The Nintendo Switch is the Best Console
I arrived late to the Nintendo Switch party. I was one of the pandemic buyers, purchasing the new hardware as a shared gift with a significant other as a way to branch out in our escapism: Animal Crossing for her, Breath of the Wild for me. I had heard the praises for the Switch since its release, biding my time before I bought. But for the last eight years, I’d cemented myself as a PlayStation gamer. I’d poured time and money into the ecosystem and it suited me very nicely. I loved (and still love) the narrative-heavy, blockbuster releases that consistently came to the platform, and I always knew that the third-party games I loved would be there too.
But the Switch is just an entirely different beast. The Switch is an indie powerhouse in addition to the staggering quality it has in its tentpole franchises, each of which is good for nearly endless entertainment. Everyone in the gaming space has known for 20 years that every new Zelda and Mario game is a must play, and it’s because Nintendo continues to revolutionize the space. The Legend of Zelda was a complete revelation in storytelling and in what games can accomplish. The artistry required to pull off such a masterpiece is nothing short of astounding.
After stumbling with the Wii U, the Switch represents the beauty of handheld console gaming. Its convenience, ease of use, and elegance is beyond its pricetag and target market. Despite all its corny-ness, the ad that launched alongside the Switch really exemplifies the versatility of the hardware that allows it to be used in so many configurations. Nintendo consoles don’t need a ton of power to run their tentpole games; they aren’t demanding on the system. But they are typically made to be played alongside others, favoring being played on a bigger display. Having that versatility without needing to worry about input lag or frame drops is such an advantage. And the impeccable design of many of the best titles on the Switch make them devastatingly gorgeous both on the small screen and the big one. Easily swapping between the two is a luxury.
There have been rumblings about a more powerful Switch on the horizon. I wonder if its release was impacted by the pandemic, either from the perspective of supply or simply that the baseline Switch was selling so well, there was no need to provide an additional high-powered sku. But maybe, as sales start to slow, the Switch will once again be brought up to speed with baseline hardware expectations of the previous generation from Microsoft and Sony. The power boost would satisfy early buyers of the original console and it could be enough to push a few more folks to purchase who are otherwise on the fence.
But the truth about a more powerful version of the Switch is that, for the consumer, it doesn’t really matter. Nintendo’s brilliant first-party games don’t need a crazy amount of power to run. A boost may be a nice added convenience, but it's far from required as an update to the already elegant design of the Switch. Many current Switch owners, especially those who just bought it, won’t feel a huge urge to upgrade without there being exclusive software on the new hardware.
One way or the other, the upgrade will be interesting. But right now the Nintendo Switch, in all its portable glory, is exactly the right console for so many people. Typical gamers and non-gamers alike have flocked to it in much the same way that the Wii brought in a bevy of new users thanks to its revolutionary controls. This time around, there’s an added respect from the hardcore community which invests in the Switch for the incredible titles it offers. For the Switch, the selling point is less the gimmicky controls, and more the incredible software it provides and the wonderful design of the console itself. It’s a hybrid portable/stationary console with games that are better than most of what’s available on its stationary competitors, in a package that’s just as convenient as gaming on your phone. There’s no other place where you can play a high quality title on the train, and then plug it in to your TV when you get home for a more cinematic experience. Not only is the design of the console convenient enough, but the right experiences are available for the Switch, meaning it doesn’t feel like you’re playing blockbusters scaled down to a smaller screen, and nor does it feel like you’re playing small experiences that get blown up to the big screen. All of Nintendo’s first party titles are perfectly suited for the hybrid model, with titles being amply playable both mobily and docked. It’s an incredible symbiosis of the hardware of the system and the software of the titles.