Nintendo might have just unleashed a slew of game announcements and updates in its recent Direct, but that’s not stopping it from pushing even more new reveals. This time, however, it’s not just about games; instead, the company is teasing something it calls “a new experience for Nintendo Switch,” providing the first glimpses of it in a new trailer uploaded on its official YouTube channel. But the question still remains – what is it?
A few vague details can be gleaned from the trailer. The “experience” in question appears to be some sort of plastic loop with notches in which individual Switch Joy-con can be placed, along with peripheral straps that can be used to attach Joy-con across your leg, and perhaps other body parts as well. The footage shows people playing with the device in a multitude of ways – spinning it over their heads, pressing it between their arms, and shaking it with alarming violence. To make these activities possible, it looks like the device will utilize the many features of the surprisingly versatile Joy-con, such as motion controls, HD rumble, and IR sensors. It’s certainly a strange concept at first glance, but it’s a promisingly innovative one.
However, this “new experience” might not be a new experience at all. Consider the contents of the trailer: it shows people of many different ages and demographics actively playing games together and exercising. It is simply a continuation of one of Nintendo’s longstanding missions: to make gaming a healthy hobby for everyone. This goal has led Nintendo to its greatest successes by attempting to appeal to the massive, largely untapped audience of casual gamers. The company created cultural phenomena with the Game Boy, DS, and Wii systems, which became hugely popular thanks to their innovative concepts and their easily accessible games, with titles like Wii Sports proving monumental in bridging the gap between “hardcore” gamers and casual players. Nintendo has already tried to recapture that same audience a few times on Switch already with releases like 1-2 Switch and Labo but simply hasn’t met with the same level of success yet. This latest project looks like Nintendo’s latest attempt to reach the casual market on Switch by appealing to simple, cooperative fun as was so frequently seen on the Wii. Perhaps the d time will truly be the charm when it comes to this endeavor.
Of course, the trailer only focused on the hardware peripheral, leaving the actual software completely out of the equation. It would be very safe to guess that the signature game behind this new project would be a collection of innovative yet ultimately shallow mini-games, just as Nintendo did with 1-2 Switch or Labo. It would be even safer to guess that most of these games would emphasize exercise or physical activity, á la Wii Sports. However, there’s no reason why the company can’t get a little more ambitious in the gameplay department this time around. There are already countless mini-game compilations on the market, so why not try to differentiate this new product by providing something innovative? Why can’t this be an open world, motion-controlled yoga rhythm action game? Perhaps that would interfere with the apparent goal of accessibility, but we can dream, can’t we?
Better yet, imagine how awkward yet appropriate this peripheral could be if it were functional in existing games. It could be an excellent steering wheel in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, or it could become a delightfully unwieldy method of controlling Link in Breath of the Wild. If Nintendo’s goal is to get its players active, then replacing traditional controllers with this new device and mapping controls to motion could be an effective move, just as it was on the Wii. There are endless possibilities about how this “new experience” could affect games, and it should be exciting to watch out for.
There are currently far more questions than answers about this new project, but it won’t be long before all is (hopefully) revealed. Nintendo has promised to show off new information on September 12, so that will likely be the time we get our first look at this ambitious open-world motion-controlled dance game – or more realistically, we’ll learn all the specific details about the experience, including its official name, compatible software, release window, and more. It will be interesting to see how Nintendo will yet again try to recapture the elusive casual audience.