When the Wii launched, it occupied a troubled place in my home as the second console to my Xbox 360. The Wii U has gone further by becoming my fifth go-to place for games after my PC, Xbox One, iPad, and iPhone. The problem with both is that the only reason I bought them was to play Nintendo games (of which the Wii U has very few standout titles) and this is really the defining thing for me about the Nintendo Switch - it is the only way to play Zelda and Mario.

The Nintendo Switch with an as-yet unannounced Mario game The Nintendo Switch with an as-yet unannounced Mario game

Let me be clear from the outset; I will buy a Nintendo Switch but I really, really don't want to. I purchased the Wii U when it was dirt cheap in a Black Friday sale as I wanted to play the new Zelda game (which was subsequently pushed back so far that I'll now get it on the Switch). The only games I've played on it are:

  • Mario Kart 8, a genuinely great game from Nintendo
  • Twilight Princess, a (barely) HD remake of the game that straddled the GameCube / Wii transition in the same way Breath of the Wild will be on Wii U / Switch
  • New Super Mario Bros U, incredibly similar to the DS version

I enjoyed these experiences but it hurts that I need to buy a whole console to enjoy them. I, of course, never expect Nintendo to release their first party games on other platforms (although I would love Mario in 4K) but I'm also never going to play 3rd party games on a console which is underpowered relative to its competitors and the PC, especially not 5 year old games like Skyrim.

Anyway, enough of what I dislike about the Nintendo business, what's to love about the Switch itself? It looks like a lot of the gimmicks have been done away with (motion control, touch screens) and that this is a genuine console for play both at home and travelling. The way in which the gamepad splits into two parts for use with either the tablet portion or joined together with a joystick dock is interesting and means it can be disassembled somewhat for easier packing when travelling. I also like the little kickstand so you can play with it portably without holding it although this has been possible for years on iOS with MFi controllers.

In terms of graphics power, Nintendo are keeping quiet but Nvidia revealed they are powering it with a Tegra processor widely believed to be a Tegra X2 which will put it more powerful than the Wii U but nowhere near something like the PS4 or the Apple A10 chip. It is likely that the onboard screen is 720p but that the main output will be 1080p. This isn't really surprising given Nintendo's recent history but it is disappointing; I'm already carrying around an iPad and an iPhone both of which output at higher resolutions with far better performance and likely longer battery life (as it looks like the tablet portion of the Switch has a fan in it).

One of the more interesting features to my eyes is that the Switch is using cards for storage; this is obviously crucial in a portable device (can't really use discs) but I'd assume you'll also be able to buy games digitally and store them either on the tablet itself or perhaps in the TV dock.

Overall, I feel that the Switch is going to either succeed or fail based on pricing. The general audience that Nintendo usually does well with have moved on to having phones and tablets that play games at a fraction of the cost; it is up to them whether they want to buy another device to carry around with them. For myself, I'll be getting it solely for Breath of the Wild and what looks to be a new 3D Mario game but I highly doubt I'll be using it outside of the docked mode. It is a console purely for playing first-party Nintendo games; they are fortunate that there games are worth paying this much for.