In early March, Nintendo released their newest console, the Nintendo Switch. The console, which was billed as a console/handheld hybrid, has been met with some good reviews. However, the console did suffer from an issue right as it released. Other than The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, what is there to draw potential customers to the Switch? However, I looked at it from a different angle: what use cases could I see myself wanting something like a Nintendo Switch?
There’s no secret one of the console’s biggest selling points is its portability. The idea that I can pick up my Switch, mid-game, and continue to play on the go is incredibly enticing. But how well does that work? It’s not without some sacrifices in terms of the games you are playing themselves, but the overall experience has been pretty great. I recently did some traveling and brought a Nintendo Switch with me on the plane. Being able to play Zelda at 35,000 feet was amazing – nothing felt hindered or scaled back because I was no longer playing it on my TV. The whole portable experience has been a key reason I’ve been enjoying the console. I take it to the bus stop and get a quick match of Mario Kart 8 in before my daughter gets home from school, I’ve taken it to a friend’s house and playing some MK8 and Bomberman – nothing about the experiences was hampered by the portable experience.
The sacrifices do come into play in terms of just pure resolution – the native resolution on the Nintendo Switch’s screen is 720p, so games that run at higher resolutions while docked are inevitably going to take that hit. However, as is the case of Zelda, some games might run better with the lower pixel count. However, it’s hard not to wonder if this will harm the console moving forward. Nintendo has always been known for doing its own thing in the gaming space – the Wii and the Wii U are clear indicators of this – but when their major competitors in Microsoft and Sony are discussing 4K capable consoles, which the Nintendo Switch doesn’t hit even full HD on its flagship title, there is cause for some concern.
There are also other questions which still remain to be answered: How will Nintendo’s online service work? How much will it cost? Will it be stable? Nintendo has yet to prove it can provide a service worth consumer’s paying for it – and I think they know this. This is why currently all Switch owners have a free trial of the service until Fall 2017. Nintendo plans on unveiling more in the coming months, but it will take some time for the more lukewarm Nintendo fans to embrace the Switch’s online platform, especially when gaming online on PC is still free, and even paid services like Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, while showing stability issues frequently, are well established.
What the Nintendo Switch has going for it, though, is likely one of the most important aspects of gaming today: its games are just plain fun. While many of the games are re-releases or multiple platform games like Has Been Heroes or I Am Setsuna, the flagship titles people will buy the system for, such as Breath of the Wild or Mario Kart 8, are compelling and addicting. Zelda really pushes the boundaries of game design and world interaction for the better. Mario Kart 8 has got to be hands down the most stable and competent game I’ve played on any of the major three console platforms since 2013. It’s beautiful to see in action and the game’s performance is absolutely rock solid – both docked and on the go.
And that aspect – the fluidity of the experience no matter how you choose to play – will define this system going forward. Nintendo will have to ensure that the experiences of their major titles, as well as third party games, are the same regardless of how you’re choosing to play. Consumers cannot be artificially gimped because they prefer the handheld experience versus the docked one. And from personal experience, I can say so far they have the formula down. While flying over the North Atlantic, I played a console version of Zelda on the style of device I never thought possible, at least at the quality level I enjoyed the game. I’ve raced as Pink Gold Peach while watching real cars whiz down the busy streets of Las Vegas. No other gaming system has given me that type of freedom before – not even the standard handhelds of today. With the Switch, I don’t feel as though I’m sacrificing quality for mobility. I get console quality – yet on the go.
Nintendo’s Switch has a long way to go to prove it can last in the console space moving forward, but the early signs are showing it has real promise.
[Featured Image by Nintendo]