast forward to the year 2017: Nintendo is continuing their the long tradition of giving consumers a console, but this time there is a caveat. The new system aptly called the Nintendo Switch, is a hybrid system representing the best worlds of a console and handheld or tablet. Even though the Nintendo Switch has been out for a few weeks, it’s good to see how consumers and critics think of the new system and whether or not it’s worth buying.

During the end of the sixth generation of consoles consisting of the PlayStation 2, the original Xbox and Nintendo Gamecube, Nintendo was in a tough spot financially and seemingly ranked last place in terms of sales and attracting the most consumers. Sony and Microsoft seemed to be in a technology race turning their consoles into more of multimedia systems that are able to play music and movies.

In November 2001 when the Nintendo Gamecube was released, Nintendo was already working on it’s next big idea. This idea was sure to be a gamble as they moved further away from the hallmarks of the console space of what Sony and Microsoft have been doing. The main philosophy behind the new console was to appeal to a wider demographic, attracting both hardcore fans and newcomers alike. The idea and culmination of the console became the Nintendo Wii which was a runaway success, consistently out selling the new Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The Nintendo Wii was a runaway success. It seemed like Nintendo could easily replicate its success, but the Wii was the perfect storm, coming out the right time along with the right variables to guarantee its collective success. The next console, the Nintendo Wii U, was released in 2012 with skepticism; however, Nintendo continued ahead hoping for a major payoff. This console returned with a more traditional appeal with the added gimmick of its controller which functioned like a tablet. After the release, what they found was, at the least, a modest success and, at the most, a massive disappointment. Most of the casual audience had moved on thanks to the higher usage of mobile phones and tablets. Also, a confusing PR and marketing campaign and lack of games kept owners of the system with little to nothing to do with the new system. With many of the setbacks, Nintendo continued to push forward and make another console worthy of the Nintendo name.

After a year of being teased and given a codename, Nintendo finally released information about the Nintendo Switch in October 2016. This information came in the form of a first-look video detailing what the console can do. The console and portable ability were evident in the video showing that Nintendo knew to be more transparent with what the console can do. The marketing also became a bigger focus on Nintendo securing a time slot for a commercial for the Switch during Super Bowl 51. What was more surprising was the release of the console would come out in the spring instead of the usual fall release cycle.

Nintendo released the Switch on March 3. During the launch day, all of its stock at major retailers sold out. According to Polygon’s Chelsea Stark, the Switch even outsold the Wii. One the main system’s game, “The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild,” has also received critical acclaim from various gaming and non-gaming publications. While the system has been out for a less than a few weeks, both well-versed gamers and casual players reported whether they would recommend it to people who are both hardcore and casual gamers. President of Paradise Valley Community College’s Game Club, Chance Jeffries, offered some insight into how he felt about the system. While he hasn’t yet played it, he stated, “Just being around someone who was playing it made me drawn more to it.” He also talked about who the system is for: “Down the line, casual people would want this just because it has that pickup and play sensibility of a tablet.”

Ben Robbins, a member of the game club at Paradise Valley Community College actually pre-ordered the system and got it the day it came out on March 3. He stated some of the positives of the system along with the gripes: “The controllers or ‘Joy-Cons’ can separate from the console and then be slid back into their neutral position. When slid back into the console, the clicking sound is satisfying. Also, most of the components such as the charging are non-proprietary, meaning existing chargers from phones and tablets can work for them.” Furthermore, the system itself has many modern design elements that were missing in some of the last consoles Nintendo released. Even with these changes, it’s nowhere near a perfect system as evidenced by the many reviews online and customers who have had the system since its release. Robbins went on to state some of his gripes about the system stating that, “While not a problem now, there is limited storage for the games. Battery life is also something that people may be concerned about. Usually, depending on the game, it lasts about three to five hours, and the system cannot be charged while using the kickstand.”

Arizona State University student Alec Fitzgerald has played many Nintendo titles from his childhood but has since recently fallen out of playing video games because of school, work and various responsibility due to adulthood. Upon asking him if he has seen the new console at all and what it would take for him to buy it, he said, “I heard about it through social media, which led me to an online article about it. That’s where I understood the idea of the console.” On the terms of buying it, he stated that “I want to see familiar titles that I experienced during my childhood, even if that means reworking older franchises with newer features.”

Beyond the system, the most inquisitive selling point in owning a Nintendo Switch is the games that are released the same day as well in the coming months. A shortcoming with the last few Nintendo products was the stream of games that would vanish quickly, but, with the newest system, Nintendo is promising not only more games from Nintendo themselves but from other third-party companies. During the lunch day of the Nintendo Switch, 10 games were released which was less than the both the Nintendo Wii and the Nintendo Wii U. While this makes Nintendo’s claim of having more support skeptical, they did release “The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild,” a game in the long-running Zelda franchise. So far, this game, which was announced in 2013, has been reviewed to critical acclaim holding a 97 Metacritic score making it one of the highest rated games of all time.

With a synthesis of modern ideas and one of their long running franchises attaining perfect scores, Nintendo seems to be getting right back on track leaving the last five years of the company behind them. In a way, this system just might be the most nostalgic console Nintendo has ever produced. By being a hybrid that can both be played at home and on the go, it helps bridge the gap for many people who only played their consoles and handhelds exclusively. This seems to be the perfect strategy to bring a wide demographic together not for the hopes of beating the competition but to have fun.

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Nintendo Switch: switching on the power