Recently, the world was introduced to the newest Nintendo console, the Nintendo Switch. The Switch is a hybridization of Nintendo’s home and handheld consoles. The unique selling point of the Switch is its ability to play any Nintendo game at home or on the go and to transition between home and mobile gaming seamlessly.
Having spent time with the Switch since its release, I can tell you it does deliver on its name. Gaming, whether it be on the TV or in handheld mode, works perfectly. It truly is amazing to play the latest Zelda on my TV and then pick up the console and go out into the world, all while continuing my game. But this isn’t a review of the console or the games, I’ll leave that to more qualified individuals. No, this post will be looking at what Nintendo is attempting to pull off with the Switch and just how revolutionary it can be for the video game industry, if they pull it off.
As said earlier, the Switch’s promise is to be a hybrid of handheld and home console gaming. The Switch is trying to fill the gap left open by traditional home consoles, like the Playstation or the Xbox, and mobile gaming on phones and tablets. Nintendo is positioning the Switch as the only console you’ll ever need.
Nintendo is trying to accomplish this by taking what worked with the DS, the Wii U, and, to an extent, the Wii and putting it all into one small box. The Switch benefits from this because it has everything that was positive about those consoles, but little to none of the negatives that hurt those consoles.
That’s not to say the Switch is perfect. Battery-life is an issue and internally its specs are not even close to the likes of the PS4 or Xbox One. But the Switch has the advantage over its competition of being the only console you can play at home, on the go, or at a friend’s house. This is where Nintendo’s revolutionary idea comes to life.
Since the introduction of mobile gaming on phones and tablets, traditional handhelds like the Gameboy and DS have seen a sharp decline in sales. These traditional gaming systems simply couldn’t compete with the immense amount of phones out there. Rather than people having to buy a dedicated device, they could just use the phone they already owned and download games straight to it.
This gives smart phone gaming a huge leg up against traditional handhelds because of the sheer number of smart phones out there. But the drawback of smart phone gaming is the games themselves. Save for a few recognizable names like Angry Birds or Heads Up, smart phone gaming has yet to develop a truly robust catalogue of stellar games. This is where Nintendo sees their opportunity.
By having the Switch act as a home and handheld console, Nintendo is able offer every game franchise they have on the same device. For the first time, you can play the latest console version of Zelda and then use the same device to play the latest Pokémon release. Nintendo has the best first-party franchises of any video game publisher, which is how they will entice the public to move from their phones to the Switch.
If Nintendo can effectively get people to put down their phones in favour of a dedicated handheld gaming device, the entire video game industry would have to take notice. Early reports already suggest that Sony are looking at making a follow-up to the Vita, in the same vein as the Switch. Now a follow-up device to their last handheld isn’t all that surprising, but what is surprising is Sony looking to Nintendo to see where the industry is possibly heading. The Switch has only just been release and a final decision on if the Switch is a success or a failure is still months away but Sony are still looking at Nintendo and wondering how they can put their own spin on it.
Sony recognizes the potential of the Switch. If Nintendo can truly make one device that services every gamers needs, then the old ways of thinking about the separation of home console and mobile gaming go out the door.
Nintendo would have proven that you can have AAA home console experiences while on the go. Likewise, smaller independent titles can have a full home console release they wouldn’t normally be able to afford. Nintendo would have complete shifted the paradigm of the video game industry.
Right now this is all speculation. The Switch has been received generally positively but many note that the console has a lot of promise but, at launch, seems incomplete. Having been spending an unhealthy amount of time with one, I tend to agree. But the promise is still there. The Switch can still be the revolutionary device we all think it can be. If there is any video game company that could pull off such a massive shake-up of the industry, it would be Nintendo.
What do you think? Is Nintendo about to revolutionize the industry or did they just release a device doomed to fail? Let me know in the comments down below or you can reach me on Twitter @CBloodRojas.