Nintendo Switch’s apparent lack of touchscreen isn’t an accident – Ars Technica


Nice, big screen! Why isn't anybody touching it, though?

The Nintendo NX is now called the Nintendo Switch, and many of the upcoming game system’s rumored capabilities have been confirmed by way of a peppy reveal video posted this morning. However, while the video showed happy people carrying the new home/portable hybrid system around and playing games on planes, at parties, and with friends, it also failed to show anybody doing something largely expected from a modern, handheld screen: touching it.

Does this mean the system’s primary, portable screen does not support touch? Ars sent that question directly to Nintendo of America and received this statement as a response: “We have nothing to announce on this topic. We will make additional announcements about the Nintendo Switch hardware later, before the launch of the product.”

Peculiar, right? It doesn’t bode well for touch functionality on the Switch, nor does the fact that Nintendo could have easily inserted a half-second moment of its video’s gamers tapping the thing even once. That didn’t happen. Does this mean the Nintendo touch era is over?

Blame the dock

At least in terms of console gaming, the answer appears to be “yes.”

The Nintendo Switch advertisement doesn’t show anybody using touch controls because of one apparent mandate for games on the system: that they function even if the system’s giant screen is docked to a TV.

The system’s main board will reside inside of the screen unit, designed so that people can grab their game in progress and keep playing it on the go, without pausing the action for an instant. As the video demonstrates, one gamer grabs the screen so that he can feed his Zelda habit while walking his dog.

This is one way you can play Nintendo Switch games—by separating the new "Joy Con" controllers and passing them to friends for on-the-go multiplayer. Bigger options are available as well.

But unlike the DS, 3DS, or Wii U, this isn’t a multiscreen system. In this video, when the Nintendo Switch is attached to a television for bigger-screen play, the portable screen shuts off, and play is redirected to whatever screen is hooked into the Nintendo Switch Dock.

With this use case, every Nintendo Switch game will have to support controls for players who don’t have a screen in their hand. Even if the Nintendo Switch launches with some sort of surprise touchscreen functionality, game makers will have to accommodate players who want to lie back on the couch with either the new Joy-Con pads or the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, which resembles the Wii’s Classic Controller Pro line.

The lack of dual-screen functionality is curious, considering that the Nintendo Switch otherwise resembles a Wii U—as in, a system that revolves around a giant, portable screen surrounded by buttons. The difference, of course, is that the Switch’s controllers pop off for easily sharable gaming on the go or for playing without a screen in hand. Perhaps in Nintendo’s eyes, sharing a relatively small portable screen with a friend is already cramped enough. Having one of those players smother the screen with their fingers wouldn’t help matters.

And if Nintendo really wants this system to be used on the go and shared with friends, it might be silly for games to include touchscreen functions that only work when a second screen is around.

End of the touch-and-waggle era?

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