The evolution of gaming is moving quickly these days. It wasn’t too long ago that we would settle in with a batch of consoles for a number of years before the major companies unveiled their newer machines and we all slowly but surely adapted. Now, it seems as though the competition is heating up and where Microsoft and Sony are concerned, there are constant attempts at one-upmanship. This is illustrated in a recent article at Trusted Reviews that put forth a spectacularly detailed comparison of the PS4 Pro and Xbox One S. These are the iPhone 6S versions of gaming consoles. They are mini-updates that aren’t necessarily “next-gen” but are considered to be better than the previous versions in incremental ways.
Meanwhile, the industry is also speeding rapidly toward virtual reality, even if the headsets have been a little bit slow to catch fire in 2016 (as many predicted they would). Lottoland, a site best known for Irish lottery play and a selection of online games, posted an interesting infographic about the evolution of gaming that implied that VR is the future and not just a side venture for gaming companies. The infographic effectively “ends” with Sony’s VR headset as the most advanced form of gaming currently in existence, or at least the most modern. In other words, the near future seems to be pretty clear: we’ll stick with our advanced versions of PS4 and Xbox One and gradually be persuaded to buy accompanying VR headsets as well.
But if that’s true, then where does the Nintendo Switch fit into the equation? The Wii U, while popular with Nintendo fanatics, was arguably a bit of a failure when put up against the PS4 and Xbox One. So is this another misstep for Nintendo that will cause the company to lag behind with a fan base increasingly dwindling to the most loyal enthusiasts? Or is it just strange enough to carve out its own wacky place alongside our evolving consoles?
There’s no way to know at this early stage. We’ve only seen one reveal trailer for the Nintendo Switch, and while it seemed to show us quite a bit about what Nintendo is getting into, the company has also promised that there’s plenty more information to come. Knowing what we know now, there’s actually reason to believe that the Switch may find some success.
For one thing, it appears that it will be far more effective than the Wii U at bridging the gap between console and portable gaming. This seems to be the main point of the Switch, and it looks like Nintendo has gotten pretty creative with the concept. Players will be able to immediately pick up their console games on the accompanying portable device—and can apparently play anywhere, with or without WiFi. Not requiring the internet arguably gives the mobile version of the Switch a leg up on phone- and tablet-based gaming, as people will be able to play without fear of driving up data costs. Yes, this basically makes it a glorified GameBoy, but hey, that’s what your phone already is, and it costs money to use.
The Switch may also have a shot at success because of the bold and creative ways in which it takes us back to local multiplayer. As you may have noticed, we’ve been lamenting the loss of local multiplayer in gaming, and it now looks like if anything is going to make it popular again, it will be the Switch. The gimmick here is that the portable device actually supports local multiplayer. The screen is a bit small and the controllers are tiny, but the idea of being able to prop up a little gaming device and take on a friend in, say, Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros. is pretty appealing. This feels like something that will either catch on completely or not at all, but you have to admire the concept.
Finally, there’s also the big advantage that every new Nintendo device has, which is access to classic franchises that Sony and Microsoft can only imitate. The release of new Mario, Zelda, and Pokémon games is what keeps loyal fans interested, and this is almost certainly a trend that will continue with the Switch. The trick, for Nintendo, will be coming out with a true game changer like Super Mario 64 or the original Mario Kart, that can actually bring some straying customers back to the company.
This isn’t to paint an unrealistically optimistic picture of the Switch. Early speculation indicates that the console won’t be as powerful or as capable as the PS4 or Xbox One, and that alone could wind up making it a flop. But because it’s weird and different enough to stand out, the Switch has a chance to carve out its own unexpected niche in the rapid evolution of modern gaming.
This is a guest post by Glenn Ripley, a freelance writer out of Asheville, NC. A gamer since childhood, he has been eagerly following all news about the NX, now the Switch, since it was first announced.