The Nintendo NX is now dubbed the Nintendo Switch, and many of the rumors about the upcoming game system’s capabilities have been confirmed through a snappy reveal video posted this morning. While the video showed happy people carrying the new home/portable hybrid system and playing games on airplanes, at parties, and with friends, it also didn’t show anyone doing anything largely expected from a modern, portable display: touching it.
Does this mean that the system’s primary portable screen does not support touch? Ars sent that question directly to Nintendo of America and received this statement in response: “We have nothing to report on this subject. We will make additional announcements about the Nintendo Switch hardware later before the product launch.”
Special, right? It doesn’t bode well for the touch functionality on the Switch, nor the fact that Nintendo could have easily inserted a half-second moment from the gamers of its videos tapping the thing even once. That didn’t happen. Does this mean the Nintendo touch era is over?
Blame the dock
As far as console gaming goes, the answer seems to be yes.
The Nintendo Switch ad doesn’t show anyone using touch controls because of a clear mandate for games on the system: that they work even when the system’s massive screen is linked to a TV.
The main board of the system resides in the screen unit, which is designed in such a way that people can grab their game in progress and continue playing on the go, without pausing the action for a moment. As the video shows, a gamer grabs the screen so that he can hold his Zelda habit while walking his dog.
But unlike the DS, 3DS, or Wii U, this isn’t a multi-screen system. In this video, when the Nintendo Switch is connected to a television to play on a larger screen, the portable screen turns off and the game is redirected to the screen connected to the Nintendo Switch dock.
With this use case, every Nintendo Switch game will have to support controls for players who don’t have a screen in their hand. Even if the Nintendo Switch launches with some sort of surprising touchscreen functionality, gamemakers who want to lay back on the couch will have to cater to the new Joy-Con pads or the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, which resembles the classic Wii. controller Pro line.
The lack of dual-screen functionality is curious, as the Nintendo Switch otherwise resembles a Wii U, as in, a system that revolves around a giant, portable screen surrounded by buttons. The difference, of course, is that the Switch’s controllers pop off for easy gaming on the go or for handheld play without a screen. In Nintendo’s eyes, sharing a relatively small portable screen with a friend is tight enough. It wouldn’t help if one of those players choked the screen with their fingers.
And if Nintendo really wants this system to be used on the go and shared with friends, it might be silly for games to include touchscreen features that only work when a second screen is nearby.
End of the touch-and-waggle era?
Some of Nintendo’s smartest games of the past 12 years have shined mainly for their touchscreen controls. If touchscreen gaming isn’t an option on the Switch, that era is over for Nintendo, almost relinquished to Apple and other smartphone and tablet makers. Based on statements to shareholders, Nintendo is committed to focusing both its portable and home development efforts on the Nintendo Switch from now on. (This means no “4DS” portable hardware shows up.)
So the only exception is Nintendo’s choice to finally embrace smartphone platforms, which started with the disappointing miitomo but should definitely explode at some point Super Mario Run launches in Dec. Touch-friendly series Animal Crossing and fire emblem are expected to land on smartphones next year, and could mean the possible cessation of touching the Nintendo Switch Lake good Nintendo-made touchscreen games coming to smartphones.
Some touchscreen features could very well appear on Nintendo Switch in the coming weeks or months. After all, every rumor and speculative report about the system seemed to unanimously agree that touch was coming. Capacitive touch sensors can be bought terribly cheaply when produced to scale, so the amount of money saved by removing those touch panels doesn’t seem significant, and they can support finger taps to get around the system menus, for example (a la the 3DS and Wii U). ). Perhaps Nintendo will go so far as to promote mobile-only games and apps for the device, so as not to restrict indie and app makers that rely on touch interfaces.
But the system’s TV dock requirement is pretty telling. This won’t become a giant remote for your favorite video streaming apps, for example. What’s more, the big gimmick on display with Nintendo Switch isn’t about how you handle your games; this makes it easier to take them with you, play and share them, wherever and with whomever. No waddling, no touch, no heart rate sensor and no other input gimmickry.
List image by Nintendo