How Nintendo Can Sell a New Handheld Alongside Switch

by Justin Berube - November 3, 2016, 9:24 am PDT
Total comments: 14

Who says the true portable line needs to go extinct?

Nintendo recently unveiled their new game console called Switch. One of the selling points of this new home console is the ability to play games on the go at the player's will. But does this functionality mark the end of Nintendo's dedicated portable platforms? Maybe not.

Many people who argue against the idea of Nintendo continuing in the dedicated handheld space may point out that Iwata has stated a goal for the company is to make one development platform. This way there aren't really software droughts that have happened in the past where one Nintendo platform has a nice wave of software while the other doesn't. At first glance the Switch accomplishes this objective by being a console that portable players can take and play anywhere. But there are probably going to be some issues.

First, we need to consider the battery life. If the rumors are true players won't get more than three to five hours out of the Switch on the go. It seems believable based on what we've seen the system is outputting and the size of the unit. That's not a lot of time to be disconnected for a portable product.

Secondly is the price. I can't see the Switch being less than $249.99. Is that the kind of product you want a child going around with, especially with detachable controllers that could be lost? Do you think that's the price of a product that most parents will buy for each of their kids to play the latest Pokémon games? I doubt it.

There is, however, a solution to this problem that goes along with the Nintendo strategy of having one unified development platform similar to Android and iOS. More importantly, it can coexist with the Switch.

I will just put this bluntly. The 3DS family of systems will be put to rest. The next Nintendo handheld will not be a direct successor. Instead Nintendo could sort of revive the Game Boy line but call it Game Kid in order to be more inclusive. Game Kid could then be a single screen handheld, in order to align with the Switch, with lower specs than Switch aimed at children due to its more affordable price, more durable shell, and better battery life. The control layout would be the same as the Switch, but with a traditional D-Pad on the left side, and have no detachable controllers.

The important thing to note here is that Game Kid games would be developed using the same architecture as Switch. This means that any games purchased for Game Kid would then work on Switch, but Switch games won’t work on the Game Kid. So Switch could then be marketed as the more adult, or living room piece, with Game Kid being the on the go device for younger players that is more affordable. If Game Kid players decided to upgrade to Switch in the future their Game Kid library can come with them.

What types of software would I expect for Game Kid? New Pokémon games, Yo-kai Watch, Style Savvy, puzzle games, 2D platformers, etc . Many games from a Virtual Console line up and several from the eShop could also just work on a Game Kid but also work on Switch. I would expect most Game Kid software to be sold at a more affordable price than full console games. With the lower power most Game Kid games would probably cost less to develop too.

The only downside to this is that there could still be some software droughts for Game Kid. The good news is that they would only be for Game Kid. During these droughts though we could still see increased Virtual Console or eShop software to fill the gaps.

All of this, of course, is pure speculation. We don't know what Nintendo is going to do. But just keep in mind Satoru Iwata did say that the NX could have multiple form factors and he wanted to have a unified development platform. Regardless of what happens I think the future for Nintendo is rather exciting and the next year could be insane.

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Talkback

Ian SaneNovember 03, 2016

Upon seeing the title of these article I immediately thought "this makes no sense.  If Nintendo releases a separate handheld the Switch loses it's whole appeal and will flop" but this concept is pretty creative and could work.  And it certainly solves the price issue for having multiple systems for your kids.

It is kind of like the 2DS concept but that had the advantage that all 3DS games, until the New 3DS came out anyway, were playable on it.  I figure this concept wouldn't get enough support.  And on a personal level it means that a game like Pokemon would be compromised on the Switch to meet the scaled down requirements of the Game Kid.  I think FINALLY getting a console Pokemon game is one of the Switch's selling points.  Also that takes away the selling power of games like Pokemon and Yo-kai Watch.  Nintendo should want those as Switch exclusives.  In theory the Game Kid would have a small lineup but what if it had the opposite effect and the third parties that support the 3DS use this as a way to keep development costs down and support it aggressively?  Then it's less like this is the budget product and the Switch gets seen more as a luxury product which only gets some first party exclusives to distinguish it.  Like this could make the Switch come across as the "Game Kid Pro".

I think Nintendo should only consider something like this as a back up plan if the Switch doesn't catch on.

Mop it upNovember 03, 2016

This isn't the worst idea I've seen since the NSwitch could still play its games, but I still think leaving the Switch as one unified platform is better.

KeyBillyNovember 03, 2016

In response to your first point, the rumored battery life is around the same as the 3DS and even better than my 3DS units have done in some real world cases.  It is poor, but that is apparently acceptable enough to people buying handhelds.

Otherwise, I like the idea, but see it taking a different form that will be much easier for developers and consumers.  Let the 3DS ride a while longer, with the Switch as the new focus.  It won't be long before a less expensive and more compact version of the Switch with the same capabilities can be made, and it can be marketed as the version meant specifically to take on the go.  It could even lack a dock, but all software would be compatible, so there would be no market confusion.

Over time, there could be a series of NS platforms, with the more portable versions being essentially a generation behind.  As with Scorpio or PS4Pro, the platform would be flexible enough to allow game compatibility across multiple generations.

TheXenocideNovember 03, 2016

I'm still going to have a dedicated portable. This thing isnt exactly small enough that I can comfortable take it to work to play on lunch.

sudoshuffNovember 03, 2016

I can't see this happening.  Nintendo has intentionally simplified the messaging of what the Switch is.  Adding a handheld component that plays graphically simpler games that share the platform but don't play "Switch console" games seems to get us back to the Wii U/3DS family of systems confusion.


I think when Iwata referred to the NX having multiple form factors, he was merely talking about the detachable controllers (which have the potential to transform the system in lots of ways).

Spak-SpangNovember 03, 2016

I like this idea.  However, I think that this could easily be made a year or 2 into the life of the switch and then at that point, I think just designing a handheld switch would be better.

What I mean is develop a Switch Boy or Switch Kid that has that hard shell and stronger like you suggest, but the innards are 100% switch.  There would be no detachable controllers and the screen could be smaller and lower resolution.  I guess the lower resolution could be used to scale down the specs and Nintendo could just render a version of the game with lower resolution for the new system.

But the important thing is that 100% of the Switch games should be playable on the system....no compromise.  Price it at a point that parents and families that want the multi-device experience for their system can have it.

Next, they should create a family plan service.  For $19.99 a month you can play your switch games on up to 2 Switch Kid systems.  This will allow 1 purchase of a switch game, but you can play it on 3 systems...perfect for a family.  The $19.99 price might be too high, but you can add to it the streaming Virtual Console System...or just cut the price to $9.99 a month.

ThePermNovember 03, 2016

If I wanted to continue the handheld line I would do this.

1) Make it side compatable. Switch games play on it. "Gameboy" games play on switch.
2) Its rugged - so kids don't break it. None of this gun metal stuff. Thick "Gameboy" plastic.
3) it's more colorful
4) it has a longer battery life.
5) Something about it makes it cheaper.
6) GBA or PSVita form factor. Or maybe a DS with Tegra insides and switch compatibility.

Basically just a model of Switch aimed at kids.

Spak-SpangNovember 03, 2016

The Perm that is what I said.


I think a Portable device being lower resolution is completely acceptable 720P or whatever would mean you could lower the specs of the system but still play all the Switch games.  You will just have to download the special version of it. 


Also I think waterproof it would be great as well.

ForgottenPearlNovember 04, 2016

I could imagine Nintendo selling a "Switch for Kids" that's smaller and doesn't have detaching parts.  It could have a less high-tech screen to help keep the price down.  This would prevent developers from having to water-down games to fit the kid version of the system. 

ThePermNovember 04, 2016

I was going to make my own mockup, but this popped up on the internet and was almost exactly how I would have done it.

https://mir-s3-cdn-cf.behance.net/project_modules/max_1200/c811f031039385.563e3ec5b8d35.jpg

actually, I'll post my mockup anyway. I made the 3d model a while ago. I just needed to rerender it to upload it because I have no idea where the old one went. This is a vertical layout version.

http://i.imgur.com/FeZt40B.jpg






StratosNovember 05, 2016

They just need to make a Switch Mini in a year or two for people wanting pocket size portability.

BlackNMild2k1November 05, 2016

Quote from: Spak-Spang

I like this idea.  However, I think that this could easily be made a year or 2 into the life of the switch and then at that point, I think just designing a handheld switch would be better.

What I mean is develop a Switch Boy or Switch Kid that has that hard shell and stronger like you suggest, but the innards are 100% switch.  There would be no detachable controllers and the screen could be smaller and lower resolution.  I guess the lower resolution could be used to scale down the specs and Nintendo could just render a version of the game with lower resolution for the new system.

But the important thing is that 100% of the Switch games should be playable on the system....no compromise.  Price it at a point that parents and families that want the multi-device experience for their system can have it.

this. it has to be software compatible, just scaled to fit the hardware. I believe that was the whole point of a unified system to begin with.

Switch games play in the SwitchKid, just scaled down to 540p, battery life extends a few hours. handles aren't removeable, design is more rugged/durable, but everything else is basically a SwitchLite.

and on the flip side, Nintendo can do the same thing with a dedicated home console. a SwitchPro.
beefier insides, renders at a higher resolution, more RAM, but no touchscreen display, yet still an alternative dock for your switch, so you could technically use a continue whatever game you were playing on your Switch w/out having to stop.

Now you could have the Switch in your room, the SwitchPro in the livingroom, and your 2 kids could each have a SwitchLite, and you all share the same physical games and pool the digital games from the same Parental Account.
The name Switch will now expand it's meaning as it becomes a Family of hardware that all share the same software.

AdrockNovember 06, 2016

Nintendo releasing another platform defeats the purpose of unifying its platform. That said, if Nintendo releases another piece of hardware, it has to fit into Iwata's "brothers in a family of systems" paradigm. Nintendo can release a stripped down Switch Mini of sorts, but it still, ultimately, has to be a Nintendo Switch that plays all Nintendo Switch games.

ShyGuyNovember 07, 2016

Keeping selling the new 3DS for $99. It can go a couple more years at that price no problem.

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