This article is a must read for everyone expecting Pokemon Stars, Mario & Luigi or other Nintendo handheld-series on the Switch. Spare yourself the disappointment as I’ll prove why you shouldn’t expect these series either anytime soon, or ever at all.
So the Switch is announced and Nintendo has finally given its official statements surrounding the nature of the machine. And in those statements, Nintendo has been calling the Switch a home console you can take on the go. This is confusing to many people, as clearly the Switch is a handheld right? You can see it clearly; it has a touch screen the actual device is in the actually portable portion of the SKU. It’s a portable by pure definition, right? Nintendo is still calling it a home console.
Point one: Nintendo never said the Switch is a hybrid system.
So why is Nintendo calling it a home console and fans (and non-fans) are calling it a hybrid? We all know first impressions count, and Nintendo bungled that one, they didn’t provide the first impression, eurogamer did in combination with a business move on Nintendo’s end.
Basically, Nintendo merged some of their EAD division a couple of years ago in what became known as the merger between handheld and console studios. Now as a programmer this just seemed to me that their engines are now becoming less hardware dependant meaning that handheld and console development differences are becoming small enough to warrant cooperation. But to the non-programmer this was a mystery.
So when the Eurogamer report hit, many gamers put the two together, so the next system is a hybrid between a console and a handheld. I like to stress this:
The hybrid is a fan-invention and in no way a Nintendo issued concept.
Point two: Calling it a hybrid system is too risky.
So alright, Nintendo never said it’s a hybrid before, so why not do it now? Fans are calling it that way anyway, and any Youtuber talking about the Switch is talking about it’s portability as the prime feature.
I’d say that has a lot to do with a couple of things and the big one is the 3DS. Nintendo’s 3DS had a rocky start but a soaring life, ever increasing its success. And even today, the 3DS is still selling well. With a couple of games like the 2D Pikmin and Fire Emblem Echoes on the way still. Nintendo is keeping the 3DS alive because quite simply, it’s a profitable machine.
So let’s delve into a bit of speculation here, but should the Switch fail, Nintendo will need the 3DS to keep them in the black. Heck if they shelve the 3DS and focus solely on the Switch and that fails, they’ll have nothing. A complete disaster scenario.
So Nintendo is probably dancing around the Hybrid name until they are sure the Switch can carry the entire company. Which I think they’ll need a year or two to properly assess.
Point three: Game design.
Nintendo has been making handheld and console games for ages now. And if you study the game design in their handheld and console games you’ll find some interesting titbits. Exhibit A would be portable Mario versus Console Mario, and the New Super series is the best series to take since they outwardly seem so similar. But if you look carefully, you’ll notice that the (3)DS games have less verticality to each of their levels. If you look even closer, you’ll notice that the camera on the handheld games are more zoomed in anytime. The 3DS games are built for smaller screens.
But the camera position is not the only thing. Notice how the NSMBW and NSBWU have intricate world maps with events (nabbit for instance) while the (3)DS have simple maps with little events. This is because the longer play sessions and secure environments help you focus more than public environments and short play sessions. Nintendo has made sure these small differences are in their games. Nintendo games take play-sessions and play environment into account (most of the time anyway).
So back to the Switch, whether its just for internal clarity or to third party developers. By calling the Switch a home console, they are sending a message to all developers about their expectations on play-sessions, environment and other factors like online capability.
Point four: Price point
This one is simple, you put the Switch next to the 3DS on store shelves and that 300 local currency is going to seem even higher than when you plug it next to a PS4 or Xbone.
I’ve heard a lot of people dreaming up Nintendo handheld series on Switch, but the fact is simply that Nintendo is currently outright saying that this isn’t happening. By calling the Switch a home console, they are basically saying that the Switch’s games are falling in line with the previous home consoles.
I’d like to take some special consideration for Pokemon. One of the starters of that particular rumour was mr Ishihara’s statement that they’d continue developing Main series Pokemon games for handhelds. This has been taken as a Switch confirmation as people gathered that the Switch is in part a handheld. But there’s the thing, Nintendo is not saying that, so what does mr. Ishihara himself believe?
Going by the release of Black 2 and white 2 and X & Y, I think Game Freak will wait until the Switch really starts moving. So Pokemon Stars is just a fan dream if you ask me.
Let me end on a positive note: There is also a best case scenario. The Switch succeeds, it sells like gangbusters and attracts the greatest games and all that, you’ll either see Nintendo now saying it’s been hybrid all along or it’s successor in five-ish years will be a full blown hybrid. I’ll bet a lot on that.
So remember TAY, Nintendo has given their message, take that message seriously it may save dsome disappointment for those waiting for a mainline Pokemon or another favoured handheld series (still waiting on Golden Sun 4 Camelot).