The past two years have felt a little bit of a soft launch for the Nintendo Switch. With limited online features, no Netflix, and a sometimes painfully simple online store it can feel like Nintendo was trying to get everything together for a launch that has yet to pass. Now here we are two years later, still waiting for many of these expected features, and only just now seeing them come together. Thankfully, the game offerings for the Nintendo Switch have been the complete opposite when it has come to the Switch. So it seems almost like fate, that when Nintendo has finally gotten its weaknesses to an acceptable state and their game catalog well established, that Nintendo would be poised to finally release two new models we all expected would eventually launch—finally assuming its true form.
But just enhancing the functionality of the Nintendo Switch is one thing, but two important steps outside of the Switch need to happen before the Nintendo Switch can take its final form outside of new versions: the death of the PlayStation Vita and the death of the 3DS. These two consoles have and still hold the Nintendo Switch back from reaching its true heights, especially as both cater to markets that the Nintendo Switch would eventually need to consume. Both consoles, in this case, represent a set or collection of game titles and design elements that have been prominently featured in handheld consoles that the Switch needs to fully embrace. Take for example the Visual Novel genre, one that has been found predominantly on handheld consoles such as the PlayStation Vita until recently. Here exists a genre that lends itself to the handheld market more so than others due to the games of this genre being essentially digital books in the form of a game. For the Nintendo Switch to finally become the next handheld as part of its ascension to its true form, it will need to take on titles like these to do so.
Thankfully, that is exactly what we have seen.
As part of the outpour of the support the console has received, one of the most important and unexpected was through smaller developers and publishers pushing niche titles onto the console—many of which would be rarely seen outside of the PlayStation Vita. NIS America, Marvelous, and even Falcom have all shown unwavering support for the console, providing a slew of titles that were previously considered much more obscure due in part to their platform choices. In fact, it is almost commonplace at this point to see a game that previously was on the PlayStation Vita or PlayStation 3 now work its way over into some sort of enhanced package for the Nintendo Switch. This replacement of handhelds with enough power to support updated versions of last generation games and even versions of today’s games has left the Switch with games that Nintendo wouldn’t be caught dead having on one of their consoles just a few years ago. For other consoles having a lot of ports might be seen as something worrisome or troubling, but for the Switch, it’s a boon that presents an opportunity for gamers to enjoy previous or titles new to them in a more enjoyable and flexible platform.
On the other end of the equation exists the 3DS. While the handheld has yet to meet its maker, it would be fair to say that it at least has one screen in the grave. This console represents the other end of the handheld market that the Switch needs to consume, the smaller and more traditional side. While the death of the Vita brought more obscure titles and genres that a Nintendo console typically hasn’t seen, those games were exactly that, more obscure and niche. They didn’t represent games that embraced the handheld format, rather, they were simply titles that did better or found their home there and became associated with those consoles.
The 3DS is home to a multitude of titles that both embraces many handheld games design philosophies and choices. Games are smaller, not literally speaking (although you could argue the cartridges are) but from a design perspective, the titles found on a handheld are generally more concise than on a home console. This is both purposeful and a symptom of the restrictions that handheld consoles impose. Take most series that are both on the 3DS and a home Nintendo console and compare how the designs of the game differ in their modern entries. The best example of this can be seen in Nintendo’s own titles, specifically in the Mario and Zelda series. Both entries, when compared to their home console brethren, take on different game design choices depending on the platform. Super Mario Land, when compared to Super Mario 3D World, takes the amount of open space and general exploration in the levels and shrinks them down, creating smaller but more purposeful and concise levels. One isn’t better than the other in terms of design philosophy, just simply different, one opting for one design over another and creating different results. But this contrast, especially when it comes to the scope of titles, can create very different titles, which is why in the past we have seen handheld games take on unique forms when compared to their home console brethren. It is important that these uniquely smaller in scope design philosophies that have thrived on past handhelds is preserved on the Switch for it to embrace the handheld side of its hybrid console being.
With these two consoles out of the way, the Switch can finally replace the old guard by taking on both things that made them unique. One supporting more niche titles and ports of other titles, and the other carrying on a long tradition in smaller scope and more concise games. Both of these together easily create the room for the cheaper, handheld focused model to thrive in, but what of the enthusiast model?
Of course, these still help that model and any version of the Switch, but they don’t create an exactly thrilling case for it to exist. Instead, this lies squarely with the companies who have chosen to go above and beyond with their ports and bring them to the Switch despite much doubt. We have seen that the sacrifices that many developers have made to get some of these titles on the Switch, games like Doom almost feel like a miracle that they run so well the way they do in the Switch. Despite their shortcomings, consumers (I included), have shown their support through purchases for these titles on the Switch. Of course, this can’t keep up forever, and it is with this support for these higher fidelity products to be on the Switch that the enthusiast model will find its home and its true form, allowing these types of games on the go.
With the announcement of these two new Switch models, it almost feels like a two year beta period for the Nintendo Switch. A time to garner support, discover where it actually sits in the market, and work out a lot of the kinks. Now in 2019, it seems Nintendo is poised to capitalize on what it has learned and discovered to create two new versions of the Switch that best align with where the console is and where it’s headed after several crucial steps that are needed gets accomplished.