The computer industry is booming with new innovative devices that offer new form factors and highly adaptive operating systems that match the software experience to them. Phones like the Motorolla RAZR and the Galaxy Fold with foldable screens, or the Microsoft Surface Duo's dual screen design are exciting people with a new option to control their software, for both entertainment and productivity.
As the industry giants are bringing in their implementations of this new technology, one might be inclined to turn around and wonder about Nintendo, who has been promoting dual-screen hardware since the earliest days with the game & watch systems, and then with their ultra-popular Nintendo DS (their most popular video game system ever made).
While the dual-screen configuration weakened Nintendo's market performance with the 3DS and fizzled out with the WiiU, both due to a reduction of the overall enjoyment caused by broken immersion - one due to 3D visuals that could cause some players headaches, the other due to having to break contact with one screen to look at the other more distant one - Nintendo switched its gameplan, ditching the dual-screen gaming experience with it's latest hybrid console.
Many people look at the Nintendo Switch and wonder what it is at its core: is it more of a handheld, is it more of a home console, and many have concluded that it is just simply both - a hybrid. Nintendo has always been a manufacturer of multiple form factors, often wanting to go beyond their traditional two form factors - home and handheld - with offshoots like the DS versus the GBA+GC pair, or the virtual boy versus the GB + SNES, having stated as much in many financial briefings especially since the time they planned to merge their handheld and home console R&D facilities back in 2009. Nintendo likened their outlook on form factors to the way apple approached hardware, launching revision after revision (iphone 1, iphone 2, iphone 3, ...), and form factor after form factor (ipod to iphone to ipad to apple watch) in a seemless transition, aided by a harmonizing operating system or adaptations of it.
With the recent excitement over dual screen form factors, and Nintendo's ingrained desire to push new gameplay experiences and vary their platforms, could this be a foreshadowing of Nintendo's next big move?
With Nintendo's new success on the Switch's unified platform and library, and with the restructuring that happened at Nintendo after the passing of Iwata-san, Nintendo may have turned the page on its perhaps outlived pedigree in radical new form factors, going today for more proven and sure business moves. At the same time, the Switch shows that Nintendo is still able to break the mold. With its detachable joy-cons, the ring fit adventure experience or Labo, Nintendo still wants to play.
On the one side, Nintendo may want to stick to a unified platform, on the other they may want to flirt with parallel form factors and experiences. If they were to choose, they most certainly would choose the former, given their new taste for success on the switch. But what if they could have both? What if Nintendo was able to offer 1 game, on two platforms, with reduced development times? This would be similar to what they started experimenting on the 3DS+WiiU (Smash 3DS+U, Mario Kart 8 & 9 having very similar designs), but taken to a new level, where they are producing one and only one game, that adapts to the form factor.
The future is impossible to predict with certainty, but the ones who gain insight on the tendencies of market players may be able to spot a hint that could end up playing out.
The new Nintendo DS, a foldable handheld, compatible with all switch games, supporting new game modes in new games, is this the next Nintendo handheld? Only time will reveal the future.
Last edited by padib - on 16 March 2020