The Nintendo Switch is here, and it’s fantastic.
Which is great news for Nintendo after its 2016. That sounds like a strange thing to say considering the runaway success of Pokémon Go — but Nintendo owned only 19 percent of the game. Super Mario Run, the company’s other foray into mobile gaming, received a lukewarm reception, and overall sales were lower than the year before, a trend that’s continued since 2012.
But the Switch looks like a console that could change Nintendo’s fortunes. It’s sleek and understated — unless you have the neon version, of course — and it delivers on its promise to seamlessly meld console and mobile gaming. Which is to say: You can play it like a Super Nintendo or a GameBoy. It’s also the latest sign that Nintendo is serious about its commitment to communal gaming; the Switch is about bringing people together, which is what games do better than just about anything else.
The first hands-on Switch event was held Friday morning at a pop-up space in Midtown Manhattan. The rooms were buzzing with amped journalists and friendly brand ambassadors, cameras were everywhere, and the Switch performed exactly as advertised. You can start playing the demo of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on a TV and then pick it up on the handheld seamlessly.
The Switch also feels really good; it’s well-designed — if you like satisfying clicks, this is the console for you — and it’s got just the right amount of heft. Nintendo has managed to combine its expertise in handheld gaming with its avant-garde (and idiosyncratic) thinking about consoles.
Nintendo is making a few other new bets as well: Developing IP that doesn’t feature Italian plumbers or elven heroes (like the motion-controlled fighting game Arms, which is fun as hell), switching from discs to flash memory, and making its library of titles from previous consoles available through a new online subscription service.
More than anything, the Switch is a bridge between portable gaming and home consoles, geared, like Nintendo’s previous systems, toward the casual gaming public. They’ve taken the stuff that works in its other hardware and put it all together. Nintendo doesn’t need saving per se, but the Switch might save it anyway.