We are coming up on the third anniversary of the Nintendo Switch, I know I can’t believe it either! It seems like just yesterday I was playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (the greatest launch title of all time?) on launch day. The Switch came out at a time when people were thinking Nintendo might be exiting the console space if they had another flop. Coming off the failure that was the Wii U they needed a win with this new console or we might only see them as a software developer moving forward. Around that time I even thought it might be better for them to just become a software developer and leave hardware to the Xbox and Playstation. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The Switch did something that hadn’t ever been done before, at least not successfully. They delivered on the concept of taking your home console on the go with you. It sounds simple but in practice it’s something more akin to magic. They made the simple act of docking the Switch and having the game seamlessly transition to the TV feel good. It feels just as good in reverse when undocking it and taking the game off the big screen and bringing it around with you. Of course they weren’t able to hit the same performance level from a technical standpoint as their competitors but they did something so different and innovative that it largely didn’t matter.
Nintendo has a way of getting the most out of their hardware. They can make games look better than anyone else by utilizing the perfect art styles and aesthetics to make you overlook the technical deficiencies when compared to, let’s say, a PS4 game. In the past this has resulted in amazing first party games with little to no third party support, which is one of the reasons the Wii U ended up failing. But the Switch is so successful that third parties can’t just brush it to the side and act like it doesn’t exist they want to reach out to this market and capitalize on the install base. We have seen ports of major third party games come to the switch and it has been a breath of fresh air as a Nintendo fan.
Even without the same level of third party support Playstation and Xbox get, what keeps us coming back to Nintendo consoles time and time again? The storied and acclaimed first party IP of course! When you have the only way to play Zelda, Mario, and Pokémon among many others you are always going to find a place in the entertainment center. In the last three years we got some of the best games Nintendo has ever released, namely Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. Those two titles in particular are each sitting at 97 on Metacritic currently, the two top rated titles released on the Nintendo Switch. With games that resonate in this fashion it’s easy to see why the Switch overtook the Xbox One in sales this past year.
One area where the Switch falls flat on its face however, is in it’s online offering. When it originally came out I thought it was a little to barebones but I figured they would improve it over time. When they announced the paid online service I was sure this would be what we were all waiting for. We would finally have voice chat built into the OS, we would finally get the virtual console subscription service we have always wanted, we might even get themes. But alas, I should’ve known better than to expect so much from my favorite video game company. Three years later and we still do not have any of those things I just mentioned (honestly just let me pay for the old Pokémon games again!) and the online infrastructure is still lackluster in almost every possible way.
The future of the Switch is interesting with the impending release of the PS5 and the Xbox Series X. The technology in the Switch was already outdated at the time of its original release and having already said there will be no pro model released in 2020, the Switch will be going toe-to-toe with these juggernaut next-gen consoles. While the games will still carry Nintendo through, they might want to start looking to improve performance for their inevitable pro upgrade in 2021 so as to stay relevant for their consumers and not fall too far behind the growing curve.
Setting aside the negatives, the Switch is still a joy to play and as long as Nintendo keeps putting out great games I will keep coming back to play them. I’m beyond excited to get the next-gen consoles but no matter how many “teraflops” they have, they won’t allow me to visit Hyrule or go on a Pokémon journey.