The title of this article may have triggered this thought in your mind: “Well, duh! It’s a portable!” True, the most obvious feature of the Switch is that it’s a pretty easy machine to carry around. But, the reason why I wanted to write about this topic is because I’m about to travel soon (like most folks this summer season) and while I enjoy it, transporting gadgets is not a very fun process. With that said, the Switch is the most travel-friendly console to date, and I wish it was a thing eons ago.
While I’ve been gaming since around the age of four, I never owned a console until I was about 11. That system was the Wii. I remember when I saw one for the first time, I was surprised by how small it was. I’ll be coming back to that point in a bit, but let’s move on. So, I got the Wii when I was 11. My home country is the Bahamas, and the Wii was purchased while I was on winter vacation in Florida. So, the system had to be transported back home. The first time was pretty standard, but I didn’t yet realize that this would become a reoccurring thing.
I’ve had the privilege to travel with my family annually basically my whole life. Since Florida is so close (20 minutes via plane from the island I lived on), most Bahamians travel there quite frequently. Some people in general take trips a few times in the year for short periods; say a few days or about a week. My family, on the other hand, would only do it once or twice a year. As a result, we’d end up being gone for two weeks, or sometimes even over a month. So, after purchasing the Wii and getting into the routine of using it basically everyday, it was hard to part with it for that length of time. So, my younger and I hatched an idea: just bring it.
Transporting the Wii wasn’t a very hard since everything basically fit snug into a reasonably sized carry-on bag. The main issue came when air-travel was involved. It should be obvious that when living on island, there are only two ways to get off: either via a boat or a plane. While the ship is fine, sometimes you just want to leave as quickly as possible, so you take a plane. As anyone who’s flown before should know—air travel is hectic, especially in the US.
Flying is fun, but airport security is always annoying, especially when electronics are involved.
Now, I love planes. I’m always hyped to take a flight. But the only part I genuinely like about it is just being on the plane; everything before and after is just annoying, especially going through security. Ever want to feel like a criminal? Don’t just travel via plane in the US, travel via plane with gadgets. The TSA just loves it. This became very clear to me the first time travelling with the Wii. Despite the fact that the infrared baggage scanning machines can see the contents of a bag fairly clearly, a bag with a high amount of gadgetry is always given a physical search. Why? Because people are really crafty, and in a bag full of tech, there could potentially be a homemade bomb in there. That’s the explanation I was given, anyway.
I moved from the Bahamas to Ecuador last September. The entire trip isn’t incredibly long, but seeing that planes were exclusively involved, it was definitely a pain when going through security. Since I was bringing basically my whole collection of tech this time around, TSA had a field day with my two carry-ons which were all gadgets. I even had a small monitor in there since I was moving. Thinking back, I sure do wish everything was as simple and transportable as the Switch.
Nintendo seems to have been designing its systems with transport in mind since the days of the Gamecube; the thing had a carrying handle for crying out loud (hence the nickname ‘Purple Lunchbox). Why? Well, I guess the expectation was that a lot of people would be carrying their system around for local multiplayer sessions at their friends’ houses. While the whole handle thing was dropped with the Wii, there was still something interesting about the design: it was tiny. Despite being (slightly) more powerful than the GC and sporting full backward compatibility with it, the Wii was not just smaller but also just small in general. Compared to the 360 and PS3, it was like a tiny mouse. When it comes to its successor, the Wii U, things got bigger again but not by much. Nintendo once again tried its best to fit as much into a small space as possible, resulting in a design that was slightly longer than the Wii, but still very small. It was once again smaller than the PS3/360 (despite being more powerful), and was also a lot smaller than the PS4 and especially the original Xbox One.
Nintendo’s last three home systems have been notably tiny and fairly transportable. The Switch has finally perfected the concept.
With the Switch, Nintendo has finally seemed to have attained its ultimate goal; making the smallest system possible. Being officially defined as a “portable home gaming system”, you can technically call the Switch the smallest Nintendo home console ever, if not the smallest home console ever. If you consider it to be a handheld, then it’s still a very small machine. Essentially being a tablet, the Switch can be thrown into any pouch with ease. The biggest thing about it is the dock, which is still a lot more compact than any console. That’s where the ease of transport comes in: there’s basically no bulk.
The bag I carried my Wii and Wii U in was always filled to the brim. In addition to the console, there’s also the controllers and the games too. Add to that all the cables, adapters, etc. That can be said for basically any console. The Wii and Wii U were small systems, as mentioned before, but it was still a pain to move them around. I could only imagine how much more of a headache it would have been with something like the original Xbox One being so massive.
With the Switch being a hybrid system, everything about it is made with portability in mind. It doesn’t suffer from any of the transport issues I just mentioned. I wish every system was as easy to carry around as the Switch. Computers, for instance, have become like that. In the early days, they were literally the size of rooms. Nowadays we have ultra-thin laptops. The Switch has finally done to home systems what laptops have done for computers: shrinking the experience down into an incredibly compact form factor.
The Switch is basically the laptop of home consoles.
Not only is it a benefit when it comes to transport, but there’s also the whole practicality of it. Nintendo flirted with the idea of a ‘portable’ home system with the Wii U to an extent. With the Gamepad being a separate display from the TV screen, many games could be streamed to it with no latency. This ‘Off-TV Play’ mode was used by a lot of folks in their homes, but some people used it while on-the-go. You may have seen pictures of Wii U users playing in interesting environments, like on a train. I never got to try it in a situation like that, but I did have an experience that was close.
I was on a ship from Florida to my home island about two years ago. While this was a regular thing for me, this particular trip was different: I was as sick as a dog. My younger brother just so conveniently transferred his cold to me the night prior. By the time I got on the ship, I felt like dying. Usually I’d go exploring and enjoying all the amenities, but this time I was glued to the bed in my cabin. Not wanting to pay for the ship’s Wi-Fi and with the TV channels being pretty sucky, there wasn’t much I could do in my condition. Even so, I didn’t want to just stay in bed. That’s where the Wii U’s Off-TV Play came in handy for the first time outside of the house. It definitely can be considered the beta version of the concept behind Switch.
Indeed, the Switch is a pretty sweet system for those of us who travel. Whether it’s every week or just a few times a year, the compact design that it offers makes it a breeze to take around compared to any other home system. Thanks, Nintendo. I really hope the hybrid concept becomes a permanent feature of the industry.