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Nintendo reportedly preparing a new Switch model with a 7-inch OLED display
by João Carrasqueira
The Nintendo Switch rumor mill is turning once again as the console has just turned four years old. A new report by Bloomberg indicates that the Japanese gaming giant is preparing to launch a new revision of the console this year, though a good while later than suggested in previous reports.
This time, though, there's a bit more information, as Bloomberg's sources state that Nintendo is sourcing larger 7-inch displays from Samsung Display, as opposed to the 6.2-inch and 5.5-inch panels of the current Switch and Switch Lite. The biggest difference here is that these displays will be using OLED technology instead of the LCD panels found in the existing models of the Switch. The OLED display should offer better battery efficiency, more contrast, and potentially better response times, according to Yoshio Tamura, co-founder of consultancy firm DSCC.
One thing that some might find unfortunate is that the panel being sourced will still be 720p, so the larger size won't come with an accompanying increase in resolution, meaning the pixel density will be lower than the current model. However, the console will come with some form of 4K support when docked to a TV, meaning there will be an even bigger gap between the handheld and TV experiences. On the bright side, that should help the console's battery last longer and allow the chipset to run cooler.
The report also further clarifies that Nintendo is sourcing rigid OLED displays, as opposed to flexible ones as seen in most of today's smartphones. Flexible displays have been typically used because they make it possible to reduce the bezels around the screen to minimal sizes, but they're naturally more expensive. Still, it's expected that the new Switch model will use the same casing, so bezels will still be reduced from the current iteration.
As noted in the report, the partnership between Nintendo and Samsung would benefit both sides, as Samsung has seen prices for rigid OLEDs drop due to oversupply, while Nintendo manages to secure a partner during a time when display-related components are seeing supply shortages.
Samsung Display is said to be preparing the displays to be shipped to assemblers in July, so a launch in 2021 seems to make sense, and it would help prop up the Switch's appeal for the holiday season as the new consoles from Sony and Microsoft start to grow their audience after a full year on the market. Of course, it's up to Nintendo to make these plans official, so we'll have to wait until then.
Nintendo is missing the potential of Switch Online - here's what I'd like to see
by João Carrasqueira
This may be hard to believe, but the Nintendo Switch is turning four years old today. March 3 was the date Nintendo chose to launch its hybrid console, and while it got some criticism early on, there's no denying that the Switch is a phenomenon. It's sold almost 80 million units in less than four years, beating classics like the NES and SNES, as well as relatively newer hardware like the Nintendo 3DS.
While the primary focus of the Switch is in its game library, there is something else that's a core piece of its identity - the Nintendo Switch Online service. Introduced in 2018, Nintendo Switch Online was the first time the company decided to start charging a fee to allow its users to play games over the internet, but to make the service more enticing, there were also some perks. Access to a selection of NES games - now with online multiplayer - save data backups to the cloud, and some exclusive software like Tetris 99.
The Switch Online service is a bit of a no-brainer as it stands because most people see online play as an essential part of gaming, and while it's far from a perfect service, it's only $19.99 per year, much cheaper than the standard price of the online services on other platforms. But that also means customers are potentially willing to spend more money on the service if the benefits to it are enticing enough. I recently saw some rumors - from dubious sources at this point - that Nintendo is planning to reignite the Switch Online service in some way, and I thought the console's anniversary would be a great opportunity to talk about what could be done with Switch Online. Some of these wishes are very unlikely at the current price point, while others are certainly possible. Let's get into it.
More legacy content
Of the three companies that still partake in the console wars, Nintendo has the lengthiest history and the largest library of legacy content, a lot of which is beloved by a ton of people and hasn't been officially re-released in years. At the same time, the Nintendo Switch is one of the most widely available systems the company has had in a while, and it's only halfway through its life, according to Nintendo.
While we have NES and SNES games already, including the majority of the big hits from Nintendo itself, there are so many more platforms in the company's history that can be leveraged for the service. I think the next logical step for Nintendo is to add the Game Boy family of systems, starting with the Game Boy proper and Game Boy Color. The Color is considered more of a revision of the Game Boy hardware than a true successor, so I believe the two could be combined under a single app.
Many of the series that started on the NES also had notable entries on the Game Boy back in the day, or they may have started on the Game Boy in the first place. Game Boy's Super Mario Land series was significantly different from the Super Mario Bros. games on the NES, The Legend of Zelda had notable entries like Link's Awakening and the Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages games. And series like Kirby and Pokémon started on the Game Boy, too. These are all series that are represented on the Switch, and that legacy content can teach modern gamers about the origins of these characters, or allow older ones to relive the adventures they experienced in their childhood.
Nintendo's biggest franchises had popular entries on the Game Boy | Image credit: Racket Boy The Game Boy Advance is a different beast entirely, but considering it's still a 2D console that should be relatively easy to emulate, I believe it can still be done without increasing the price of the Switch Online service. I think that if it does come, it will probably do so at a later date, but there are many notable GBA games that deserve some time in the spotlight. Of course, big Nintendo franchises are present here, but series that have been left to rot on the platform like F-Zero, Golden Sun, Advance Wars, and more could certainly be brought back this way, and maybe create enough new fans to warrant brand new entries being produced for the Switch.
Things get a bit trickier when it comes to consoles that featured 3D graphics, though. These are not only more challenging to emulate, but they certainly hold more value to a lot of people, especially Nintendo itself. With Super Mario 3D All-Stars, the company has proven that it's willing to re-package legacy titles into a full-priced game (albeit as a collection), and I doubt these would be added at no extra cost to the Switch Online service. Even if the price increased, I don't think Nintendo would want to miss out on the chance to charge more for the games by selling them individually. On top of that, something I've seen pointed out is that these titles are much larger in terms of the storage space they take, so distributing all of them in a single app would be unsuitable compared to individual downloads.
Nintendo can make more money selling more recent games piecemeal To me, a potentially great approach would be selling the titles on the eShop for $10 to $25, depending on the platform of origin, with newer consoles commanding higher prices. However, Nintendo Switch Online members could buy the titles at a discount, say, of 30%. On top of that, they'd get support for online multiplayer, as we've seen with the NES and SNES libraries so far. Alternatively, libraries for each individual console could become their own subscription, and instead of having every game pre-loaded on the launcher app, customers would choose to download each individual game within the app.
These additions seem obvious, and they should be, but they're long overdue at this point. The Wii, released in 2006, already offered retro titles up to the Nintendo 64. The 3DS already had Game Boy games in addition to many of the same ones that were already available on the Wii. And then the Wii U repeated many of them again, though Game Boy Advance was also added for the first time. Nintendo has repeatedly sold these games time and drip-fed them to its fans, even long after the concept of retro games being brought back was no longer novel. Having just NES and SNES games isn't all that appealing if you've already owned a Nintendo console in the past 10 years. I hope Nintendo starts leveraging more of its history with Switch Online.
More (equitable) perks
Did you know that you could play Dead Cells for free for a few days earlier this year if you had Nintendo Switch Online? And Overcooked! 2? And on top of that, did you know it's possible to buy two full-price Switch games for €99 instead of the almost €120 they'd usually cost sold separately, including some preorders like the upcoming New Pokémon Snap? If not, you might live in the United States.
Yes, two of the big perks of the Nintendo Switch Online service are exclusive to Europe, which is really hard to understand. Game Trials are one of the big benefits, where Nintendo will usually grant players full access to a game for a handful of days (four to five, usually), meaning that if you can beat it all in that time, you might not even need to buy it. Or you might find something you really like, and sometimes, the full games get discounted after the Game Trial period ends, meaning you can continue your adventure at a cheaper price.
Meanwhile, Game Vouchers are another perk of Nintendo Switch Online, which lets you pay €99 for two vouchers that you can then exchange for digital versions of some major Nintendo games. Of course, there are sales out there that can often give you a better deal if you're willing to wait, but game vouchers often add support for some pre-orders, like the aforementioned New Pokémon Snap and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, making it one of the cheapest ways to get a game at launch if you don't want to wait. These are two major perks that only Europe gets to enjoy, and bringing them (back) to the U.S. market would be a good place to start.
But I think we could go even further than that with perks that are brand-new. For example, right now, anyone can register games they buy on the eShop or in physical format and get My Nintendo gold points as a reward. The reward is equivalent to 5% of the price of the game if you buy it digitally, or 1% for a physical copy, and you can use them to get discounts when you buy digital games, or exchange them for rewards on the My Nintendo website. I think it would make sense for these rewards to be increased for Switch Online members or alternatively, lower the price of My Nintendo rewards if the user has a Switch Online membership. These rewards are usually free outside of the coins, and combining these two benefits would make both My Nintendo and Switch Online much more rewarding for hardcore fans of the brand, potentially creating an even deeper connection to Nintendo's products.
Nintendo also offers a couple of free games as part of Nintendo Switch Online. It started with Tetris 99, which takes the classic Tetris formula and turns it into a battle royale type of game. In September, Nintendo announced Super Mario Bros. 35, which is a similar concept but based on the original Super Mario Bros. game. That title is set to be killed off at the end of March, though, which I think is a bummer since it works so well. I think more games like these would be really interesting, especially if Nintendo introduces something fresh every now and then. Just like Super Mario Bros. 35 was a celebration of the franchise's anniversary, perhaps something similar could be done for The Legend of Zelda or Donkey Kong, both of which have notable anniversaries this year. It would be interesting to see Nintendo cycle through different games over time, making sure there's something for everyone.
There are also other things Nintendo could eventually add, like an achievement system exclusive for Switch Online members. Or, if Nintendo insists on having a smartphone app for voice chat, why not also make it possible to create permanent group chats and the like for communication? There are plenty of possibilities, but this leads me to my final point.
Most of the things Nintendo did during the Wii U era are probably best left in the past, but Miiverse was a fantastic concept that I feel was mostly held back by the platform it was on. Now, if you're thinking "What's a Miiverse?", it was Nintendo's take on a sort of social network, which was more like a forum board than it was like Facebook. It was available on the Wii U and the 3DS after a software update in 2013, but with the Switch, Nintendo ditched the service in favor of sharing to Facebook and Twitter and it's... ok.
Here's the thing, I get that Facebook and Twitter are huge social platforms that nearly everyone is already using, and sharing content there is probably easier and more appealing to a lot of people. But I personally feel that Facebook and Twitter are social networks that are primarily focused on people. By that I mean that you don't go necessarily go to Twitter or Facebook (more so Twitter) to visit a specific community. They're places to share your experiences with the people you know or people who know you. Obviously, there's nothing wrong with that, but it means that you'll only reach the people that are specifically interested in following you.
When you post on a forum dedicated to a specific topic or on a community like Miiverse, the things you share have as much reach as anyone else's, and the people following that community are much more likely to be interested in what you have to say there. Even Twitter seems to recognize that a people-centric approach isn't ideal for everything with the announcement of Twitter Communities just last week.
A possible approach to solving this could also be to just allow deeper integration with Facebook and Twitter, so rather than sharing things on a personal profile, you could post to a group or community. But Miiverse could still offer plenty of unique features - searching for communities by game genre, for example, or adding spoiler tags to a post so you can share things without potentially ruining the game for other people browsing the community.
I also know that maintaining a social network like Miiverse is challenging, there are server costs and moderation systems that need to be put in place, so it's an investment that's hard to justify. That's why I think making the service a part of Switch Online could work. Not only would a paid service help filter out some potentially unwanted members of the community, it would also help fund maintenance and moderation costs.
I enjoyed using Miiverse on the 3DS, but the console wasn't all that fast which made it kind of a chore to get through, and I never really got to try it on the Wii U. I think the Switch could deliver a better experience for it, and creating a version that can be accessed on a PC would also go a long way in increasing engagement. I understand that it's a far-fetched dream, but it would be nice to see it come back.
But of course, that's just what I'd like to see from Nintendo Switch Online, but I'm sure everyone has different ideas. Nintendo will need to find a way to make its service appealing while keeping it profitable, which might not be possible if every single one of my suggestions were to come true.
What do you think Nintendo could do to make Nintendo Switch Online more compelling? Are you willing to pay more for those improvements? Let us know in the comments!
The console wars grand finale: Xbox 360 versus Xbox One versus Nintendo 3DS
by João Carrasqueira
Welcome to the final round of the console wars. For the past month, we've asked you to choose your favorite consoles in a series of polls, and your votes have brought us to the grand finale. Of course, that means it's up to you again to choose the true winner.
First, let's recap what happened in round two. The first matchup saw the Xbox 360 pulling an undisputed victory with nearly 50% of the votes. In second place, the PlayStation 2 won over just 24% of the voters, giving the Xbox 360 a crushing win. An interesting result, to be sure, considering the PlayStation 2 is the best-selling console of all time.
The second match pitted the original PlayStation, the Nintendo 64, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch against each other, and once again, Microsoft pulled a convincing. The battle was a bit more balanced here, but the Xbox One still got over 34% of the votes, with the Nintendo Switch slightly edging out the PlayStation for second place with roughly 27% of you choosing it.
Finally, the third match was focused on handhelds, and all of them were made by Nintendo, so there was only one possible winner. More specifically, victory went to the Nintendo 3DS, with roughly 34% of our readers voting for it. In second place, the Game Boy Advance had about 26% of the votes, and it's certainly interesting that sales numbers don't correlate to the poll winners at all in any of these matchups.
With that being said, we now have the three finalists - the Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Nintendo 3DS. You can vote for them right now, but since we're down to the final three, we'll also introduce you to each of the contestants below the poll.
What is the best console of all time?
Xbox 360 45.3% Xbox One 28.4% Nintendo 3DS 26.4% Results (201 Votes) Meet the contestants
The Xbox 360 was Microsoft's second foray into the world of game consoles, following a relatively lukewarm reception to the original Xbox. Microsoft kickstarted the seventh-generation of consoles, having announced the Xbox 360 in May of 2005, and releasing it in North America, Europe, and Japan later that year. As such, it was the first console to feature HD graphics and it also ushered in the era of online gaming with Xbox Live, though the service was already available to some extent on the original Xbox.
Original Xbox 360 "Premium", Xbox 360 S, and Xbox 360 E The Xbox 360 also introduced a new controller that worked wirelessly and had a significantly improved design that not only negated the criticism towards the original, but actually became one of the most praised controllers for its comfort. The console itself got redesigned a number of times throughout its life, adding more storage, connectivity options, and addressing some reliability issues like the infamous "Red Ring of Death". The most recognizable revision was the Xbox 360 S, launched in 2010, but it also got redesigned to look more like the Xbox One with the Xbox 360 E model in 2012.
By this point, Microsoft had started to gain recognition for its online service, and it had a hugely popular franchise in the form of Halo, with other franchises like Forza Motorsport and Fable having also started to grow. Between that and other well-known exclusive games like Gears of War, the Xbox 360 had a strong library early on. Combine that with stronger third-party support, an earlier launch than the competition, and a more attractive price than the PlayStation 3, the Xbox 360 led in terms of sales for a long time, barring the casual-focused Wii.
Kinect for Xbox 360 However, towards the end of the Xbox 360's life, the company shifted its focus towards the Kinect - a motion-sensing camera - trying to lure the casual audience away from Nintendo. Meanwhile, Sony had introduced cheaper versions of the PlayStation 3 and kept investing in games like The Last of Us and the Uncharted series later on. As such, the Xbox 360 ended in third place in its generation, having sold over 84 million units. Still, it's Microsoft's best-selling console officially.
The Xbox One was first revealed in May of 2013, and its initial reception was completely opposite from the Xbox 360's early days. Microsoft initially wanted to require a constant internet connection, make reselling games impossible, require the use of Kinect, and the first presentation of the console focused much more on media and television than gaming. Microsoft did try to focus more on games at E3, but then it had to contend with Sony. The PlayStation 4 was revealed to be cheaper than the Xbox One, confirmed support for used games, and focused even more on the gaming crowd, which meant Microsoft was off to a very slow start. The first model of the Xbox One was also mocked for being bulky and looking somewhat bland.
But Microsoft put a ton of effort into turning things around as the generation went on. The Kinect was eventually removed from the Xbox One package (and ended up being killed off entirely for gaming purposes), and Microsoft introduced two redesigns that made the Xbox One much more appealing. The Xbox One S, announced in 2016, made the console much smaller and gave it an all-new visual identity, along with adding support for HDR and 4K. This also brought an improved Xbox Wireless Controller, now with Bluetooth support, which allowed it to work on PCs and mobile devices easily. Then, in 2017, Xbox One X became the world's most powerful console, with support for native 4K rendering, all while being even smaller than the One S.
Microsoft also started focusing on games again, and capitalized on its incredibly popular Halo franchise by releasing The Master Chief Collection in 2014, containing almost every game in the series' history so far, with the first two being remade to look the part on Xbox One. Microsoft also finally put its acquisition of Rare to good use with the release of Rare Replay, a collection of almost every Rare-developed game from the 30 years prior, including cult classics like Conker's Bad Fur Day and Banjo-Kazooie. And of course, that's to say nothing of big new games that came out in the next few years from series like Halo, Gears of War, Forza (including the open-world Forza Horizon sub-series), and new franchises entirely like Sea of Thieves and Ori. On top of that, backward compatibility, which was initially missing, would be added later on for both Xbox 360 and some original Xbox games.
Microsoft stopped reporting sales of its Xbox consoles in October 2015, but estimates point to it having sold 51 million units as of the end of the second quarter of 2020. Far from a failure, the Xbox One ended up in a distant second place from the PlayStation 4, and has also been surpassed by the Nintendo Switch, but it stands as a testament to the mistakes Microsoft made and the lessons it learned in this era.
We already talked about the entire history of the Nintendo 3DS just a few months ago, in honor of the console being discontinued in 2020. You can always read more there, but here's a quick summary. The Nintendo 3DS was first announced via a simple press release in March 2010 and then shown off at E3 that year, but it wouldn't release until March 2011.
Its headlining feature was support for glasses-free 3D, which required the user to look at the screen from a very specific angle and distance. It also featured higher-resolution displays, better graphics, and new control methods like a Circle Pad and motion sensors, compared to its predecessor. However, the console initially failed to gain traction thanks to its high price point and lack of blockbuster titles in the first few months.
Nintendo was determined to turn things around, though, and reduced the price from $250 to $170 just a few months later, and with big original games like Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 releasing that holiday season, the 3DS began to exhibit a decent amount of success. It eventually got original games from series like The Legend of Zelda and Pokémon, revived franchises like Luigi's Mansion and Kid Icarus, and expanded the popularity of Animal Crossing, which no doubt contributed to the worldwide phenomenon that was Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the Nintendo Switch many years later. Even some third-party exclusives, like the Monster Hunter series and Resident Evil: Revelations (which was only exclusive for about a year), were released for the system.
The Nintendo 3DS received a handful of revisions, including the 3DS XL with bigger screens, and the 2DS, which removed 3D functionality and was more affordable. All models got revised with the "New" branding later on (2015 for the New 3DS and New 3DS XL; 2017 for the New 2DS XL), bringing even more control options, improved processing power, and better 3D support in the 3D-enabled models.
With 75.94 million units sold, it was far from Nintendo's biggest success in the handheld market, but it was far ahead of its competitor - the PlayStation Vita.
And those are the finalists this time around. Who will come out on top in the grand finale of the console wars? It's up to you. Cast your votes and we'll reveal the grand winner in a few weeks.
Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl bring new visuals to the DS games
by João Carrasqueira
During today's Pokémon Presents event, The Pokémon Company introduced a brand-new adventure and gameplay style in Pokémon Legends: Arceus, but those looking for a trip down nostalgia lane, it also introduced the long-awaited remakes of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl.
Called Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, the new games try to breathe new life into the titles originally released on the Nintendo DS in 2006 in Japan (2007 worldwide). However, unlike prior remakes in the franchise, these don't bring the original games to the same level as the current main series games - Pokémon Sword and Shield. Instead, these remakes focus on retaining the feel of the original titles, obviously upgrading the graphics and visuals to make use of the much more powerful hardware of the Nintendo Switch.
As such, the titles retain the fixed camera with a top-down view, but now use 3D for the entire game world and the battles, which were still in 2D on the original. They also appear to offer more freeform movement compared to the grid-based style of the games they're based on. From the footage shown, the game looks exactly like you'd imagine them to based on that description. In fact, no other differences were mentioned during the reveal, though typically remakes like this have incorporated some elements of the third game in each generation, which in this case would be Pokémon Platinum.
Interestingly, the titles are being developed outside by an external studio, ILCA. The Japanese studio had helped develop the Pokémon HOME app for Nintendo Switch and mobile devices, and this is the first time it's developing an actual Pokémon game. Presumably, resources at Game Freak are focused on developing Pokémon Legends: Arceus.
Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are coming to the Nintendo Switch in late 2021, though a more concrete date is still unknown.