Since its debut earlier this year, the Switch has become Nintendo’s crown jewel. A fan favorite across all ages and demographics, the console is a new twist on old-fashioned gameplay, revolutionizing how we think and go about gaming.
We’ve grown quite a fanbase here at the office, and since good user experiences are my coworkers' bread and butter, I decided to ask: what makes the Nintendo Switch so great?
Virg, Fay, and Stephen gave their humble responses.
Author’s note: yes, we took a midday break to play on Stephen's Switch so I could get pictures for the blog. This is why I love working here.
“What does the Nintendo Switch offer to user experience?”
Virg Leynes, Senior Experience Designer:
In design, we commonly talk about how to translate designs to different devices in order to create a seamless experience. Nintendo Switch is so refreshing because it turns this concept on it’s head. Instead of moving between devices, it’s a singular device that moves with the user. It makes me wonder why no one thought of this sooner.
When I first saw the Switch, I thought it was too large. After actually playing with it, it feels like the perfect size. The screen is large enough so the graphics don’t suffer when switching between the TV and the portable device. The controllers are also ergonomic and the right distance apart.
My favorite “feature” is the device’s ability to start up quickly. I can put the device on sleep mode, which avoids the need to save (a serious pain in the ass when your partner calls you mid-game to help out with something). Then, when I start it up again, it boots up in around three seconds or less. Such a small thing has a huge impact on user experience.
“Why do you think the Switch has such a broad appeal?”
Fay Gu, Experience Designer:
The branding design of the Nintendo Switch is super successful. It’s included not only at the software level, but also at the hardware level. The initial loading animation of joy-con switching in switch games, and the switching sound when you slide in your physical joy-con to the console or to the joy-con holder, both pleases the player in every transition point when interacting with the Nintendo Switch. The bold color selections of neon red and neon blue of joy-cons are also very memorable, set apart from Nintendo’s classic gray color.
As one of Nintendo’s key product positioning, the fun of social gaming is illustrated by the Switch very well. The Switch encourages playing games with your friends by it’s DNA in design. The splittable pair of joycons make it possible for you to share a joycon to another person conveniently. Share one of your joycons with a friend next to you and play Mario Kart together, or fight with each other using two pairs of joycons in ARMS is extraordinarily fun. And the absolute delight of social gaming enabled by the Switch is beyond words.
Game design. (Case study: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.)
As the very game Nintendo tailored for the Switch upon its release, Zelda is extraordinary. The game allows for huge amounts of freedom for players. For example, if you read the hints and look at the surrounding environment carefully, you’ll realize there is something in the pond that you can play around with, or you can use the campfire to cook food or light wooden sticks. Another aspect of the freedom is that you can actually go anywhere in the map because there is no area locking. If you are good enough at fighting, you can even go directly to kill the final boss from the very beginning of the game!
“The Switch is definitely awesome -- but what comes next?”
Stephen Garland, Senior Experience Designer:
The Switch has shown once again that Nintendo knows very well how to tune their hardware and software experiences to what users want. That said, here are some idle thoughts for what might come next.
I would not be surprised to see Switch variants out there in the not too distant future. The Switch is just about the ideal size for many users, on the couch or on the go. It is worth noting that it is a bit big for subway commutes. I would not be surprised to see a smaller Switch, with no TV docking capabilities that makes it even easier to take it on the go.
Now that we are accustomed to a modular, dynamic form factor, I think Nintendo is free to push the limits further. I am very excited to see how Nintendo shapes what mobile gaming means for all users in the years ahead. Switch suggests that there are a lot of exciting possibilities ahead for playing on the go.
Much like Nintendo has developed a family of 3DS hardware, I think we will see a Switch family. Nintendo once again has shown us that they know their users well and their users love them for it.
Dream on, Nintendo -- and please, take us with you.