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The Nintendo Switch’s Revitalization of Social Gaming

A couple of days ago, we finally received information regarding the launch of the Switch, including the official date, the price, and details on how the console (and its corresponding controllers the "Joy Cons") would function. Since then there's been all matter of discussion regarding Nintendo's statement on the future of gaming; some see it as a giant leap forward, others as a step backward, and most just see it as far too costly a product with far too few titles at launch.

Zelda Cry

My personal immediate reaction was somewhere in the middle. While the idea of a new console has always been and will always continue to be a time of personal excitement for me regardless, and I believe in the idea of local co-op/competitive play over the ever distancing/alienating idea of online gaming, the pricing and the launch titles do leave something to be desired.

However, after a few days of mulling it over internally and speaking with friends and colleagues about what this console means for gaming and gamers I must say that the weight of excitement for this trend is far greater than the hesitation that I feel over things like the cost of accessories and a distinct lack of launch titles.

Product Shot

You see more than just a console launch Nintendo has, with the concept of its new concept, made a bold statement of the current state of video games. While Sony and Microsoft have increasingly reduced the number of couch co-op titles in the name of profits, being able to make far more money on the idea of everyone owning their own console, own copy of the game, and playing together via an internet connection (requiring a paid subscription), Nintendo has stepped forwards and said: "You know what, people should bring back the social element of gaming."

The console comes with "two" controllers out of the box and is completely portable. Meaning you can play with your friends as soon as you own the console, in fact, it's encouraged. The launch titles all feature multiplayer (Zelda aside) and focus on co-operative and competitive gameplay with your friends. Not only that, the idea to make the console completely mobile at its core means that if your friends don't come to you, you'll take it to them. As shown, repeatedly, in their promotional materials it's an unprecedented opportunity to share your console with your friends and turn any social gather into a shared gaming experience via the unique controller structure and portable display.

Console Contents

Nintendo's strength has been, in my opinion for years their near monopoly on nostalgia.

Their library routinely succeeds on this premise, through releases of the same game titles they've been making since the '80s (Zelda, Kirby, Mario, etc.). With the release of their new console, the Switch, I feel like they've taken that concept to the next level and the first hint was in the video roll at the start of the announcement.

Nintendo kicked off their announcement of the Switch by running through their history. They made the claim that the Switch represents all of Nintendo's history from the NES (which also released with two controllers out of the box) right up to the Wii U (which shares both concepts of a tablet/screen and motion controls).

Multiplayer

There are plenty out there, like myself, who yearn from the gaming of their youth. There was a time when even single player games were a social event. Friends gathered together at one house and shared a controller and gaming experiences, playing through things like the original Zelda in turn... As gaming became more prevalent though and more kids had consoles the single player experience became an individual one... which is fine. However, the days of four players split screen seem more and more like a distant memory as each new multiplayer game focuses on online play rather than local.

Of course, the only evidence I have that I'm not alone in my desire for a return to the '90s style of "call everyone over and play video games together in a single location" is completely anecdotal. Tons of articles have been written about the fact that the rise of online gaming has created new and, in some cases, stronger friendships...

Joy Con Close-Up

For people like myself, who grew up in love with gaming because of that unity we felt that has been slowly slipping away, the statement Nintendo has made with the announcement of the Switch is something that elevates a lot of the concerns, if not gets rid of them entirely.

Yes, the accessories are far too expensive. Yes, the launch titles are sparse.

But there's no price I wouldn't pay to bring everyone together again and share those old school local/couch co-op experiences for. Nintendo is gambling on nostalgia once more and if we've learned anything from their last few decades of success, that's generally where they do their best work.