— Read this Article on ENTHUSIAST! —
Nintendo is the oldest of all the hardware manufactures. The company is considered to be the grandfather of the modern industry; it was the success of the Famicom/NES that managed to salvage the whole market from near-tragedy after Atari crashed it all. Since then, Nintendo has made a lot of design choices in its games and hardware that have resonated with the rest of the industry so much so that it became a standard. With it’s newest system, the Switch, Nintendo has once again tried its hand at breaking conventions and playing a wild card. Can the Switch set yet another new standard for the console industry?
When you take a look at Nintendo’s history, you’ll see that the company has never really been shy about doing things its own way. While it’s really turned up the ‘creative heat’ since the days of the Wii and DS, the company has pretty much always preferred to step to the beat of its own drum instead of trying to directly play along with the rest of the industry. As mentioned already, it’s because of Nintendo that we even have the gaming industry today, so it’s not really a surprise that it has such an attitude. It’s this fearless (and sometimes reckless) attitude that led to Nintendo trying a number of wild inventions back in the day, and that’s not really something that’s stopped. Things like the NES Zapper, Power Glove, Virtual Boy, Famicom Disk System—these are just some of Nintendo’s zany creations. While they all had their flaws, the fundamental ideas that they brought to the table were actually pretty good, it was just the wrong time for them. The Zapper and Power Glove eventually evolved into the Wii Remote. The Virtual Boy can be seen as a the precursor to modern-day VR headsets like the Vive and Rift. The Famicom Disk System introduced many to save states, something that no gamer today could imagine living without.
While the aforementioned inventions were too flawed to be successful, there were other ideas that Nintendo had which ended up working right from the start. The NES controller introduced millions of people to the cross-shaped D-pad—one of the pillars of gaming’s formula. The SNES controller then gave us shoulder pads and four face buttons, both of which have been a standard features of all controllers ever since. Moving along to the N64, it’s a fact that this is where Nintendo’s stubborn nature began to result in its slow, but very real downfall as the industry leader. Even so, not only is the console still considered to be one of the greatest in history, but it’s controller gave us two very important things: an analogue stick and rumble. You’d be hard-pressed to find any major controller since then to be lacking either of these two features.
After that, we got the Gamecube controller, which is considered by many to be one of the greatest controllers ever. Initially it was just a good controller, but it then transformed into something amazing: a great wireless controller, known as the Wavebird. This form of the GC controller was the first truly decent wireless controller. Its success paved the way for the future of all controllers, thus the reason why we no longer worry about wire jungles and tangled controller cords today. Nintendo pushed the envelope further with the aforementioned Wii Remote, who’s motion controls ended up introducing millions of people of all ages to the world of gaming. At the same time, the DS and its touchscreen was basically the precursor to today’s mobile games. You can say that mobile gaming was influenced very heavily by both these systems; they gave birth to the casual market, and created the simplistic control methods that people use today to play games on their phones and tablets.
Alright, history lesson is over. Now it’s time to talk about the current situation.
Nintendo has had a lot of interesting ideas, but these ones in particular ended up setting the standard for the rest of the industry.
Going through those past instances should bring home a clear message: Nintendo has had some pretty great ideas over the decades. All of those ended up becoming industry standards, thus leaving the other hardware manufacturers to follow in Nintendo’s footsteps. The biggest evidence of this is the PS Move and Kinect; neither Sony or Microsoft were really interested in motion controls until the Wii took off. Even when the Wii U was revealed, both companies were quick respond with their own answers to the Gamepad: Xbox SmartGlass and the PS Vita’s cross-connection with the PS3/PS4. It goes to show just how much influence Nintendo has over the course of the industry. So, what does this mean for the Switch?
Well, Nintendo has once again decided to ignore the status-quo and go in a direction all its own. This has resulted in the world’s first hybrid gaming system. Just as a tablet is a cross between a phone and laptop, the Switch is a cross between a home console and a portable. It’s power may not be as great as the aging PS4 and Xbox One, but developers have still given it praise. The ability to seamlessly ‘switch’ between playing a console-quality game on the TV and then just taking it outside is just amazing. Consoles and handhelds have co-existed for eons, but almost as if they were in different dimensions. While there have been games that released on both handhelds and consoles at the same time, they’ve almost always offered different experiences due to the power gap. With the Switch, none of that matters anymore.
Even though the hybrid can’t fully match the power of the more ‘traditional’ systems, it has that unmatchable advantage of giving players the freedom to take their experiences wherever they want. There aren’t many multi-platform games on Switch yet, but there are a few like LEGO City: Undercover. The PS4 version is the superior version, but the Switch edition is not far behind at all. If developers can continue to optimize their games for the Switch’s hardware, then gamers who don’t mind sacrificing a bit of graphical fidelity will get to enjoy their favorite titles without being tethered to a TV.
What the Switch lacks in power, it makes up for with its unique hybrid design.
If it continues to sell well, Sony and MS will have no choice but to take notice.
So, here’s the question: if the Switch continues to sell well, will Sony and Microsoft seek to emulate it?
The whole point of that history lesson earlier was to show how Nintendo’s single idea turned into a pattern followed by the rest of the industry. The Switch is already showing early signs of being a hit, so if it continues down that path, it’s going to be very hard for either of Nintendo’s rivals to ignore it. Both of them are currently busy pushing 4K gaming, so they are still going in a direction opposite that of Nintendo, but this could change. The technology in mobile devices has advanced at a pretty spectacular rate. Compare the phones and tablets of as little as three years ago with what we have now, and there are already a few differences. As time goes on, it’s going to get progressively easier for more power to be fitted into a small form factor. It’s not out of the question for the Switch to receive a midlife upgrade, similar to that of the New 3DS, PS4 Pro and Xbox Scorpio. So, this really could end up being Nintendo’s own method from now on: no more consoles or handhelds, just hybrids.
Because the Switch is the first of its kind, it will serve as the prime example as to whether or not a risky idea like this can work or not. If the system does end up falling down later, like that of the Wii U, then there’s no telling what Nintendo will do, but that’s not the point I’m trying to focus on. If it can be like the 3DS and end up selling well despite being a weaker system, then that’s going to send a strong message to the other companies.