Nintendo Switch: A new gaming user experience
The anticipation for a new Nintendo console was long overdue, so when I heard the announcement in October 2016 about the release of the Nintendo Switch, I knew it was something I had to get my hands on. The Nintendo Switch is a gaming console with a new concept; allowing a quick transition from a home console system to a portable on-the-go gaming experience. The Flexibility of three different modes; TV, Handheld and Tabletop mode mean you can take the console anywhere, and play with anyone. Providing new gaming user experiences makes it stand-alone from other gaming consoles.
The user experience of playing the Switch in TV mode has a sense of familiarity. In order to play games in this mode, the console is put into the dock, and linked up to the TV via HDMI. The games appear as they would on an Xbox, but with the Switch you have the flexibility in choice of how to hold and use the controllers. The Joy-Con controllers for the Switch have a unique controller design; they detach from each side of the console to make either one game controller or two separate pieces that can be used independently. This allows users to configure controllers for the best experience for different games.
For example, as you can see in the pictures, when playing a game such as ‘Just Dance’, users can detach a controller and use it as an individual piece, allowing them to wave this around to follow the dance moves.
In contrast, ‘The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’, is a classic adventure game, and therefore the user experience is best with a one-piece game controller.
The Joy-Con controllers also have a feature called HD rumble, which offers users a haptic user experience, to feel different types of vibrations through the controllers. Games like ‘1-2 Switch’ have been specifically designed for the Switch, to incorporate these features into game-play. On a game called ‘ball count’ users estimate how many balls are in a box by tilting the controller and ‘feeling’ the balls move around in it. The closest player to guess the amount wins.
One downside of user experience on TV mode is that the games are designed for a smaller screen in Handheld and Tabletop mode, so switching to play the game to a larger screen such as a TV, causes the frame rate to noticeably drop and the game appears to lag compared to other modes. I found this can be off putting and for some may defeat the point of being able to play in different modes.
The unique feature about the Nintendo Switch is the new user experience element, that allows users to take this console anywhere and continue gaming on the move. by switching it into Handheld mode. To do this, you slot each Joy-Con controller into the side of the console to make, what appears like, a Wii U gamepad and then remove this from the dock. There is no need to shut down the console and reboot it to switch modes, as the game switches instantaneously, undisrupting the flow of gaming from one screen to another.
As a daily train commuter to and from work, it is great to be able to pick up from where I played the game the night before, and continue playing this on a journey. The Switch is also very quick to load, after turning the console on, no time is wasted waiting for the console to turn on and select a game, meaning users can get quickly engrossed in the user experience.
Another feature that enhances the user experience is the touch screen element that the Switch has on the user interface, which replicates a tablet like experience to navigate through the menu, select games and change profiles. Although most games on the Switch do not incorporate this touch element into the game itself, it is something I hope to see on games in the future.
A drawback of playing the game in Handheld mode on the move is that the Switch has a limited battery life and can’t be charged independently. The Switch can only be played for around 3-6 hours in Handheld mode, so users need to be wary about how many hours they can fit in gaming, without the console running out of battery.
Tabletop mode combines the mobility aspect offered by Handheld mode, as well as flexible controllers. What’s great about this mode is that you can take the Switch to a friend’s house or to family gatherings, and continue gaming together with multiplayer. This new user experience encourages multiple game play, as opposed to the familiar solo game play at home in the TV mode.
At the moment though, the kickback stand that props the console up on a surface is not very stable, especially when placed on an uneven surface. This limits where you can play in Tabletop mode, as standing the Switch on a surface like a bed or a sofa may cause this to fall over.
Overall, the new concept of the Nintendo Switch is something that is unique in design, and provides a fascinating new user experience for gaming. It has only been a couple of weeks since release date, and the advantages of being able to play games in various modes are evident. However, at the moment, there are a limited number of games available for the Switch, meaning we can’t see the full potential of the gaming user experience. Despite the drawbacks it currently has, we look forward to how Nintendo will fix these, as well as the games revealed in the coming months.