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Does Nintendo's New Console Signal A 'Switch' For The Video Game Market?


Moving on to technology...


MARTIN: "Super Mario" and "The Legend Of Zelda" are all part of the Nintendo legacy. But now, beloved games from 30 years ago are getting a facelift to compete against Xbox and PlayStation, not to mention the hundreds of mobile apps that have frankly put Nintendo a bit on the back foot.

Nintendo has unveiled what many game reviewers are calling a game-changer. It's called Switch, but let's see if the Nintendo Switch is worth all the hype. To find out more about it, we called Wall Street Journal technology reporter Nathan Olivarez-Giles. He's with us now from San Francisco. Nathan, thanks so much for joining us.


MARTIN: So why is this Switch such a big deal?

OLIVAREZ-GILES: Well, the Switch is the first home console to really balance being a system that you can play on your television in high definition, but then something you can take on the road with you as well. The Switch also reintroduces motion-sensing controllers that were made popular by the Wii, Nintendo's last big hit in a new way. And they're smaller, they're lighter, they're untethered. And it's a bit of a nostalgia play, but it also really looks towards the future with a console unlike anything we've seen before.

MARTIN: How much does it cost?

OLIVAREZ-GILES: Just the console itself costs $299, and what you get is the tablet with its 6.2-inch touch screen. You get the two joy-con motion controllers which allow you to play with a friend easily. But if you slide them onto either side of the tablet, it creates one solid on-the-go console. And then you get a dock that you put the tablet into when you want to play on a television set. So that's a pretty fair price. And that's what videogame systems are going for these days.

MARTIN: So you've played it. What do you think?

OLIVAREZ-GILES: Well, at this point, the hardware is the best that Nintendo has ever made. And I've had a total blast playing it. The standout game for me was "The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild." If you're a "Zelda" fan, this is one of the best "Zelda" games ever made. But at this point, there's just not enough to play on it. So the hardware has massive potential, but I think a lot of people should wait until the games get better.

MARTIN: They have to because what I'm reading in the business press - yours included - is that it's already sold out almost everywhere. Why is that?

OLIVAREZ-GILES: Well, you know, the hype is really strong. And Nintendo has a lot of hearts and minds because of decades worth of games and relationships they've built with gamers. You know, people hear "Mario," and they hear "Zelda" and there's a almost romantic and fun idea of what's going to be happening there. So the Wii U, which was the previous Nintendo console fell flat on its face. I think they sold about 13 million units worldwide where the Wii before that sold about 100 million units. So Nintendo needs a big hit, and this is one of those make-or-break moments for the company.

MARTIN: Before we let you go, do we expect competitors like Sony and Microsoft to - makers of the PlayStation the Xbox - to follow suit?

OLIVAREZ-GILES: Microsoft and Sony so far don't have anything like this in the works that we know of or that they've spoken publicly about. What they're doing is they're beefing up their consoles with even more processing power, and then they're making them compatible with virtual reality headsets. Nintendo hasn't gone the VR route yet. They say they're open to it in the future, but they're kind of steering clear of it.

Nintendo's always really been more about fun game play with other people around you, rather than teraflops worth of processing power inside of a VCR-like box. And that's really the route that Microsoft and Sony are battling in right now.

MARTIN: That was Wall Street Journal tech reporter Nathan Olivarez-Giles joining us from San Francisco. Nathan, thanks so much.

OLIVAREZ-GILES: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered,where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
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