The Power of a Nintendo Handheld

The Nintendo Switch was the hottest selling “console” in December of last year and there shouldn’t be any questions as to why. While it quickly outpaced it’s predecessor, the Wii U, the similarities of the two diverge just as quickly. Where the Wii U had to remain nearly within sight of its base station, the Switch can be carried outside the home. Its dock only acts as a hub for your home usage, and can improve performance for games. Once out of the dock though, you are free to take the Switch with you and enjoy where you please.

I was fortunate enough to purchase one last October, a believer in the product since Nintendo first announced the long-rumored hybrid console/handheld, and in fact share my birthday with the release date (March 3). Due to its relevance in what I think will be proven to be a track back towards improving the general medium of video games, I want to share my thoughts on what they got right, where they can improve, and how they could begin a trend akin to the Wii.

To do that, first we will take a look at the past. The Nintendo Wii can easily be pointed to as a successful product, but doing that would be ill-advised. The lifetime sales of the Wii reached over 101 million units in March of 2016, but had reached 100 million units in June of 2013 when the Wii U was launched. There was a surge of buyers when it first released in 2006, but by mid-2009 it seemed that the market was completely saturated and everyone who wanted one would have one. From my personal experience, it also seemed that many who didn’t want one also had one as well. For more in-depth information on these numbers, there’s a Wikipedia article detailing that information.

Nintendo followed this up with what many consider to be a flop, the Wii U. It didn’t have near the success of the Wii, and at first what I thought was an add-on for the original Wii. Many others thought the same, and both of these consoles lack third party support. It’s widely known Nintendo is capitalizing on what they learned with the Wii/Wii U eShop, allowing third parties enter the platform with ease, and have sought after powerhouses like Bethesda to release earlier games the previous platforms couldn’t handle.

This is what intrigued me the most about the Switch, we’re seeing games released like Skyrim that I originally missed in the sixth and seventh generations of gaming consoles, which I can see as a good and bad thing. It’s good because they’re typically including the remastered version, and a portable version of the game. A big reason I missed out on these games to begin with is I don’t spend as much time at home, but have always had the interest without a console to match it. The others I’m most excited about are DOOM, and the recently announced Diablo and Dark Souls ports.

The games that have been released are killer as it is, and the games only seem to be mounting up even after new major releases from Nintendo every month last year. I’ve only been able to play The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8: Deluxe, Super Mario Odyssey and Rocket League. Those have cemented my belief in the system enough, and my only problem now is choosing what to pick up next.

A primary drawback to the Nintendo ecosystem is its online play. Finding matches is fairly easy, but when trying to communicate you’ll need to use another app and I haven’t felt a need to put the time into finding the players I’ve met in-game, but I’d like that to be possible. Nintendo is supposed to be ramping that up, but with how much focus they have on privacy and locking things down we probably won’t see too much of a change on this front. I think I speak for the collective Switch audience when I say that we’re all hoping the probable $20 paid online service should include a Virtual Console game pass, but I like many would rather purchase games individually. Hopefully they’re able to figure this out, because it’s the only glaring pimple besides a lack of other streaming apps aside from Hulu. Oh, yes, Hulu has been on the console since last November, and many still aren’t aware of it.

This brings up my final point, for the most part Nintendo has learned from their past mistakes and have a much clearer focus than in the past, and have been effectively communicating via Nintendo Directs (their sometimes stream that replaced their E3 showing). If they can continue this into the future, they have all the makings of success. That and a rumored Pokemon franchise reboot will have me golden for ages, and I think the same can be said for Nintendo’s target demographic.

It is rare that we see a perfect product, and the last I can say I wholeheartedly loved was the iPod (without touchscreen). It’s odd, but the Switch reminds me of that launch and I think we’ll see that continue to flourish into the future.

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