It’s a console. It’s a handheld. It’s… the Nintendo Switch.
The other day I wrote an article about the top 10 mobile games to help you pass the time – basically just 10 games that don’t take much effort or time to play on your tablet or smartphone, which is what the mobile gaming genre has basically become. Here and there you get a decent game with a good story and a little bit of depth, but aside from direct ports of console games or emulators, mobile gaming on smartphones and tablets haven’t had much to offer in the way of substance. But the Nintendo Switch will.
It may not be a tablet in the traditional sense, but the Nintendo Switch appears to take cues from the tablet form-factor to create a new gaming console that doubles as a portable gaming system.
I wasn’t sure whether to classify the Switch as a mobile gaming console, but truly the “mobile” aspect of the device is its biggest selling point. Nintendo, who has been a household name in the console and handheld business for over three decades now, has decided to combine the two into one hybrid design with the Nintendo Switch, set to release in March of 2017.
The Switch works in several ways. You can dock it to connect it to a TV; without the dock, it instantly switches to “portable” mode, which can be used as a handheld device with the detachable “Joy-Con” controllers (which can also be used for multiplayer), or you can stand it up on its included kickstand and detach the controllers if you don’t want to hold it. It’s the perfect all-in-one whether you’re gaming at home or on-the-go.
While we can see what the Switch looks like, we still don’t have details on its specifications yet aside from a custom NVIDIA Tegra processor. Battery life will undoubtedly make or break this device, to which I am optimistically skeptical in this regard. Nintendo is king when it comes to handhelds, and their battery life is usually pretty amazing. On the other hand, with the Switch acting as both console and handheld I’m not sure exactly what to expect. The advertisement appears to show some lag while in portable mode, which may mean that it’s not as powerful on-the-go in order to preserve the battery. Rumors peg the Switch may be able to last up to 4 hours in portable mode.
I have to admit that I’m pretty hyped, especially seeing that Bethesda will be bringing Skyrim (remastered, from the looks of it) to Nintendo for the first time. Already there’s a long list of 48 publishers and developers ready to support the Switch, which is a huge jump over the 21 that supported the Wii U during its announcement, and strong support from the very beginning is a promising start while we wait for more details to surface over the coming months.
The Switch brings an interesting element to mobile gaming as Nintendo is a major video game company that is now getting its feet wet by creating such a versatile mobile console. In some ways, the Switch reminds me of the NVIDIA Shield K1 tablet, which is a tablet that is targeted directly towards gamers on-the-go. The Shield K1 tablet not only gives you top-notch performance on Android games, but also has a significant list of some of the most popular PC games that you can stream to the Shield as well. The K1 is also compatible with the NVIDIA Shield controller, sold separately.
The two seem to target the same crowd, but they each excel in different areas. The Nintendo Switch, in my opinion, has a much better and more convenient design for gaming, while the Shield K1 not only acts as a portable gaming tablet, but also as a regular tablet with access to apps. While we still don’t have all of the details on the Nintendo Switch, I don’t think that it will offer much more than a first-rate Nintendo gaming experience – probably some streaming video services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon as well, just like the Wii U has. It is possible that the Switch is running some version of Android, which would open up a whole new set of possibilities, but I wouldn't count on it.
I’m definitely excited to see what the Switch can do. The ability to use the same system for gaming at home and on-the-go with Nintendo’s incredible titles like Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and countless others, and now the support of other incredible titles like Bethesda’s Skyrim is amazing in theory. Here’s to hoping that the Switch will live up to the hype. If nothing else, I can easily see its design influencing the future of mobile gaming.