Throughout its history, Nintendo has alternated between bursts of innovation that redefined gaming and slumps where it fell behind rivals after misjudging trends. Now the company has revealed a big part of its plan for regaining its leadership in gaming.
The Japanese game giant provided the first look at a new console it is developing that will do double-duty as a portable game system outside the home and one that will serve in the traditional role, connected to television sets.
Other game companies have toyed around with similar approaches in the past with limited success, but the Nintendo Switch, as the device is called, is the first from a marquee games company to so assertively seek to erase the boundaries between home and mobile gaming.
“Nintendo Switch allows gamers the freedom to play however they like,” Reggie Fils-Aimé, the president and chief operating officer of Nintendo of America, said in a statement. “It gives game developers new abilities to bring their creative visions to life by opening up the concept of gaming without boundaries.”
The device is another example of how Nintendo often zigs while its rivals zag. Sony and Microsoft have both designed high-end consoles that have appealed to hard-core gamers with the best graphics, and both have either released or are developing hardware to enable virtual reality experiences through their consoles.
Nintendo, in contrast, has been more concerned with giving gamers novel ways of playing games, rather than creating the most immersive experiences possible. It struck gold with the motion controllers of the Wii and has one of the most powerful stables of game franchises under its control, including Mario and Zelda. It later stumbled with a successor console, the Wii U, that used a tablet-like controller as a secondary screen to televisions.
At the same time, Nintendo largely ignored the explosive growth of mobile gaming on smartphones and tablets, which siphoned away more casual players from dedicated games hardware. Recently the company has quieted some of those concerns with the success of Pokémon Go, a mobile game created by a partner based on the Pokémon franchise that Nintendo partly owns.
With its new system, Nintendo seems focused on giving gamers more flexibility about where to play. While the company did not provide details on price and many features, it published a YouTube video on Thursday showing how Nintendo Switch is based on a hand-held device that resembles a tablet computer.
When a player is on the go, two controllers can be slid into slots on either side of the device, giving players more traditional controllers than are normally used for games on tablets. When a player is at home, the device can be inserted into a dock connected to a television. The controllers are removed from the Nintendo Switch and held in each hand, or connected together into a single controller with an optional accessory.
Nintendo will also sell an optional controller that more closely resembles those used to play games on Sony and Microsoft consoles. The console will be released in March, Nintendo said.
The video shows people playing games on Nintendo Switch while sitting in their living rooms, flying on planes and riding in vehicles. It shows them competing in a multiplayer game on one screen at a party and on multiple devices sitting in public. It suggests Nintendo Switch will be good for e-sports, the growing field of organized competitive gaming.
“Nintendo always surprises,” said John Taylor, an analyst at Arcadia Investment Corp., a stock research firm. “I think they checked off an awful lot of boxes with this.”
Mr. Taylor believes the timing of Nintendo’s announcement, ahead of the holiday season, is telling, as Sony and Microsoft will be wooing more casual gamers to their consoles. He said the appetite for a converged gaming device that works equally well on televisions and on the go is unproven.
“There’s no large, demonstrable market, from my perspective, that shows the popularity of that kind of game play pattern,” he said. “It could get established if Nintendo introduced a game that really made that kind of play-pattern super fun.”