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As more details slowly leak out pertaining to the incoming Nintendo Switch, the number of comparisons to existing systems continue to grow. The gaming community seems to be split at this point, with a seemingly even number of people that are either excited for the Switch or who are lambasting it due to its apparent limitations compared to the other systems. For those of you on the negative side of the fence, here’s a thought — the Switch isn’t competing with those other systems.
Nintendo has gone on record in the past saying how it isn’t trying to compete with that of Sony and Microsoft. Many of the company’s criticizers have latched onto this statement, repeatedly using it as an argument against their belief that Nintendo refuses to get with the times. Others have stated that whether Nintendo likes it or not, it is in competition with the other platforms and it’s doing a bad job at matching them. While it is true that the Big N seems very set on stepping to the beat of its own drum, some take that as a negative. Even so, this method of operation is arguably what’s best for the company.
It’s not that Nintendo has no means of creating a system that’s identical to that of Sony and Microsoft’s offerings, it’s just that it chooses not to. The company instead chooses to take a more unique approach; instead of focusing on creating the next ‘power box’, it chooses to create a platform that can offer new and innovative experiences. The Switch isn’t just a new system, it’s the first in an entirely new category of systems: a hybrid platform.
Many gamers feel like having the most hardware power is the undeniable key to success, but this simply isn’t the case. The PS4 is literally the first system ever to be the most powerful while also having sold the most in a single generation. With that said, the Switch does still have a chance to be successful, even if it isn’t as powerful.
The Switch has created an entirely new category: the hybrid platform.
Now before you smash your keyboard in a fit of eternal rage because I downplayed the importance of power, just let me explain myself. The Nintendo Switch may not be as capable as the PS4 or XBO, but it can do something that neither of those systems cannot: take the experience on the go. Nintendo has repeatedly emphasized how the Switch is a home system that can be taken anywhere. Similar to that of a laptop, it has the power of a traditional home console in a portable form factor. This allows players to take traditionally home console only experiences with them wherever they may be: on a flight, on a road trip, at the laundromat, in a college classroom—it doesn’t matter. It’s this unique feature that will possibly send the Switch flying off of shelves.
For decades, console gaming has been separated into two halfs: home and handheld systems. Although these two categories continue to co-exist even today, Nintendo is trying to blur the lines between the two with the Switch. For now, the company remains adamant on continuing support for the 3DS, but the little handheld only has so long before its steam runs out. When that happens, hopefully Nintendo will formally make the Switch its one-and-only focus. By combining the attributes of the home and handheld sectors, Nintendo can make the Switch the most versatile platform currently on the market.
Let’s get hypothetical for a bit. Just imagine that it’s currently a little over a year since the Switch launched. It spent most of 2017 selling like hotcakes, especially during the holiday season. As a result, it’s hit nearly 10 million units sold. Major publishers are announcing titles left-and-right, including big IPs like Need for Speed, CoD, Battlefield, Madden, FIFA and Assassin’s Creed. These games will be coming to the Switch, in addition to the PS4/XBO. Consumers are left with a choice: play those titles at 4K on a PS4 Pro/Xbox Scorpio, or have the option to take the experience any-and-everywhere with the Switch. Of course, there will be those who only want the best-of-the-best, but what about the average consumer?
Diehard gamers may prefer raw power, but that does not represent the average consumer base.
When it comes to deciding between a PS4 or Xbox One, it’s a very close comparison. Take away the exclusive titles and both of platforms are basically the same thing, just with a change in theme color. The Switch is offering functionality that neither of those machines can completely reproduce, not to mention it will also benefit from Nintendo’s powerful first-party titles. Speaking of which, this year alone is lined with a lot of heavy-hitters like Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Xenoblade 2, and of course Zelda which will be there from the very start. Just think about it: Nintendo’s powerful franchises, combined with big third-party titles, all on a system that you can play either at home or anywhere else. That’s quite a deal, and the consumer base will definitely be tempted.
Going back to the factor of power, the Switch isn’t exactly at a massive disadvantage there either. While it may not be exactly as capable as the PS4 or even the original Xbox One, it’s still not completely a slouch. Unlike the Wii U, Nintendo has actually reached out to third-party developers to get their input. EA admitted that it and other big third-party companies have been guiding Nintendo throughout the Switch’s development, and they’re happy with the result. Several other developers have commented positively on the Switch, both from big studios and indies. The general consensus is that it’s fairly simple to develop on; for instance, Sumo Digital got their new game Snake Pass running on the system in less than a week. Let’s also not forget that the Switch is being fully supported by Unreal Engine 4 and Unity—two of the most popular engines out there. Even if the Switch doesn’t excel in raw power, it does have compatibility and simplicity on its side. On top of that, Nintendo has made getting access to Switch dev-kits incredibly inexpensive, pricing them at a mere $450. If the system builds a large user-base quickly, then developers will basically have no choice but to bring their games over to it.
Ultimately, the Switch isn’t trying to take on the other systems head-on. It’s relying on its unique ability portable ability to try and attract consumers. Microsoft has been trying to battle Sony mono-a-mono for well over a decade now, and we’ve all seen how that’s been working out. If the battle is unbalanced with two contestants, imagine three? Nintendo is staying clear of that firefight and taking a much more cleaner approach. Of course, there’s no way to tell if the Switch will be a hit or not, but it will be interesting to see if its uniqueness will propel the company to success. Only time will tell, but the factors are certainly in place for that to happen.