Just when we thought that handheld consoles were no longer relevant and the Sony PS Vita was the last of its breed, Nintendo took another shot at the segment by releasing a new handheld console called Switch. The new device is completely different from the Japanese company’s previous ventures like the Nintendo 3DS. Switch is more of a modern handheld console that understands the concept of flexibility that is required to compete with smartphone gaming. The fact that Switch can be carried in one’s pocket, played on the go and can even be connected to a TV screen through a dock to deliver a proper console-like experience, reflects that.
Ever since its release in Japan last week, Nintendo has sold over 330,000 units of Switch in Japan alone, according to a Japanese magazine Famitsu. It is also available in US and UK at $299 (around Rs19,000). There is no update on India availability yet.
How it compares against smartphone gaming
Nintendo’s biggest challenge will be to convince users to go for a standalone handheld gaming console, when their very own smartphone can fulfil most of their gaming requirements. Smartphones with big screen and powerful hardware are easily available at Rs10,000 these days and the platform is not lacking in terms of content either. Some of the most popular gaming titles offering console level graphics such as F1 2016, GTA, Assassin’s Creed and FIFA 16 are available on Android and iOS devices.
Some of the smartphones even offer bigger screens with higher (2,560x1,440p) or (1,920x1,080p) screen resolution than Switch, which comes with a 6.2-inch (1,280x720p) display.
The Switch may feel a bit big and heavy (299g) for gamers with small hands, but it won’t be difficult to carry around as its control panel called Joy-Cons are detachable and can be carried separately.
One of the highlights of Nintendo Switch is the fact that it can be connected to a TV screen through a dock. It requires user to take off the Joy Cons and park the Switch on the dock. The Joy Cons can then be attached together and used as a game controller. This allows it to replicate a game console like gaming experience at screen resolution of 1,920x1,080p. Smartphone users can connect with TV screen using Google Chromecast or screen mirroring technology, but none of them are capable of streaming games smoothly on a big screen. Movie playback may work well, but with games there is a distinct lag.
The only advantage that Switch offers over a smartphone like OnePlus 3T (Rs29,999) is the physical controls, which are always going to be more intuitive than touch controls.
The success of Switch will also depend on the gaming titles it offers. As of now it offers handful of games such as The Legend Of Zelda (action-adventure), Fast RMX (racing) and Shovel Knight (side scrolling game like Mario). Nintendo recently announced that over 60 Indie games will be released for Switch this year. Among big names, EA Sports has a FIFA game, Telltale Games has Mincecraft Story Mode, 2K Games has NBA 2k18 and Capcom has Ultra Street fighter 2 in the pipeline for Switch.
Like smartphones, Switch will not only be a gaming console. It can be used as a multimedia device to stream content from Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. This feature is not available right away but will be added soon.
Despite its limitations, Switch can be more fun than smartphone gaming. However, it will need more games to draw more buyers.