The Nintendo Switch is quite the interesting system. Since the system was first revealed last October, it was obvious that Nintendo was seeking to blaze its own unique trail yet again. Like the Wii and Wii U before it, the Switch stands alone as an ‘innovative’ system. This time around, Nintendo has decided to try blurring the lines between home consoles and handhelds with a hybrid design. This has resulted in the Switch being weaker than competing systems, following the trend started by the Wii. Even so, this is no Wii. The Switch is truly capable of running modern-day titles.
With the Wii, Nintendo took a completely different path from that of PS3 and Xbox 360. While those platforms were busy pushing a whole new level of visual fidelity, the Wii was essentially a continuation of 6th-generation hardware. Nintendo pretty much just took the GameCube, cranked it up a tiny bit, and threw it into a more streamlined chassis. Basically, with just the right amount of tweaking, you can take any Wii game and have it running on a GameCube.
The main idea behind this incredibly minor ‘upgrade’ was that the company wanted to keep the price of its new system as low as possible. That worked out pretty well since the PS3 was being railed on by a lot of people when it launched due to its incredibly high price-tag of $600. Even so, the Wii was still not a true advancement despite being a ‘next-generation’ system. This made things pretty difficult for developers.
With the PS3 and 360 both being HD systems, the difference between them and the Wii was like night-and-day. Those systems were capable of 1080p, while the Wii could only go as far as 480p. There was no comparison; it was painfully obvious how far behind Nintendo’s system was from a technical perspective. There were a few multiplatform games that were essentially the same across each of the platforms, but the Wii version almost always looked like a massive downgrade. Some developers even went ahead and created custom versions of their games that were totally different than the PS3/360 version simply because the Wii could not handle the same experience. Then there were titles that skipped the Wii completely all because of the massive difference in capabilities. With the Switch, things are different.
The Wii could pump out some pretty games, but it was still far behind the other consoles.
Like before, there is a power difference between the Switch and the PS4/Xbox One. However, Nintendo has not drastically held back its system this time around. The Wii compared to the PS3 and 360 was like an old Honda trying to race a Ferrari. This time around, the Switch is more like a Corvette while the PS4 and Xbox One are Lamborghinis. Hopefully you car enthusiasts agree with that comparison (and if it was over-exaggerated, let me know) but you get the point: The comparison is a lot closer this time around.
The Switch is not in the exact same league as its competitors. That’s physically impossible considering that the Switch has a tablet-like body with mobile components on the inside. Even so, hardware has come a long way since 2006 when the 7th-gen got started. The Switch’s architecture is of a modern standard, which allows it to be directly compatible with today’s game engines. Some titles have been ported to the Switch in a matter of months, even days due to its simple architecture and compatibility with modern engines. On top of that, these engines have been advancing a lot over the years and are now capable of running on a variety of hardware.
Take PCs, for example. There are millions of different computers out there, all with their own unique setup of components. You can have four PCs and the same house and they can all be drastically different. Developers know this, which is why they make their engines flexible. That means that a PC doesn’t have to be the most powerful, it just has to be powerful enough. To an extent, that’s what we’re seeing right now in the console realm. Switch, PS4 and Xbox One all have different capabilities, but they all use a similar enough architecture for developers to be able to port their games to each of the systems with relative ease. Like on PC, the (multiplatform) games are the same across each of the systems, but they all have tweaked settings to make the most of the hardware. It’s no wonder why Nintendo teamed up with Nvidia to create the Switch. Nvidia is the leader in PC graphics cards, not to mention it has expertise in creating powerful mobile chipsets, one of which is in the Switch (a custom-built Tegra X1).
PCs have different capabilities and so do today’s systems. But, they’re still all capable of playing modern titles.
When you take into consideration that the Switch is such a small device, it’s amazing how much power Nintendo and Nvidia have been able to cram in there. Even though it can’t provide the same level of visuals as the bigger, more powerful systems, you need to keep in mind what the purpose of the Switch is: To provide a portable home console experience.
If the Switch, PS4 and Xbox One really were PCs, the Switch would be like a gaming laptop while the other two would be desktops. By sacrificing some power, the Switch is able to have a form factor that’s sleek enough to be taken anywhere. As I mentioned in a recent article, you’re not “paying more for less” by playing a game on Switch; You’re paying for the exclusive ability to take these home console games on the go.
After the Wii and Wii U, it’s great to see Nintendo play nice with third-party developers. As long as the system continues to sell well, then these studios will have very little reason not to bring their games over. The system is weaker, but it’s still simple to work with. They don’t have to pull their hair out trying to water it down extensively like back during the Wii days. Say what you want about the Switch’s power, but the reality is that this is a very capable little machine. If you want to enjoy better visuals, then the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X can certainly suit your desires. Even so, that still doesn’t change the fact that Nintendo has finally created a system that’s both unique and modern. If we get a Switch 2, hopefully the performance difference will be a little less. Regardless, unless you’re a total graphics junkie, what we have right now is just fine.