Is this a 180? Or maybe it’s just a 90 degree shift? We won’t truly know till March, but Nintendo’s January 12th and 13th conferences seems to be evidence of a massive change in Nintendo’s strategy. The Nintendo Switch itself seems to be a return to the weird, forward thinking Nintendo of years past. After the runaway success and then nearly immediate stagnation of the original Wii and the confusing release and bizarre support of the Wii U, Nintendo needs a win. Nintendo needs a system that will put them at the forefront of gaming again.
That’s a little hyperbolic, but even as someone who never owned a Nintendo home console, I’ve always been fascinated with them. Nintendo consoles offered something unique from the more iterative and PC leaning consoles from Microsoft and Sony (especially Microsoft, more on that another time.) As the Xbox and Playstation continued to try and compete with the PC in terms of power and how many gritty shooters they could each put out, Nintendo held firm with a release of titles aimed at everyone (for the most part.) Mario games reach out to all ages and groups. Nintendo just seems to have a knack for making games that are accessible as well as deep, competitive and engaging.
Since I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself growing more disinterested in the gritty, bloody shooters that I used to lust after as a kid. I can’t even begin to count the number of virtual “enemy hostiles” I’ve lain waste to since my my first shooter (Project Snowblind) slid into my Playstation 2. I’ve played every Call of Duty up to Black Ops 3, and I’ve decided to skip Infinite Warfare simply out of future-fatigue and a desire for a new gaming experiences . Or at least new to me.
The Switch is the most excited I’ve been for a game release since the announcement of the Playstation 2. I remember scouring magazine racks and websites trying to find any nugget of information that I could about the Playstation 2’s release. If you remember, the internet was in it’s infancy in 2000-2001. We had dial up, making simple searches take hours. Today, I find myself doing the same thing with the Switch. I keep scouring gaming websites and Reddit looking for any clue as to what the Switch will be, what its launch title looks like, how great will the portable element be? For me, the PS4, and Xbox One were necessary, iterative upgrades that excited me insofar as having the latest system to play the latest games. It was like getting a new car after watching your old one disintegrate into dust. Whereas the Switch is like switching from a combustion engine to a Tesla. It’s new, it’s different, sort of scary in a strange way, yet that’s what makes the Switch exciting.
Both Sony and Microsoft are striving more and more to be competitive with the PC in terms of power. Even going so far as to release iterative, mid cycle upgrades. A first in both their histories. Sony would occasionally release thinner consoles and Microsoft did for the first time with the Xbox 360 Slim, but PS4 Pro and Project Scorpio mark drastic changes in the landscape of console gaming. Since the release of the Nintendo 64, buying a console was a near decade spanning investment. You bought the console knowing that you wouldn’t have to purchase another one for at least 5-7 years. Now, only after three years, Sony is already releasing what some are calling the PS4.5. A slightly more powerful console with a focus on 4K gaming and VR. Sony promises that the original PS4 will continue to be supported, and that owners of the OG PS4 need not worry, yet, it’s hard not to. PC gaming is becoming more and more accessible especially with the recent slew of powerful yet affordable graphics cards like the AMD 480 and Nvidia’s 1050 and 1060. Building, or buying a prebuilt PC is less of the massive financial burden it used to be. That fact combined with the absurd deals that come with Steam sales make the PC an incredibly attractive consideration as opposed to buying a weaker, less useful gaming console. Yes, gaming consoles have a lower barrier of entry, and are less of a nightmare to set up and maintain, but that fact is changing, fast.
That’s why its so admirable to see Nintendo sticking to their guns and making something as new and innovative as the Switch. In a time where everyone and their children have some form of smartphone, Nintendo’s quest to make a console portable is innovative and courageous (not in an Apple way either.) The Nintendo Switch marks a new chapter in Nintendo’s history, how that chapter will end is still unknown, but I do have faith in Nintendo’s ability to make a great console as well as great games. There needs to be an alternative to the PS4, PC, and Xbox One, and the Switch hopefully will be that. I hope my excitement is justified.