After listening to Polygon’s Samit Sarkar discuss the Xbox One X on the Achievement Oriented podcast, I was this close to writing a piece simply titled “Good Enough” on the premise that the Nintendo Switch is just that — good enough; that bleeding-edge specs are not compelling enough to warrant the masses to upgrade consoles mid-cycle for already gorgeous experiences.
Nintendo focused on making a system that was easy to use, relatively inexpensive and could be both a portable and a home console. The stats show that players are taking advantage of these factors, and the sales speak for themselves. In a business where it often seems like companies are killing themselves trying to push for the greatest visual fidelity possible, Nintendo has completely shifted the conversation to convenience and fun. The Switch is being richly rewarded for this approach.
Nintendo has also changed the game when it comes to third-party developers. Visual quality is no longer the most important thing, the game just has to run well enough to be playable and enjoyable. A company’s back catalog of older games is now a treasure trove of potential Switch ports. Fans are asking for any number of games from any number of companies to be brought to the console, and publishers would be wise to listen to them.
The Nintendo Switch once again proves the value of changing the game if you can’t win by the existing rules, and there’s not much Microsoft or Sony can do to gain the same momentum with strategies that focus on raw power. Nintendo has this market all to itself, and that’s a great place to be. The game developers just have to learn that looking good enough is a great way to sell a game to an appreciative audience.
In August, I wrote about moving to handheld — shelving my PS4 and Xbox One and exclusively playing Switch and 3DS. I’ve since gone one step further by disconnecting the Switch dock from the TV. It now serves as a holster on my nightstand. There are games I yearn to try, but the thought of anchoring myself to our living room television just to partake in a boisterous chaos for my own pleasure seems irritating, selfish, and wasteful. I much prefer the experience of dipping in and out — sound off — while my wife and I relax together. Conversations aren’t drown out. A quick press of the Switch’s lock button not only pauses the experience, it completely disengages me when necessary. No static menu hogging the television screen. No anxiety about not being able to pause in certain areas.
I won’t go as far as to say that mid-cycle upgrades are outlandish. There are small things I’d love to see enhanced on the Switch: smaller bezel, larger screen; better kickstand; move toward haptics vs. vibrate motors; better speakers. The one thing I haven’t craved is better graphics — a statement I would not make for the 3DS. The Switch has hit a fidelity sweet spot.
This has been a long time coming. I would go as far as to say that the boom of pixel art, retro, and minimal art styles is a statement about bearable visuals as much as it is about style. What was novel has become an expected and even desired norm. This extends beyond mobile and casual games to hearty indies like The Witness and Super Hot.
The fact that new and recent third-party titles are making their way to the “underpowered” system is impressive. While we wait for Nintendo’s online service / Virtual Console to make an appearance on the Switch, there is an abundance of third-party back-catalog that could be used as a testing ground. I cannot comment with any authority about cost to port legacy games vs current-gen, but I do know that there exists a wealth of proven titles that will run current hardware rather than gambling resources to try to port new titles to the Switch. Really, I’m just jonesing for Final Fantasy X and Kingdom Hearts.