Switching Things Up | Games, Gamers, & Gaming, February 15, 2017

Last fall, Nintendo announced its new gaming console, the Switch. It hooks up to a television like all other gaming consoles, but it can also function as a mobile gaming device. When attached to a TV, it’s stored in a dock. Remove the system from the dock, and connect it to the unique split controller, and now you can play on the go. While cross-functionality between mobile and home consoles has been done before, never has a consistent game play experience been possible.

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The Switch also allows for multiplayer opportunities. It’s possible to sync numerous controllers to a single system via Wi-Fi, and it has a built-in stand for setting up on a flat surface. Continuing Nintendo’s integration of motion controls first introduced in the Wii, at least a few games previewed show some type of ­motion-control mechanics.

A switch in many ways

While Nintendo has usually been slow to adapt new functionality that other consoles have long had, the Switch looks to be closing the gap by offering an online gaming service. It will be free for the first six months of the console’s life span but will go to a paid access model in the fall. Nintendo hasn’t fully disclosed what will be included with the service, but access to online multiplayer modes and a free game each month will be part of the package. It’s unclear if the free game will be permanently added to the player’s account or not, but it will be a classic game previously released on the Nintendo Entertainment System and/or the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (games for that console will have online multiplayer ­functionality).

Unfortunately, the Switch will not be backward compatible with the WiiU or Wii. This deficiency is different from those consoles, which could play games for the previous version (Wii and Gamecube, respectively). It also lacks apps for ­Netflix and other popular streaming services, which is currently available for the WiiU. Nintendo has said these functions may be added in a future software update.

It appears that Nintendo has focused on making the Switch a pure gaming machine. This isn’t anything new for the company; it has always been behind the curve in adding functions and has never released a console that can play DVDs or Blu-ray discs, unlike its competitors.

And, sadly, the Switch will not be bundled with any games. This may turn some gamers off to the new system, considering it’s only about $50 cheaper than an Xbox One or Playstation 4, which comes bundled with a game, if caught on sale.

Classic characters, new games

In addition, for all of the Switch’s charm and operations, the launch lineup looks pretty sparse. This doesn’t help with the absence of a bundled game, considering the selection will be rather slim on release. But Nintendo isn’t completely short-changing gamers. The flagship title at launch will be the latest entry in its beloved “Legend of Zelda” series: Breath of the Wild. Trailers for the game have been circulating for a while, along with some limited game play footage. It’s absolutely gorgeous and looks to offer a rich, vibrant world that gamers can explore. There are sure to be new mechanics introduced with each new entry in this series.

While it looks to be a solid production, Breath of the Wild is a single-player game, which makes it ideal for circulating collections but not so much for programming (unless you set up a system for patrons to try out). Luckily, the Switch is going live with an approachable, lighthearted game that is perfect for group play. The 1-2 Switch is a collection of minigames designed for two players that use motion controls that don’t even require players to look at the screen. A Wild West–themed quick-draw game and one in which players compete in milking cows are two of the standout titles. Much as Wii Sports made the Wii a popular household staple, this game looks to do the same.

Later in the year, we’ll see a sequel to the excellent shooter game Splatoon, which will no doubt offer both online and offline multiplayer modes. Super Mario Odyssey will be the first Mario game set in the real world, and it looks to offer the same imaginative level design that has been the hallmark of Mario products in the past.

Don’t switch just yet

The Nintendo Switch has great potential for library programming, offering what will be fun, solid single-player experiences. Its mobility and ease of setup could make it ideal for outreach activities and transporting from one branch to another (just be sure to keep a charger handy; the battery life is not good at all). It’s too bad that it will be several months before the full potential of the system will be realized and enough games available to offer a decent variety.

Definitely plan on picking Switch up, but give it some time. Of course, if you just can’t wait, it drops on March 3, and preorders are selling out quickly! It’s well worth looking into for your library’s gaming programs and services.

Until next time, keep telling yourself: just one more level!

M. Brandon Robbins is Media Coordinator, Goldsboro High School, NC, and a member of the 2011 class of the American Library Association’s Emerging Leaders

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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M. Brandon Robbins About M. Brandon Robbins

M. Brandon Robbins (mbrandon.robbins@gmail.com) is the Media Coordinator at Goldsboro High School in Goldsboro, NC. He's a member of the 2011 class of ALA Emerging Leaders.

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