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The Nintendo Switch and Gadget Design (wired.com)
65 points by mcone 127 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 75 comments



Quote from the article: "This console, made for shooters and runners and jumpers, could become something much greater than Nintendo ever imagined, because anyone who wants to can build the software and hardware to improve it."

Is this true? Is it no longer necessary to be an approved Nintendo developer to write software for it?

I recall back in the day it was difficult for an indy to get a Nintendo dev licence. What's changed here?

EDIT: For those who care - this is what I just found...

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/292788/Becoming_a_Nintend...

According to above article, it will be tough getting onto the platform as an indy. Pity, I was excited for a moment...


The worst thing from a hardware perspective on the switch is their proprietary dock. They could have used open standards for docked mode, then people could use existing things (like my Apple HDMI dongle, or any of the other third party USB-C power/HDMI ones) as a portable docking solution.

Personally I'm not going to buy a second dock, because it is unnecessarily bulky for traveling, when some thing dongle sized could do the exact same job. Taking my switch and plugging it into a friends TV shouldn't be as much of a hassle as it is, being that it is a portable console. Yes, it is smaller than other consoles even with the dock, but it still requires its own bag to carry it all.


According to http://plugable.com/2017/04/26/plugable-products-unofficiall... they are using a standard, just they are using the uncommon MyDP standard instead of the more common HDMI alt modes.

But there are alternative docks available - Nyko makes a much smaller, more portable dock, for example.

Charging, input, and network adapters are all common, standard USB-C & Bluetooth, so that's progress at least.


> Just they are using the uncommon MyDP standard instead of the more common HDMI alt modes.

I'm speculating here, but it's likely the Tegra at the Switch's core natively supported MyDP (Mobility DisplayPort), since it targeted mobile applications, where DisplayPort is a more common standard.


Not using HDMI alt mode isn't really that uncommon. Apple's products output DisplayPort rather than HDMI.


Specifically it's that MyDP is uncommon, not that DP is uncommon.


I haven't gotten one myself, but this might be something you're interested in: https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2017/6/13/15793502/n...


> The worst thing from a hardware perspective on the switch is their proprietary dock.

Unsure if this is a hardware or software problem, but I would say the lack of bluetooth audio support is way worse than the dock problem.

Also upthere-that you can't use the kick-stand AND plug in the USB-C charging cable.


The Switch has a huge amount of potential, but it lacks the games still. None of the big releases so far use the platform to its fullest: they're really good video games, not necessarily good _Switch_ games. BOTW, Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8, and Mario Odyssey all seem like they are just Wii U games with better internal quality, only sparsely interfacing with new Switch features.

Nintendo also shed beloved handheld features like Streetpass, didn't include obvious features like Bluetooth audio, and are really messing up their online services ... the internet Splatoon fanbase seems to roundly regard the Switch online experience a failure for the context of 2017


i have a really weird and contrarian opinion, which is that Splatoon online is good because it's bad. I swear I actually believe this, though, not just trolling.

voice chat is difficult and terrible, so nobody really uses it! that's a major plus in my book. most people will never run into more vile people than when gaming online.

the multiplayer is unbalanced, issues with lag and disconnection often mean that the outcomes of matches just aren't fair. this is good, because it sort of limits how seriously you can take the game. just relax and have fun instead of a hypercompetitive 3-hours-a-day online sport.

the inconvenience of parties/team up is good, it means it's hard for people to get an us-vs-them mentality or want to just dominate weaker players.

i'd be really shocked if this is all intentional on Nintendo's part; it's probably just hubris and not-invented-here syndrome.

but in practice it feels almost like all the online inadequacies are a kind of traffic calming -- like putting trees and islands in the middle of a busy road to get people to slow down. it makes things more welcoming for people like me who normally loathe online games.


I totally get that. That theory's interesting and I agree the game shouldn't aspire to have the same sort of player experience/base as those of CoD or PUBG.

The lack of voice chat is no problem for me, though the app is terrible at what it tries to do (voice chat with your own team) which is something I'd want to do with casual friend players. Instead I just end up using Skype.


What unique Switch features need to be exploited, exactly? In a sense, the Switch really is a portable Wii U. The most amazing feature, IMO, is how they've managed to make a portable system with local multiplayer (without requiring multiple systems), which plenty of games support.


I've played four or five different multiplayer games on it and it's indeed great. But they're leaving a lot of potential innovation on the backburner:

The touch screen and the the Joycon accelorometers/advanced rumble aren't used at all in many games, or if they are, it isn't anything innovative. ARMS is an exception, though, but I really don't think many people bought the game.

The Mii avatar you create can't do much of anything. On the Wii U, Wii and DS there was a bit more you could do with those.

Amiibo aren't really useful except for small in-game bonuses

The companion app is currently lackluster. They could have made a Mario Kart 8 section where you compare your scores to your friends, a BotW section that would interface with your game... for now it's just a Splatoon app with a few nice features, with only one main feature actually communicating back to the game.

I guess those middle two aren't Switch-specific, but there are a lot of Nintendo-specific things that they should really considers spending time cultivating.


These are essentially all legacy features. I see the Switch as something of a retreat from the highly proprietary hardware features that attracted spotty-at-best 3rd party support and even Nintendo sometimes struggled to shoehorn in (see the gimmicky motion controls in Zelda/Metroid games on Wii). It's simply a great classic console experience you can play anywhere.


The "advanced rumble" is hardly so. It's a gimmick. The accelerometer/gyroscope was present on the Wii and Wii U. What the Switch has going for it is its portability, not any particular feature (although the touch screen is good for a few games).


I think that HD rumble is actually pretty great. It's not essential, but games are better for having it. In Mario Kart 8, it conveys the "texture" of the road. TumbleSeed does a fantastic job mimicking the feel of something rolling across a board between your hands.

It's especially nice in handheld mode, where the user doesn't have a decent speaker system to emphasize things (and may not even have the sound turned on at all). In those situations, the user may not be able to hear the sound effect when they get hit by a shell or drive off the road. But with the rumble, the punch of it is still there.


Mario Kart 8, Splatoon 2, and ARMS make good use of the controller gyroscope, HD rumble, ad-hoc multiplayer, multitude of control options, and portable mode. What other console features should they be using?


ARMs is solid. First time I have preferred motion controls over traditional inputs (for entertainment, not efficacy).


I think the TurboExpress had most of these killer features. I wanted one soooooo bad when I was a kid


I have a Switch and enjoy it a lot - but "future of gadget design" seems like an overstatement.

The docked mode works great (though the performance at 1080p is a bit sluggish in some games), the split-multiplayer mode in games like Mario Kart is friggin genius. I love that the Switch has brought back local multiplayer.

But its actual portability is kind of marginal. Unlike the DS/3DS, it doesn't fold up in a way that facilitates putting it in a bag. The scratchability of the screen means you really don't want to carry it bare in a bag bouncing around with your keys, and the protruding thumbsticks on the controllers make it something of a pain to fit into your default backpack/bag compartments.

It really demands a dedicated carrying case, which is something I thought we got past in the 90s in the Game Boy era.

Overall still really enjoying the Switch, but I carry it around a lot less than I used to carry around a Nintendo DS.


> I love that the Switch has brought back local multiplayer

Sort of. I was really disappointed to find that Splatoon 2, one of the biggest games for the Switch, does not feature splitscreen multiplayer. The original Splatoon, on the Wii U, had awesome local multiplayer: one player used the TV, the other used the screen on the Wii U GamePad. Each user got a full screen. How splitscreen wasn't possible with better hardware is a little confusing, to be honest.


Yeah, I was completely sold on the Switch as the best couch co-op console till Splatoon 2 came out. Nintendo's biggest new franchise...and you have to use our crappy online service to play with friends (Or everyone has to invest $360 to play locally.)

Throwing salt on the wound is having the co-op mode being only playable when they want you to. I actually haven't played it since the first time I went to play Salmon Run and it was blocked off.

Splatoon 2 is a really fun game, but they really did a botch job on the end user experience.


Nintendo wouldn't be Nintendo without doing a whole bunch of stuff that just doesn't seem to make sense.

Come to think of it, my 'relationship' with Nintendo is very similar to the one I have with Apple. I sometimes feel that they intentionally do stuff that is unfriendly to their user-base, but ultimately they can get away with it by doing a whole bunch of stuff right in a way that others don't.

(And come to think of that, this description applies to most of the closest friends I've had throughout my life. Odd, that.)


> The scratchability of the screen means you really don't want to carry it bare in a bag bouncing around with your keys, and the protruding thumbsticks on the controllers make it something of a pain to fit into your default backpack/bag compartments.

this was annoying. My solutions were: 1) you can get a pair (1 spare) tempered glass screen protectors for $12 or so, 2) a slim hard shell zipper case for another $10 or $15.


Local, one device Mario Kart is great. It's kind of unfortunate a friend can't bring their Switch over to have an 8 player session. With two Switches, locally, you're limited to 2 players per device.


> The Switch is the first gaming system that works anywhere and everywhere.

Uhhhhhhh, what happened to all of nintendos past handhelds, sonys psp, the countless older handhelds that never gained traction?


Guessing the author means that you can dock it and play on a TV/monitor in your house in addition to being portable for taking around.


There once was something called a Super GameBoy, which was a cartridge adapter for GameBoy games to play via your SNES. It came out in 1994.


But if you wanted to play gameboy games on TV and on the go, you'd need to own a SNES, Super GameBoy and a GameBoy.

The SNES also couldn't play GameBoy games, the Super GameBoy was really just an entire gameboy in a cartridge formfactor.


But it's not the first to do that. There's a cable that allows you to connect your PSP to your TV.


Yeah, I had the same thought. However, the Switch actually makes that convenient, by design. I would play my PSP on TV all the time. It sucked. Getting the screen full size required your TV to have that option (and crappy cheap TVs didn't). Fumbling with the wires was annoying. It didnt have a stand.

The Switch has the same feature, you're right. But its designed (and marketed) around it. That's the difference.


Too small because of underscan? I'm baffled why with HDMI and the 1080p standard it's now the other way round - I need to disable overscan to get the full image and games still have to prompt me to choose a safe area to display UI elements.


You can play the PSP in your handheld and connected your TV.

With the Switch you can use it docked, handheld, and tabletop (i.e. stand alone).


Speaking of docking, there was this phone + tablet hybrid from Asus: https://www.asus.com/us/Phone/ASUS_PadFone_X_US/gallery/


Which itself is a bit silly, since there are already wireless video standards being built into TVs.

It seems like a pretty obvious ad though.


I know this counts as an accessory that bridges two devices rather than a complete device in its own right but: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Game_Boy. The Switch, as neat as it is, isn't without precedent.


Did they also work well when plugged into a TV?

Yes, this is typical over-the-top Wired writing, but it's still a clever design that's likely to influence other hardware design.


The Vita did


It wasn't as simple as the Switch's dock, which is included in the box. It felt more like an afterthought.


IIRC, the original Vita included a special port intended to connect to the TV... and then Sony never released the cables to do it.

Instead they released the PlayStation TV, which was incompatible with literally half of the Vita's library for controller and licensing reasons.


Yes, you could take the cartridge out of the GameBoy and put it in the N64 controller then play on the TV.


That required a second console and an add-on.


no you couldn't


Hey it's wired, don't expect them to make accurate statements.


It really isn't, its just another timely gimmick and a walled garden.


I'm not sure if you've actually used it for any duration, but it actually ain't too much of a gimmick. It's docked at home most of the time, but I took it on the plane to iceland for example and was playing zelda the same as I do at home. When my buddy wanted to play mario kart I was able to take the joycons off the side and use each piece as a tiny controller. It definitely looks gimmicky, but damned if it's not convenient when you do need it.


The fact that a single controller breaks up into 2 fully capable controllers still surprises me to this day.

You can play multiplayer from anywhere with a buddy next to you, also 2 controllers breaks into 4 thats great fun when you have guests over.

The Switch all in all feels very polished and thought out, very happy with mine.


Not fully capable, I believe it lacks some buttons ? Like the second joystick. But, if the game is designed with this in mind, then the joycons are more than functional!


They are fully capable and no buttons are missing. Do you have a counter example? Do you even own one?


You can't use a single Joycon to play Breath of the Wild, for example (at least not as well as with the full controller). You need the second joystick to move the camera, all four of the right buttons and left buttons are assigned to different controls, the plus and minus buttons are different pause menus, and there's a use for the left and right triggers as well, which aren't accessible in single-Joycon mode.

Yes, it's great for Mario Kart (before I got the Pro controller, my wife and I were playing with one Joycon each), and similar games (I assume ARMS and 1-2 Switch are built with single-Joycon use in mind) but it's not enough for every single game.


I see what you're saying:

>The fact that a single controller breaks up into 2 fully capable controllers still surprises me to this day.

Right, each controller on their own is not fully capable. That said, I think it's an impractical goal (really; how would you play a game like BotW with one hand? Impossible.) and I'm not sure the Gparent meant it that way.


Banach-Tarski for controllers. I guess the axiom of choice applies in Nintendo world.


You can't play Lego or minecraft with these, you need two pair of joy cons.


Two pairs? You don't need two pairs, you need one pair.

Looking back though, I either misunderstood the OP or the parent is correct. One joycon is obviously not fully function on its own, I never meant to say that.


oh, I meant if you're two players. I think that's what the original post meant.


Yeah I think I was confused


I've used it for a while, because despite how little I've enjoyed Nintendo hardware for quite a few years now, I still love some of those games. I'm sorry, but I don't care about mobile, I don't like small screens, so there is zero appeal for me here. Putting your mobile and console lines together is, at the end of the day, gimmicky in a world full of tablets and easier ecosystems to use. Nintendo has been chasing that original Wii money, and that doesn't always mean we get the best consoles, or the best games.


In what way is it a gimmick? A portable that I can also play on a TV... it's been wildly successful (challenged by a weak opening lineup to boot) and many people use it in both modes consistently. It's functional and incredibly useful. By definition, not a gimmick. Hell, I've never liked handhelds, but I enjoy being able to take my switch on business trips.

And no one cares about consoles being walled gardens except for people like you on forums like these. Really, 99.999% of people playing these games couldn't care less. In fact, people like these walled gardens better than any other medium because they're simple and they work. The moment my wife has to open a terminal to figure out why her open source variant of a graphics driver is acting wonky is the moment she gives up and goes back to the console.


Aren't all consoles 'walled gardens'? If not, what is it about the Switch that makes it more of one?


To echo carussell: yes, and that's why none of them are the future of gadget design.


"Just another" wasn't meant to imply that this was some special case, just the opposite.


Looks like you're trying to creatively reinterpret the comment you're responding to into something that's easier for you to take down.

I don't see where QAPereo says the thing that you say they're saying. (In fact, I see the opposite, but that's beside the point.)

EDIT:

Three people (strictnein, nicky0, EpicEng) show up to point out the comment I'm referring to said it's "just another [...] walled garden". Er, yes. That's my entire reason for commenting. I can see the words that were written. Which is why I'm calling out the person I replied to for asking a question that suggests those words say something else.

Here's a breakdown of what has just occurred:

Person A suggests it's no different from any other walled garden that's come around before.

Person B asks Person A to defend the stance that it's different from other walled gardens.

I point out the contradiction between what Person A has said and what Person B apparently wants Person A to have said. Then you all show up. Why are we here?

I'm gonna leave HN for a while.


I'm really puzzled by your statement. Honestly.

All major consoles are walled gardens.


I see them say "it's a walled garden"; what do you see?


I really hope you didn't leave HN - or, if you did, that you came back - over this; I wholeheartedly do not want that to be the outcome of something I wrote here. The worst I can be accused of is misunderstanding without malice. However,

> It really isn't, its just another timely gimmick and a walled garden.

is at least ambiguous if you read it carefully. I didn't see why that would be highlighted if everything else in that category shared that exact attribute.


> its just another... walled garden.

What comment are you reading?


> walled garden

You say this like it's a bad thing? I love the walled gardens that commenters here seem to hate: iOS, iTunes, Kindle, etc.

I know what's going to work, where to buy what I want, don't have to worry about incompatibilities, and know who to go to if I need support. And the prices are reasonable!


I think it depends on the walled garden itself but in a case like iTunes, said garden has been withering without being watered for quite some time.

It still works but it can be clunky at times and hasn't received a substantial update for quite some time last I checked.

Sometimes it's nice if a device would just adhere to standards. For example, I can simply mount my OnePlus 3 and traverse it like any regular USB on Linux.

Meanwhile on Windows and Mac, I have to use a wonky, seemingly unmaintained Android File Transfer program that gets in the way more than it helps!


It's not a gimmick. I played it on my parents TV a bunch, moved out, and then played in the plane, played in Airbnbs, played at the laundromat, and now I bought a TV at my new place to be able to play on TV again.

Now I often undock it to play in the bed. I haven't really been into handheld gaming but this thing just makes sense.

That being said it really lacks games at the moment. Controllers are fucking expensive as well.


I thought it was a gimmick as well (having owned a Wii and a Wii-U).

Then I decided to buy the switch for BOTW, and it's no gimmick at all. Sitting on the couch in whatever slouch position and playing is amazing.

And occasionally when I am away from the couch and want to game, the hand-held mode works great.


It's actually one of the most celebrated consoles by indie developers to date. I don't see anything walled about that at all.

What's the gimmick you're referring to? The motion controls? The handheld mode? The dock mode? The kickstand?


Walled gardens are the future of gadget design. 98% of the mass market just wants to consume, without getting exposed to crud and malware. For them a walled garden is ideal; openness invariably leads to Bonzi Buddy and Comet Cursor.


Look at the incentives of the people who made Bonzi Buddy and Comet Cursor. That kind of crud and malware will continue to exist as long as spying and advertising are the prevalent business model, which they still are. This isn't going away with a walled garden, in fact the device manufacturers welcome it with open arms.


So tell me what is the equivalent of Bonzi Buddy on the iOS App Store?

While there are occasional apps that aspire to such, the fact that basic OS functions are private APIs and are not distributable on the only widely available vector into devices prevent malware and many (but not all) privacy breaches.


Taking it to family and friend gatherings and playing the quickdraw game has now become a norm. I love that it facilitates silly interactive sports where my mother in law is giggling as she outdraws my nephew.




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