Nintendo Speaks on Switch Bridging Handheld & Home Consoles, Balancing Graphics and Fun

TIME put together a rather lengthy interview with Nintendo director Shinya Takahashi and Switch producer Yoshiaki Koizumi, where they talk almost exclusively about the Nintendo Switch. Through this interview we learn a ton of information about the ideas that went into the Switch and it’s overall purpose. What is interesting about some of these remarks however is that it seems to slightly contrast with some of Nintendo’s earlier remarks about the 3DS coexisting, since they repeatedly state this system is intended to be that all in one Nintendo device.

Here are some key excerpts:

Switch is partly an experiment to address perceived cultural differences

“I think maybe there might be just some differences in perception around local play between Japan and the West,” says Takahashi, reacting to a question about local play as official philosophy (for a company with a history of carefully avoiding official philosophies). “I think for us, it’s really a much more natural thing. Partly, that’s because particularly with things like DS and 3DS, kids in Japan, they walk to school together and they walk home from school together. You have a lot of opportunity for kids walking home and then playing together after school. They have more of these opportunities for face-to-face local play.”

“Whereas I hear that in the U.S., there’s maybe not as many of those opportunities on a daily basis for kids based on their schedules. I think for us, it’s just more of a natural flow from even the days of the Famicom when you would sit down with two controllers and then hand one to your friend and play together in front of the TV. And with these other opportunities for kids, that for us the focus on local play just feels very natural.”

Everything’s on the table when it comes to Switch’s life cycle

“It is Nintendo Switch, so maybe we’ll switch it up!” jokes Takahashi, responding to a question about whether Switch’s life cycle will resemble more the company’s TV consoles (completely new ideas at five-year-plus intervals) or its handhelds (subtler changes every few years). “Certainly, we’ve designed Nintendo Switch in a way that it can be used by consumers in the way that best suits them. I think we may see that people who have bought a Nintendo home console in the past traditionally, they may treat Switch like a home console and buy it and use it for a long period of time.”

“Whereas people who have been traditionally Nintendo handheld gamers, they may buy Nintendo Switch and then for example, if a new version were to come out later, then maybe they would decide to upgrade to that. Or, for example, because you can take the Joy-Con off the system, then I guess that leaves open the possibility of something else that might get attached. There’s obviously a lot of different developments that we could look at from that perspective as well.”

“We’re hoping that Nintendo Switch will be a system that will be the constant in your gaming life,” adds Koizumi. “Whereas previously, you would play certain things on your home system and certain things on your handheld. Our hope is that Nintendo Switch can be the system that bridges both of those and becomes the constant system that you’re always using.”

Koizumi envisions scenarios in which, say, you wake up in the morning and maybe find some time to play a game on your TV while eating breakfast. Then you bring Switch with you on your morning commute to work or to school. “And then you’re coming back home on your commute and maybe you’re sitting in the bath enjoying a game,” he says. He believes that if Switch can achieve this, then it might hasten the demise of the split between a “home console” versus a “handheld.”

“Certainly, I’m sure you’re very busy and I’m very busy and maybe we don’t have as much time to play games as we would like,” continues Koizumi. “But my hope is that with Nintendo Switch being a system that you can play at home and bring with you, we’re going to be able to find more of those moments where we’re able to play the games that we all enjoy and be able to enjoy them that much more.”

Switch is a potential hub for future peripherals or connective ideas

“Because you can remove the controllers from the system, it opens up a lot of possibilities for expansion of what you’re able to do with the controllers or what you’re able to connect to the system,” says Koizumi. “I’m sure a lot of people have lots of different ideas about what might potentially get connected to the system, and perhaps suddenly one day, we’ll just pop up and say, ‘Hey, now there’s this’, though I can’t give you any examples right now.'”

Takahashi and Koizumi wooed third-party developers personally

“The two of us have met with a large number of third-party developers directly and done our Nintendo Switch presentation to them face-to-face directly,” says Koizumi. “There were many overseas developers who we presented the system too who were very happy to see it.”

“We did a number of these presentations last year, and we were actually pretty nervous doing them, because we didn’t know how the overseas developers were going to respond to it,” adds Takahashi. “And in each presentation, one of the last things that we showed was 1-2-Switch [a Nintendo-developed party game that makes use of the removable controllers advanced “rumble” feedback and motion controls].”

Takahashi says 1-2-Switch turned out to be “the peak of their joy in playing the system,” then adds “It’s also funny to watch these middle-age guys dancing as they play.”

On how Nintendo views Switch as neither under or overpowered, but exactly what it needs to be to deliver the experience it hopes players want…

“You’re asking this question to two individuals at Nintendo who come from an art background and the computer graphics background. We tend to be among the pushiest when it comes to graphics within the company. That being said, as we mentioned before, at Nintendo we feel like we’re an entertainment company rather than necessarily a games or a graphics company. Our priority is always on trying to create new and fun forms of entertainment. That’s the top priority.” – Takahashi

“Certainly, graphic quality falls somewhere within our priority, but our feeling is that Nintendo Switch is a system that really has the best balance of being able to create fun and new ways to play, but doing so with the graphic quality that’s still good enough while also being one that’s easy to develop for.” – Takahashi

“Graphics and frame rate are important in terms of how you’re connecting with or how you’re moving the heart of the player who’s immersed in that world. Nintendo Switch also has something else that can connect with that player in the form of the HD Rumble, where you can be immersed in that world, but you can actually feel in your hands the sensation of something in that world that you haven’t been able to feel before that adds a new layer of immersion to go along with the graphics and the frame rate.” – Koizumi

“I think when you start to look at the total package of tools that Nintendo Switch has to help bring those worlds to life, I think you’ll find that it has some unique ways to connect with you as a player and move you in ways that you haven’t necessarily experienced before.” – Koizumi

Be sure to check out the full interview here.

Nathanial Rumphol-Janc

A veteran in the video game media sphere, Nathanial co-founded Gamnesia, founded, ran the news the segment on the Zelda Universe Podcast, found and ran Zelda Domain from 1998 to 2006, and built Zelda Informer as the Editor-in-Chief from 2008 to 2017. He now owns and operates Nintendo Prime. You can follow him on twitter @NateJanc, otherwise just stay tuned at Nintendo Prime for more of his work.