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Nintendo's 2017: two seismic shifts, and the conundrum that will decide its future


You wouldn’t have guessed from its meagre release schedule last year, but Nintendo had a hugely significant 2016. With the baby step of Miitomo that was then followed by Super Mario Run’s more sizeable footprint later in the year, its play for mobile finally took shape, while with the announcement of Switch it began the process of consolidating its handheld and home console offerings. These are hardly small matters, but 2017 will be when we finally see how everything falls into place. It’s going to be fascinating.

The first point of order, of course, is Switch, due for its full unveiling at the tail-end of next week. By this point there are only a handful of questions remaining – the three-minute reveal trailer gave an overview of the premise, and we now have a good idea of the specs – but we won’t get the answer to the big one until after its release in March. Just how exactly will players respond to Nintendo’s hybrid?

The early signs are positive. On the surface, the Switch is a much easier sell than the two pieces of hardware that preceded it; the big gimmick is the alluring ability to play big console games on the go, a more straightforward concept than the glassless 3D of the 3DS or the weird asymmetry of the Wii U’s GamePad. The ability to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the move could well prove irresistible, and a portable Skyrim is exciting enough a prospect to make you forget the original is over half a decade old.