OSAKA -- Nintendo's release Friday of the Switch brought to market a much-hyped home game console that not only doubles as a stand-alone handheld, but also adds more lifelike tactile feedback to play.
Japanese electronics retailers were filled with customers looking to buy the new system. Although Nintendo has not released preorder figures, the Switch appears off to a good start. "It's as popular, if not more, than the PlayStation VR," a sales associate at a Tokyo store said.
"There is definitely demand," said Noboru Yamada, chairman of electronics chain operator Yamada Denki, adding that retailers may have a fight on their hands.
Nintendo's Wii, a pioneer in motion-based gaming, has sold more than 100 million units since its launch a decade ago. It was followed up by the Wii U, a flop that logged just an eighth of the sales. But consumers now seem to be regaining confidence in the company's home systems.
At first glance, the Switch almost seems like an updated Wii. The main selling point is not the graphics, but the controllers. They build on the Wii's motion-tracking controllers while introducing a new level of realism to tactile feedback.
The new HD Rumble technology re-creates very specific sensations through the Switch controllers -- of milking a cow or of a rolling ball, for example. Combined with the graphics, it gives players the feeling of having the actual experiences.
"It's easy to tell what's going on when you can feel it, which is great," said Shinya Takahashi, a Nintendo director who led the development of the Switch.
Twenty games for the Switch have been released. The aim is to attract casual gamers through intuitive controls while satisfying a harder-core set through such unique features as the ability to attach the controllers to the main unit for easy transport.
"There were different types and intensities of the vibrations, and it was a very vivid experience," said a 27-year-old who tried out the Switch at a store.
But HD Rumble is still a new feature, and outside game developers cannot yet tap its full potential. The Switch's success may depend on how many new titles come out before "Super Mario Odyssey" is released next winter.