Opinion: Could Nintendo’s Switch be the Most Fully-Featured Console Yet?
This week Nintendo finally spills the beans on everything we need to know about the Switch before it comes out in a couple of months. The road leading us here has been an unusual one for most console launches, as a blow out of information is normally unveiled many months prior to a console launch – and in the Wii U’s case, well over a year. With the Switch, we’ve only come across the odd leaks here and there aside from the announcement video released in October and its initial, seemingly off-hand mention as the NX back in March 2015.
We know it’s a home console. We know it’s also a portable, on-the-go gaming system. We know it’ll have cartridge-based games, NFC for Amiibo support, multiple controller setups, the interest of a bunch of different game developers and publishers…
But the things that poise the Switch in an interesting light have to be the nuggets of information we’re still not sure about. Particularly, pieces of the leaked patents that were discovered late last year.
One of the most exciting bits of the patent file has to be the headmount for virtual reality. Nintendo is a company that has a reputation for moving forward by looking backward; look at their Game & Watches from the 80s compared to their current-gen handheld consoles. Their latest telling example is the Switch headmount leak when you couple it with their (failed) attempt at VR with the VirtualBoy in 1995.
Processing and graphic power’s come a long way in two decades, and VR is such an achievable feat nowadays that we can stick our phones boxes strapped to our face to experience it. As such, the Switch is equipped with one of the most balanced processing chips for portable devices in both graphics and power efficiency: a proprietary Nvidia Tegra.
This headmount plan gives the Switch the potential to be the most fully-featured console yet, both in the home console and portable space.
Think about it. If we split the video game space into three current trends—home console, portable gaming and virtual reality—this means the Switch is the only platform that can sustain all three. See below:
If all the Super Stars align and the patents come to fruition, the Switch would be the only device with the ability to fulfil all three major gaming hardware trends.
That said, where Nintendo home consoles often falter to gain much traction as a “games machine” is, oddly enough, whether or not it can handle multimedia. The Xbox One and PS4 pride themselves as being standalone entertainment units for everything TV: movies, music, streaming and video games. The eShop already supports services like YouTube and Netflix for both 3DS and Wii U, so it’s a safe assumption we’ll still get access to those services. But then again, mobile phones and tablets have become our go-to devices for portable entertainment, so would the Switch really be missing out if it lacked video streaming?
We’ve seen time and time again that the most fully-featured consoles aren’t always the most successful; both the PSP and Vita did fine but neither ever reached the heights of the DS and 3DS, despite toting more bells and whistles. Nintendo knows that to maintain a wide consumer base it needs to have effective, inexpensive hardware that people can buy. However, they’re also infamous for forcing demand of their products by severely understocking retailers with hardware – just look at the NES Mini.
All we can do at this point is hope. Hope that Nintendo does right by everyone—their fans, their wider audience and themselves—this time with the Switch: a solid third party games library; a price that’s fair and stock availability that doesn’t support eBay resellers rather than honest consumers; an online system that isn’t complete butts.
Oh, and that VR headmount. That’s my Switchmas wish.