Updated 12/14/16 to correct a factual error.
With the January 12th Nintendo Switch event looming nearer, there are still many unanswered questions regarding Nintendo’s next generation home (and handheld) console. Speculation and rumors regarding system performance, launch titles and battery life have dominated the conversation over the last several months. Regardless of what answers we get from those questions, certain things remain true. We will be playing Nintendo titles. They will look great because, let’s be honest, they always do. Instead of attempting to answer those unanswerable questions, let us instead take a look at the ways we will be interacting with the Nintendo Switch, from an OS and systems feature perspective.
With the Wii, Wii U and 3DS, Nintendo has deliberately given users a tiled, App-style interface to access their content. Anyone who uses a smartphone or tablet device should find the layout familiar. Essentially, Nintendo has attempted to make their devices intuitive and simple for anyone picking up their machines to navigate.
It would be bold to state that Nintendo tends to buck this trend with the Switch. More-so now than ever before, a Nintendo device resembles something nearly every household has: a tablet or smartphone. Leaning on the design philosophies of those style devices in creating the system UI for the Switch would lend itself rather nicely in making it a very approachable accessible device. And while accessibility does not necessarily translate to mass market appeal and large sales figures, it certainly doesn’t hurt.
Nintendo introduced Miiverse with the release of the Wii U. It was an interesting concept: A social media service designed to allow players to interact with games and other players, sharing posts, drawings and in-game screenshots. I don’t see Nintendo getting rid of Miiverse any time soon, seeing as though they even pushed it to the 3DS.
What I would like to see, however, is Nintendo evolve Miiverse into a much more robust social media platform. The app could be updated to be a bit more user friendly. The inclusion of allowing users to post in game video clips would be a most welcome change, and one the community has wanted since day one. If the mysterious square button on the Switch’s controllers is indeed a “share” button, we may just get those features. You have to admit, it would be pretty cool to be able to hop into Miiverse, check out what your buddies are doing, and watch as they livestream taking down the Calamity Ganon in Breath of the Wild (whenever it releases).
Let’s be honest with each other for a moment. The friend code system was garbage. Luckily, Nintendo has been moving away from that since the release of the Wii U. With DeNA being involved in the development of Nintendo’s online infrastructure, I think it is safe to say we can expect a more modern take on the way Switch handles friends. Microsoft and Sony have both gone with a follow system and Miiverse has done the same since its inception.
Even if Nintendo opts not to adopt a follow system for Switch, the least they could do would allow us to request friends. While Nintendo is huge on privacy for their users, adopting a comprehensive parental control system would provide parents a means to block incoming communications they deem unsuitable for their children while still allowing the rest of us to access the plethora of features a modern Friends List includes.
Lastly, and this should go without saying; Please ensure that Friend’s List has deep, system-level integration. Am I the only one who feels that it is ridiculous that Super Mario Maker on Wii U does not include an option to view player created stages from members on your friend’s list? Let that not be an issue moving forward, Nintendo.
Oh boy! This is one of my favorite things to talk about. The best thing about the Xbox 360 was its 2008 addition of a system-wide party chat system. That was eight years ago, and Nintendo has yet to adopt this feature. I understand the reservations from Nintendo. Privacy is, once again, at play here. But I will once again point out that with a comprehensive parental control system in place, parents need not fear of some creep preying on their children.
The benefits of adding this feature are immeasurable. More often than not, I would find myself looking to my Xbox 360 friends list just to hop into chat with my friends. Even if they were playing a different game than me. Most times, this was more engaging than the actual game.
Party chat also gives me the option to opt out of game-specific voice chat. Think of how many times you hopped into a Call of Duty lobby and were assaulted by an onslaught of racial slurs and derogatory language. In my honest opinion, a party chat is a safer place to be. It is carefully curated by who you allow on your friends list.
Streetpass was one of those amazing little gems Nintendo cooked into the 3DS and I don’t think it is going anywhere. And thought I’m not exactly clear what steps Nintendo could take to improve upon Streetpass, I would like to see it evolve a bit.
What about this as an idea? Let’s say you’re playing Pokemon and you’ve nearly completed your Pokedex. All you need is that pesky Rockruff (how you’ve gotten everything but him is beyond me). You set up a Streetpass trade ahead of time to allow your Switch to automatically transfer your Pikipek the the moment your Switch comes within range of someone looking to trade their Rockruff for a Pikipek.
Maybe this isn’t the most well thought out way to evolve Streetpass, but just keeping Streetpass there on Switch is the minimum I expect.
I’ve had a lot of conversations with a lot of people about global achievement systems. It seems like you either love them or you hate them. My stance on achievements is that they add value to your service.
I tend to be the guy that purchases every major console. So in 2009 when I finally picked up a PS3 and had owned a 360 for several years, I had to make a choice as to where I would play my multiplatform games, and which console would be exclusive for… well, exclusives. I landed on the Xbox 360 to play multiplatform games. The reason for that choice was because, in the three years I had with that system prior to me owning PS3, I had racked up a relatively high Gamerscore. I wanted to continue moving that Gamerscore higher.
It may seem silly, but that was why I opted for third party titles on Xbox, and I know I’m not alone.
Nintendo could actually take this a step further. Nintendo introduced My Nintendo rewards not too long ago. Essentially, you earn Gold Points by making digital purchases on the eShop and you earn Platinum Points for completing in game and in app tasks. It’s possible Nintendo incorporates this system into the Switch or that they simply allow an achievement system on Switch to interact with My Nintendo rewards. Either way, rewarding players for progressing through games adds value to their systems and services and keeps customers coming back.
Nintendo is poised to release their best system yet, and that is saying a lot. In order for Nintendo to find success, they need to strike a balance of incorporating all the things people already love about Nintendo while ushering the Switch and its users into what people consider to be modern video game services. Video services like Netflix and HBO will undoubtedly be made available, but questions still arise on Nintendo’s plans for region-locking the Switch.
Virtual Console is a huge deal for Nintendo, and with the rumor of Gamecube titles soon making their way to the service, Nintendo could see one of the largest software launches (if you’re the type that includes emulated games) in history.
Nintendo has been hard on work with the Switch for years, and there is only one short month left before we know exactly what this thing can do. In the meantime, drop a comment below of which features you want to see on the Nintendo Switch.