The Switch is a potential all-in-one device and Nintendo needs to realise it
Nintendo’s design philosophy of unique innovation has resulted in its presentation of each of its gaming systems as very distinct. Nintendo has traditionally placed a lot of emphasis on continually reinventing the physical aspect of the user’s interface with its games. With the introduction of the Nintendo Switch last March, however, it is time for them to stop reinventing the wheel.
In the past, Nintendo’s need to innovate has brought many industry-defining changes to controllers. The D-pad has come to define gaming in two dimensions, for which it won an Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Award. The thumb-controlled analogue stick of the Nintendo 64 similarly popularised an effective method of 3D movement for home consoles. The vibration function that Nintendo calls Rumble was also achieved by the company before Sony or Microsoft.
The Wii was a further example of Nintendo’s philosophy of eschewing standardised controls for a scheme that involved more emphasis on the physical engagement with the controller. A side effect of the Wii Remote, however, was the fact that the console lacked a controller matching the quality of other consoles.
The Switch, in contrast, minimises its design essence to something that couldn’t be simpler: a tablet, with two halves of a standard controller. Even HD Rumble is essentially only a refinement of standard vibration feedback. Tablets have proven to be incredibly versatile, capable of supporting a full range of functions. Combine this with the traditional “screen plus controllers” concept of consoles and the Switch becomes excitingly potent.
It is necessary for Nintendo to treat the Switch as an all-encompassing platform on which a variety of software can converge. It is time for the company to stop trying to be different. By this I mean that the company should make plans to stick with the Switch concept exclusively. Future consoles should simply be improvements on the concept. It is in the nature of technology to converge, and this creates an opportunity for Nintendo to make the Switch an all-in-one device capable of operating games from all of its past consoles as well as modern apps seen on any other smart device.
Arguably, Nintendo’s greatest appeal is nostalgia. Many of its intellectual properties extend back decades, with a rich history of varied games. With a little bit of adaptation to the modern hardware, consumers could conceivably be playing all of them. Add to this the usefulness of apps that have become part of everyday life, and the device could become invaluable to several demographics. Nintendo is on to a winner with the basic concept of the Switch. And if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.