Commentary on the Nintendo Switch reviews…

By | 03/01/2017

It is going to be quite a while until the industry looks back on the Switch as a huge success, mediocre success, or gamble that failed.

There is one thing I have written about that I think is going to be the savior or key failure of this device: It is a product that makes sacrifices across the design to be a home console/portable hybrid.

Kotaku wrote:

Certain limitations are clear though. As a hybrid console it has drawbacks on both sides of the package. In a portable state, the battery struggles to hold for over three hours in taxing titles, something even a sizable 4310mAh battery can’t avoid. Meanwhile, for the docked, home console experience, the known technical specifications do fall short of competition from PS4 and Xbox One. Don’t expect top-of-the-line third party games to reach Switch, and if they do, expect a degree of compromise in visual quality or performance. (link)

I wrote:

The Switch is essentially the WiiU gamepad but without the bulky base unit. It is an amazing piece of technology. Problem being, it lacks the pure portability of the 3DS and is weaker (graphically) than the original Xbox One. The Switch is being marketed as a home console that can travel for portable gaming. In order to be “kind-of portable” and still run modern HD graphics, Nintendo had to make design sacrifices across the product. It may not be a popular opinion, but I have serious reservations about how unique the Switch really is. I believe many consumers will only see it for its primary function: playing video games at home (and those one-of-a-kind Nintendo titles). Let me be clear about that: The Switch’s primary function is to play video games and that is exactly how consumers will see it. It is the same primary function as the Xbox One and PS4. Motion controls are not unique anymore. Soft portability doesn’t make it unique. Nintendo’s dream of people taking the Switch to a house party is silly at best. No one does that (often). Nintendo can’t afford another device, like the WiiU, that really only serves to be a platform for Nintendo games. The WiiU was, for all intents and purposes, a device that only served up Nintendo games and it sold very poorly as a result. Nintendo strongly believes that a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none system was the right choice for the current market. I’m not sure it was.

Markets traditionally don’t respond well to devices that are “OK” but not great for their particular purpose. That said, sometimes a product comes along that breaks all the traditional thinking and smashes sales expectations because it was the right product at the right time. Maybe the Switch is that device. Maybe consumers really are looking for a console/portable hybrid. It’s easy to think that in 10/15 years the normal console won’t even exist anymore because technology will exist that no long requires a ton of heat control and battery space. It’s possible everything will be portable with the ability to attach it to a television. Nintendo might be the first ones to get there.

Unfortunately, being the exception is a lot less likely than being the rule.

As for the reviews out today, it is very positive to see such a well built product come out of Nintendo. It looks like they put a lot of time and effort into making it feel like a quality product.  The generally positive reviews are great to see. It is the detail like third parties and competition that will really tell the tale over the next three to seven years.