The Nintendo Switch, once known as the NX during the prototype stage, has been announced as having surpassed the 3DS and the Wii U in terms of sales for its initial opening quarter. In fact the hybrid console is so popular Nintendo are struggling to keep stores in stock – surely a good sign for the gaming industry. Nintendo have always danced to their own tune and cared little for being a rival to any of the other Big Two, so they are not part of the competition, they’re in a bracket completely on their own. No one buys a Nintendo as a primary console, it’s always the alternative for an Xbox or PS4 owner, and quite often Nintendo will be the console of choice for PC owners.
When looking back at the Wii U, it now strikes me that this was likely nothing more than a prototype for the Switch that was put into production. I stopped using the Wii U pad after purchasing a Pro Controller, opting to use the console as a gaming console rather than as a gimmick. I hated that cumbersome pad, reserving it for my seven-year-old when we would play together. Coupled with the limited range one could move away from the console itself, it soon revealed itself as one of Nintendo’s worst pieces of hardware in quite some time. Nintendo have always been innovators and the Wii U did not feel like it was anything new – it felt cheap.
So when Nintendo announced the NX, there was a casual rolling of eyes at what Nintendo were claiming it would be able to do – a full home console experience on the move. Nonsense and it couldn’t be done! I thought so myself. I actually expected some sort of stripped down version of a game in the undocked mode, so when I saw for the first time what the console was and what it could do I was stunned. They had seemingly pulled off the impossible. Whilst the console wasn’t in the same firepower league as the other two, it was truly innovative and a stroke of genius by Nintendo to combine their handheld and home console market into one. Who would have thought to do that? Only Nintendo. The market has been bereft of competitive handhelds. The PS Vita has been all but abandoned by Sony, the mobile phone market is dominant when it comes to handheld gaming, and it is only Nintendo leading the fightback from the true console manufacturers. It is the software titles that make the Switch what it is. You would not be able to enjoy Breath of the Wild or Mario Kart 8 on the go on a phone. The games, whilst not being graphically stunning, are pleasing enough with a unique aesthetic that you can truly appreciate them for what they are – pure and simple games.
Yet third party still seem somewhat shy of the Nintendo Switch. Whilst it has a strong indie developer base, Nintendo would be wise to charm the third parties and convince them to develop for their console. Of course we will not get the likes of Death Stranding or Red Dead Redemption 2 releasing on the hybrid machine, third parties should not ignore the system as they had done so with the previous generation. The Switch is unique. No other system lets you take your home console games on the go – this needs to be jumped on. Third parties need to start thinking about rather than adapting games they have in development for the other two, they should instead consider what they could offer Switch owners. What unique games could they produce for the gamers of that system. Nintendo gaming is almost a lifestyle rather than just another console. No fan base has more loyalty and if you treat Nintendo fans right they will return the loyalty.
But the success of the console did surprise everyone. It could be accused of being a gimmick, but when you dock the machine you realise how good a console it is. Yes, it’s missing some of its infrastructure, and yes the game choice is limited at the moment, but Nintendo have proved that they still have a lot of tricks up their sleeves, and they’re not stopping there. Look at the names now creating new incarnations of their most popular IPs, names like Miyamoto and Aonuma, they are still producing their IPs they are linked with, but grooming a new generation ready to take over the mantle. They are safeguarding their futures.
Whilst it is tempting to think of what PS4 or Xbox One games would be like on a Switch, I don’t think most of them would be a good fit. The games themselves are not the type of game you could easily spend hours dipping in and out of. Take a game such as Destiny, whilst it would likely run on the console, I couldn’t imagine it being a lot of fun to play competitively. Sports games, platformers, RPGs, racing games, puzzle games, these are the games the Switch has been created for, all it needs is for game developers to realise what a chance they have to create something unique and showcase it on this fantastic piece of hardware. It might also push creativity in a way only technical limitations can. When someone has their unlimited resources removed they are forced to be more creative. No one could argue that Breath of the Wild looks bad, the game is quite beatiful, but it is down to style choice that has produced this. Let’s not kid ourselves that the Switch is a powerhouse, it’s not. It’s a clever piece of equipment with limits, but it is what is being done with those limits that is so clever.