On March 3, Nintendo launched the anticipated Nintendo Switch, less than six months after it was officially revealed last October. It is a home console that can also function as a handheld console. The main console looks like a tablet, but with two detachable controllers, called the “Joy-Cons,” attached to both sides. This tablet can be inserted into a dock which connects it to a TV at home, allowing the Switch to function like a traditional home console.
The Switch offers a new way to enjoy gaming on-the-go, an area where Nintendo has excelled at in the past. Should this worry mobiles and the mobile gaming industry? Will the Switch take back the crown from mobiles and restore handheld consoles to their rightful place as the kings of on-the-go gaming? Short answer: No and no. Long answer: Continue reading; we have 5 reasons why the Switch won’t have a negative impact on mobile gaming.
1. Nintendo is being marketed as a home console
The Switch is first and foremost a home console. Nintendo told this to Polygon last October, which was further reiterated by Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime in an interview with Wired earlier this year. It’s a successor to the ill-fated Nintendo Wii U, which fell flat on its face right out of the gate and hasn’t recovered since. Though Nintendo hasn’t acknowledged this, the Switch also effectively succeeds the Nintendo 3DS, their current entry in the handheld consoles contest. The 3DS probably still has 2-3 years left, though, depending on how the Switch performs in the coming months.
The Switch being marketed as a home console means that it isn’t in the same market as mobiles – the 3DS is. It’s competing with the other home consoles out in the market, the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One (along with their “spin-offs,” the PS4 Pro and Xbox One S, respectively). Handheld consoles are the ones fighting against mobiles in a battle for on-the-go gaming supremacy, a fight that mobiles have been winning so far. The Switch doesn’t belong in that fight simply because it was never meant to be in it.
2. Less portability due to size
The Switch, according to tests done by Trusted Reviews, lasts for roughly two-and-a-half hours to three hours while on handheld mode, which is about the same as the battery lifespan of mobiles when running games. This should make the Switch ideal for long bus rides or road trips, right? Well, not exactly. The Switch is way bigger, not to mention thicker than mobiles except for larger tablets like the iPad. So you can’t really carry it around in your pocket and simply whip it out anytime while commuting. At the very least, you would need a small sling bag to bring it with you. Obviously, this isn’t an issue for smartphones, which are a lot more convenient to carry virtually anywhere. Portability is another reason why smartphones have become the preferred choice over traditional handheld consoles for on-the-go gaming. Why bring a bulkier dedicated gaming system when you can have a mini-computer in your pocket, right?
3. Steep price tag for on-the-go gaming
Okay, let’s assume for a moment that the Switch is a handheld console first and foremost, meaning it would have to fight off the threat of mobile gaming just like the Nintendo 3DS does. Now, what are its advantages over mobiles? We can think of three notable ones: 1) it has physical buttons which are infinitely better than touchscreen controls, 2) it has and will have access to games from well-known developers like Bethesda Studios and Square Enix, and 3) its Joy-Con controllers offer a more fun and engaging multiplayer. But do you think casual gamers, who make up the majority of the mobile gaming crowd, would be willing to cough up $300 (excluding tax) for a dedicated handheld gaming system?
It’s safe to say they would rather spend that much money on a juiced-up mobile device where they can do more than just play games. This is also one of the reasons why Sony’s PlayStation Vita wasn’t a hit among consumers – it was simply too expensive for a gadget only meant for one thing. Nowadays, consumers want their mobile devices to function as mini-computers. There’s also the issue with the games themselves. Mobile gaming has an abundance of free-to-plays and games that can be bought for less than $5. As for the Switch? Games would be generally priced between $20-60 each, similar to other console games, which is an immediate turn-off for casual gamers who only want short bursts of entertainment while on the way home.
4. Mobile games are best suited for quick entertainment
Aside from being significantly cheaper, mobile games are also designed specifically for gaming sessions that only last for 15 minutes or less. Many hit mobile games, like Candy Crush Saga and Crossy Road, don’t demand that you spend at least an hour or two on them. There’s a reason why the mobile gaming scene is littered with endless runners and puzzles games. These kinds of games are perfectly suited for quick entertainment, especially when you’re, um, doing “business” in the bathroom. Just boot them up, play for 10 minutes while waiting for whatever it is you’re waiting for and then close them anytime.
Sure, there are mobile games that require your attention for longer stretches (mostly RPGs and adventure games). But they are best played while sitting at home, not on-the-go. Now, it’s still too early to assess the Switch’s game library since it’s still tiny, with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild the only notable game currently available. But considering the Switch is primarily a home console, it’s safe to assume that it won’t likely feature many games similar to mobile games that can be played for just a few minutes.
5. Nintendo is also “in” on mobile gaming
Nintendo is also invested in mobile gaming. This was made official back in March 2015 when they announced their partnership with DeNA. (Coincidentally, the Switch, then code-named the “Nintendo NX,” was also first announced during the same press conference.) The deal with DeNA showed that Nintendo has no plans to continue playing tug-o-war with mobile gaming. As the popular saying goes, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” Over the last eight months, three mobile games based on Nintendo’s intellectual properties have been released: the augmented reality game Pokemon Go, the endless runner Super Mario Run, and the tactical RPG Fire Emblem Heroes.
The former two are based on two of Nintendo’s three biggest intellectual properties (The Legend of Zelda is the other one). If Nintendo created the Switch to push back the challenge of mobiles, they shouldn’t have greenlighted the aforementioned mobile games nor signed the deal with DeNA. That would be a conflict of interest. This is the ultimate reason why mobile gaming shouldn’t sweat out the Switch. Plus, there’s also the probability that the Switch could eventually hook up with mobile devices in the future. Nintendo exec Shinya Takahashi, in an interview with The Telegraph, said that “it’s certainly not an impossibility.”
Since the Switch is still in its infancy, we don’t know yet how it will really affect the gaming landscape. Will the Switch’s never-before-seen features allow Nintendo to get back into the home console business after being kicked out of it courtesy of the Wii U? Will the Switch eventually supplant mobiles as the go-to source for on-the-go gaming even though it wasn’t meant to fight against mobiles? Let’s give the Switch a year or two and see how things go.