#Nintendo has seen off tough competition from companies selling cars, phones, drones, and other videogame consoles, to be crowned the most innovative product of the year by the magazine Popular Science.
This award probably isn't a surprise to anybody who has owned or played a Switch since its launch in March. I knew as soon as I experienced some of the console's more unique features that Nintendo had created a really interesting and innovative console. However, unlike the WiiU which could also be argued to be a pretty innovative system, the Nintendo Switch is full of innovations that change the way you play in a positive and exciting way (as opposed to the gimmicks that felt rather forced-into the WiiU).
After reading the news that Nintendo won the Innovation award, I picked up my Switch and had a good think about what it is that makes the console so special and deserving of such praise. I often see online people confused about why seemingly everyone who owns a #Switch is saying "This game would be perfect on the Switch". It's more than simply people wanting more variety and success for the console they've bought: it's a genuine belief that every game being released at the moment would be a more enjoyable and unique experience on the Switch than any other platform. Here are a few of the reasons why this is the case.
Revolutionary Hybrid Gameplay
Probably the main selling point of the Switch, and where the console got its name, is the ability to play your games on the TV in one moment, and the next moment be able to take your game out of the house with you with a seamless transition between these states of play.
I have yet to meet somebody who was not impressed by the speed at which you can dock and undock the Switch to continue playing your game from the exact moment you left off. It's practically instant, and still hasn't gotten old for me months later.
I tend to play my Switch in handheld mode most of the time, because the idea of lying down on the bed and playing some Golf Story is really appealing to me, but I also know people who never take their Switch out of the dock - and plenty of people who do a mixture of both. That's the point with the Nintendo Switch: it's all about choice. You can use your system in whatever way best suits your needs, and you never feel like you're getting a gimped experience using either - the console was fully designed and intended to be used in both forms, and each form is a complete experience.
Nintendo isn't the first company to attempt a hybrid system, but they were the first ones to get it right. By combining the portability of a handheld with the entertainment of playing on a big screen with surround sound, there is something for everybody, and that is well deserving of an innovation award in my opinion.
The Marvelous Joycon
Another impressive innovation that Switch owners enjoy is that of the Joycon - the little controllers that sit either side of the screen in handheld mode, combine to form a more traditional controller in TV mode, and can be separated for instant two-player action out of the box.
I think it's the last point that actually excites me the most about the Joycon. Never before has local multiplayer been so integral to the design of a system (except perhaps, the Wii). The ability to slide off an individual Joycon to hand to a friend in the same room and play multiplayer is an innovation that I'm so happy exists.
In recent years, it has felt that the industry has been moving away from local multiplayer and more focused on an online experience. Don't get me wrong, I love battling other players in Overwatch as much as the next person, but there is something uniquely awesome about playing Mario Kart in the same room as your friends, shouting and laughing with one-another. Nintendo has always felt like the last bastion in the local multiplayer front - even couch-multiplayer staple Halo removed split-screen battles in Halo 5, to much fan disappointment. The Joycon is one of the most significant innovations to the local multiplayer market in recent years, without a doubt.
I hope the success of the Nintendo Switch will show the industry in general that people still love the ability to play with their friends locally. A revival of couch multiplayer would be worthy of an award in itself!
I think I talk about this feature more than any other writer, but I really do believe it's a fantastic feature that is often overshadowed by the Joycon and the hybrid form of the Switch. HD Rumble is a brilliant innovation that I think will become mainstream in video game consoles following the success of the Switch.
HD Rumble appeals to me because of the breadth of options it gives developers on how to use it. Particularly in the indie game space there have been creative uses of HD Rumble in so many games. Recently I have been playing Golf Story, and have been very impressed by the ways HD Rumble can make everything from striking a golf ball, to putting into the hole, to text boxes can feel so much more alive and engaging. It genuinely has improved my experience of the game, and this has been the case with so many titles on the Switch.
Recent reports have suggested that indie titles are selling far better on Switch than on other platforms. I think it's a combination of the hybrid system suitable for playing smaller experiences on the go, alongside innovations like the HD Rumble that can make the Switch version of a game stand out from the competition.
Much like the Nintendo #DS made the touch screen popular to a wide audience, I believe HD Rumble will impress a lot of people and make it more of a priority for manufacturers going forward. Expect to see changes in the way vibration is used in gaming in upcoming consoles and other electronics thanks to this innovation.
Innovation pays off!
Nintendo often gets a lot of frustration from gamers for trying too hard to change the way we play games, rather than just creating a powerful "Nintendo Box" that plays their games with powerful hardware like their competitors. This was especially the case during the WiiU era, where it felt like Nintendo's obsession with innovation was damaging their games and their console sales.
I have always believed that even though Nintendo doesn't get it right every time, it's really great that one of the major companies in the industry is always thinking about how to take gaming forward and more appealing to a wider audience. It's important to not let the industry get stale, and Nintendo knows that if they want to stay relevant, they should always experiment with new ideas (there is no way Mario would be as big as it is today if they never changed the formula from the original Super Mario Bros.).
The Nintendo Switch proves that innovation in the gaming industry is a positive force, and can make genuine and significant changes to the way we play games. I am really looking forward to seeing how developers continue to use the Switch hardware in interesting ways, and to see how Nintendo continues to surprise and amaze us with future console innovations.
Sources: (Nintendo, Popular Science)