We’ve learned a lot in the month since the Nintendo Switch was officially revealed. Throwing off the NX moniker with a theatrical flourish, the Nintendo Switch has been revealed as a portable console with detachable controllers and 6.2″ display. But that’s not all; once you get home, it doubles as a home console by slotting into a base unit and transmitting to your TV.
Since then, we’ve learned even more. The Switch won’t support 3DS cartridges or direct backwards compatibility with the Wii U, but it will house Nintendo’s first capacitive touchscreen. Storage hopefully won’t be an issue either, as the Switch will also support MicroSD cards up to 128GB in size. But leaks aside, we won’t officially know more about the release date or launch titles until Nintendo’s conference on January 12th.
But for my lovely self, the months of upcoming details and leaks aren’t the most exciting things about Nintendo’s new console. I’m much more excited about what we already know about the console. In particular, exactly where Nintendo’s new magical box will fit into the existing platform dichotomy, and whether the major players will seek to emulate Nintendo once again. I’m also eager to see whether the Nintendo Switch could be a game changer for the most unlikely of crowd of gamers. And since you’ve read the title, you know I’m referring to PC gamers.
These days, it’s (very) arguably accepted that the PC platform is the superior of the PC-PS4-Xbone triforce wherever pure graphical fidelity and processing power are concerned. While the full potential of the now released PS4 Pro and upcoming Project Scorpio are still unknown, even a modestly built gaming PC tends to dominate the console competition. On the flip side of the debate, consoles have the ease-of-use argument, coupled with a less hefty initial investment. And whatever can be said about the continued evolution of the PS4 and Xbox One bringing them closer to being shittier PCs, the humble games console is still the easiest way to game, and the easy choice for millions of gamers.
However, this superiority does mean that the average PC gamer finds themselves with little use for a traditional games console. Outside of a few platform exclusives, anything a console can do, a PC can do better. That isn’t to say that PC gamers don’t also own and regularly game on other consoles. It’s highly likely that most dedicated gamers will own multiple consoles; in fact, according to a report commisioned by the ESA, it’s actually impossible for there not to be some cross over. My point is that gamers with a dedicated gaming PC probably find that they don’t use their other consoles to their fullest potential. I’m hard-pressed to recall the last time my PlayStation 3 was used for anything other than Netflix or DVDs. Most of the time, I simply don’t need to use it as a gaming machine, and why would I, when I have a better option upstairs?
It’s fair to say that Nintendo have been outside of the traditional home console wars for some time now. Following the lukewarm success of the GameCube, the Wii and the Wii U represented such a huge shift away from the status quo that it didn’t seem fair to include them in the struggle between Sony and Microsoft. Despite being an integral part of the console wars since almost the very dawn of computer games, Nintendo have been doing their own thing since the Wii released. It’s admittedly proved to be a hit-and-miss strategy; while the Wii was a massive worldwide hit outside of the normal “gamer” demographic, the Wii U was nothing short of a disaster for Nintendo. But that aside, going their own way seems to have done well for Nintendo’s brand.
But if that’s the case, why weren’t either of the Wii consoles major game-changers for the PCMR crowd? The gimmicks that gave them strength among the “casual” demographic also meant that they were easily ignored by “core” gamers. While many PC gamers may have owned and enjoyed both consoles, it’s unlikely that many gamers took either console seriously as a credible gaming platform. You might boot up the Wii for some party games, or some first-party Nintendo games, but you would almost certainly move back to your PC for the “serious” gaming sessions.
Nintendo’s initial marketing push for the Switch has made it clear that Nintendo intends to leave this impression behind with their new console. While the Switch still has a gimmick at its core, it serves to complement and enrich the gaming experience than replace it as entirely as the Wii and Wii U did. Despite being a mobile console masquerading as a home console, the Switch has the power and versatility (and hopefully the third party support) to be taken more seriously as an actual gaming console. By bringing the innovative side of its home console division together with its incredibly successful portable console division, Nintendo may be on to a winner. And the areas in which the Switch looks to excel at—portable gaming and local co-op—are exactly the areas that PC gaming suffers something of a blind spot.
I realize that’s one heck of a statement to make, and I’ll readily admit that the issue isn’t fully black-and-white. Great local co-op games and portable options do exist for the PC. BetaGames’ Forced is a great example of a local co-op game that works very well on the PC, and you can simply buy a gaming laptop for PC gaming on the go. The availability of the Steam Link means that PC gaming is available on TVs with comfy couches, rather than cramped desk spaces. The Nvidia Shield allows you to stream your PC games to anywhere in your house. And if you want to really go back, the Razer Edge tablet brought powerful PC gaming to a portable device way back in 2013.
But as is so often the case, these technologies are far from perfect. Local co-op at a cramped PC desk is never going to be as good as a couch. The Steam Link suffers from lag and requires a wired connection. Gaming laptops are liable to melt under the extreme stress of gaming sessions. The Razer Edge was really god damn expensive. The alternatives are there, but they paper up the cracks. And the problem with papering up the cracks is that the crack is still there, under a thin layer.
So while the Nintendo Switch is untested and still something of a mysterious figure, the signs are good. Thanks to the announcement trailer we know that the Switch’s 6.2″ screen has its own stand for portable gaming, and the detachable JoyCon controllers can be used by two people on the same console. The trailer even suggests that multiple Switches can be paired together for larger multiplayer games. And when you get home from all of your rooftop Switch parties, you can dock your Switch and play your games on a bigger screen. Granted, these are all things you can do with separate consoles if you already own them, but the Nintendo Switch gives PC gamers a unique chance to fill the gaps in their PC’s capabilities without filling their house with a bajillion different consoles.
Ironically, for a console whose existence has been rumored for the better part of a year, there is still a lot we don’t know about the Nintendo Switch. The relative power of the console is still in question, as is the battery life of the screen once removed from the dock. Will the screen have a separate charger available so users don’t need to take the dock with them everywhere they take the Switch? Hell, what titles can we expect on the Switch? Will the third-party support dry up as quickly as it did with the Wii U?
These are all answers we can expect to hear answered in the next few months, and they’re certainly answers that you should expect to have answered before you part with your hard earned cash. Until we know for certain, only die-hard Nintendo enthusiasts are going to be placing their pre-orders. But as a red-blooded PC gamer, I will be watching the Nintendo Switch very closely indeed. Because no matter how well the Nintendo Switch is likely to do, it’s clear that Nintendo are flying butt-naked into a brighter future. And as someone who wants to game while his girlfriend watches celeb gossip videos on YouTube, it’s a future I very much want to be a part of.
How does the Nintendo Switch make you feel? Will you be parting with your hard-earned cash for Nintendo’s vision of a future full of rooftop parties and basketballers not playing basketball? Let us know in the comments down below.