It’s been nearly five years since the current-generation of home consoles was first introduced. Murmurs of new hardware have often occurred around the five year mark in generations past. As expected, new hardware has recently been revealed and even released, but things are a bit different this time around. Sony and Microsoft have opted to create upgraded versions of their existing systems, while Nintendo has taken a more traditional route with the release of a whole new system. Really, I believe that Nintendo are the ones who had the right idea.
PlayStation and Xbox fans, I know that may have just pinched a nerve, but please just hear (read?) me out. I can understand why someone would want a PS4 Pro and/or Xbox One X. I think it’s nice that both platforms are targeting the high-end market, thus appeasing all the enthusiasts out there, but I still find it hard to see the real value in having these ‘new’ systems right now. I wrote two articles about the situation a little while back (shameless plugs here and here), and the point I was trying to make is that it seems Sony and Microsoft would have been better off putting their efforts into developing proper successors to the PS4 and Xbox One, instead of just the half-steps that we have today.
Again, that isn’t to say that the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X serve absolutely no purpose. Both systems are targeting consumers that own shiny, new 4K televisions. These systems can run games in 4K and of course also display other content like movies in 4K as well. That’s all well and good; if your pockets are deep enough to take advantage of these experiences, then great for you. However, I am not personally swayed by either system’s advanced capabilities. Unlike a regular generational transition, the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X are still considered to be a part of the current generation. The ‘standard’ PS4 and Xbox One S will still be sold alongside their upgraded counterparts. So, any budget-conscious shopper is more than likely to pick-up one of the base models instead of the premium editions. And really, they won’t be missing out on much by doing so.
Everything is different when it comes to Nintendo’s new offering. The Switch isn’t just the newest Nintendo system, it’s basically a whole new type of console: a hybrid. By combining the power of a home console with the form factor of a tablet, Nintendo has essentially created the console equivalent of a gaming laptop. The benefit of this design choice (that is, being able to take your console-quality games anywhere) has been applauded by several Switch owners time and again and has also resulted in casual players and even formerly dormant Nintendo fans to take notice and go out and buy the system. The amount of hype and awareness surrounding the Switch is higher than what was ever seen with the Wii U. So that right there is why I think that it’s the only new system that matters—it’s actually making a name for itself.
Unlike the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, the Switch is filling a unique role.
The PS4 Pro and Xbox One X share everything with their standard counterparts. The same name, games, advantages, disadvantages, reputation, everything. They are simply one in the same, with the only difference being that one type can only do 1080p and the other can go all the way up to 4K. For instance, the Xbox One X definitely has the bragging rights of being the “most powerful console in the world!” Even so, it’s still tied to the Xbox One’s overall market share, which is far lower than that of the PS4. At the end of the day, Sony can still boast about having sold a much higher amount of systems—the most in the world—and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
As for the Switch, it’s busy building a reputation all on its own merit. It’s a brand-new system with (mostly) brand-new games, and a user-base that has been growing rapidly from ground zero. At this time, there are likely over 5 million Switch units out there in the wild, and that number is growing very quickly thanks to Nintendo’s commendable marketing efforts. Consumers know what the Switch is, and not only that, a lot of them really want one. Nintendo is having a hard time just manufacturing new stock due to the high demand. But even beyond all the sales talk, it’s the very idea behind the system that really makes it such a big deal.
Again, this is a home console stuffed into the body of a tablet. Sure, it’s not as powerful as the base PS4 and Xbox One S, but it’s still a very capable machine nonetheless. Developers both large and small have commended Nintendo’s efforts to create a system that’s very easy to work with. The Switch is compatible with most game engines, and some titles have even been ported over in just a matter of days. Ease of development is something that Nintendo’s home systems have lacked for quite a long time, and now that Nintendo has finally fixed the issue, the advantages are already clearly being seen. If the Switch continues selling well, then developers will have no choice but to keep support flowing and the system’s simple architecture for developing games is only going to make everything better.
Game development on Switch is simple, and the concept behind the system is the reason it’s selling so well.
The road is bright for Nintendo’s little hybrid.
While Sony and Microsoft are busy trying to up the stakes in the power division, Nintendo’s main focus is innovation. It’s amazing that Nintendo was able to successfully create a tablet that’s even more powerful than its last home system. And not only that, the concept is truly beneficial and easy to understand. As for the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, their concept is beneficial too….sometimes. Yes, both systems are marketed as 4K machines, but not every game can be rendered in native 4K. There are a few standout titles, but the majority of these 4K games are upscaled. In any case, they still look better than when running on the standard PS4 and Xbox One S, but only amounts to a slight increase in visual fidelity. The average Joe probably isn’t going to want to shell out the extra cash for such a minor upgrade, especially in the case of the Xbox One X and its noticeably big price tag. On the other hand, the Switch is not trying to do anything that it really can’t—it has a role and it fills it to the T.
At the end of the day, it’s always nice to have new hardware to enjoy. But, you really have to take a step back and analyze each new machine carefully and ask yourself: “Is this actually necessary?” Instead of waiting, Sony and Microsoft have both jumped the gun and are trying to fix a ‘problem’ that doesn’t truly exist yet. 4K is definitely becoming the industry standard, but it’s still not at a vast level yet. Perhaps two or three years from now, having something like the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X (or better) would be truly beneficial. Right now, they’re basically just expensive cash-grabs for the gamers out there who desperately seek to have only ‘the best’. As for the Switch, I’m very happy that Nintendo decided to stick to its guns and innovate. I love the concept behind the system and I really hope the hybrid design is here to stay.