I haven’t been excited about a video game console since Microsoft’s Xbox 360 featured that ‘new plastic smell’ back in 2005. Any excitement I would’ve felt for Sony’s PlayStation 3 (PS3) was deflated by the hefty, initial $599 price tag. And for whatever reason, the Wii’s motion control just never fully took hold of me even as that fad swept the world.
When the Wii U came around, I simply didn’t care for its tablet-like controller – what Nintendo calls the GamePad. The console’s lack of hardware power, meaning graphics equal to a last generation console, didn’t help either. So I was focused on the big boys of the gaming scene, PS4 and Xbox One. When Sony revealed the PS4, I was glad to see that they learned from the mistakes they made with the PS3, but the lack of a killer app – a game meant to show off the potential of the hardware and, therefore, be a solid reason to buy said hardware – just wasn’t there. And by the time that killer app did arrive, I had already made up my mind that the difference in graphics from PS3 to PS4 wasn’t as much of a leap as I would’ve liked.
You’ll notice I’m hesitant to mention Microsoft’s Xbox One reveal. That’s on purpose. Microsoft pushed me away, from the start, by offering a console that focused heavily on online connectivity. That’s just not something I’m interested in. I prefer offline multiplayer with people in the same room, an experience online gaming can never accurately reproduce for obvious reasons. So despite being a self-proclaimed ‘Xbox guy’ since the release of the original Xbox in November 2001, the Xbox One just never truly caught my fancy. It didn’t help that, in my eyes, 343 Industries completely screwed up the story of the Halo series, which was once my favorite video game series of all time. Actually, I like to say that Bungie’s Halo is my favorite video game series of all time.
More recently, Sony and Microsoft have revealed new consoles (the PS4 Pro and Xbox Scorpio, respectively) that serve as upgrades to the current ones, but there’s not much to get excited about there since those consoles are all about pushing 4K resolution, something I’m just not interested in yet, seeing as how I don’t have a 4K TV and don’t plan to buy one anytime soon.
Enter Nintendo. When the design of their new console, Nintendo Switch, was leaked by gaming website Eurogamer, I had my reservations. There was a part of me that thought a hybrid of home and handheld console designs could be great, but there was also that part of me that wondered if essentially doubling-down on the design of the Wii U was going to be the final nail in Nintendo’s coffin.
I mean, the Switch tablet bears a resemblance to the Wii U GamePad, with its screen in the center and controls on either side. There is one major difference, however, and that’s the fact that the Switch hardware is located in the tablet itself. The problem with the Wii U GamePad is that it had to remain within a certain, small proximity of the Wii U console in order to play games on the tablet’s screen. This is not the case with the Switch. With the guts of the console in the tablet itself, the Switch can be removed from its dock (used to display games on a TV) and taken anywhere. The Switch essentially represents the evolution of the Wii U, an evolution that makes perfect sense given Nintendo’s history in handheld gaming.
I did own a GameBoy and GameBoy Advance, so I’m no stranger to handheld gaming or Nintendo. I’ve always had a place in my heart for Nintendo as I grew up with the brand. The first video game console I owned was a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Then I had the Super NES, Nintendo 64, and GameCube. At this point, though, is when I began to feel that I was too grown-up for Nintendo (which explains why I never bought a Nintendo handheld beyond the GameBoy Advance). Compared to the original Xbox’s mature line-up of games, most notably Halo and a flashy fighting game called Dead or Alive 3, even a fun romp such as Super Smash Bros. Melee wasn’t enough to make me want to hold on to my GameCube. Throw in a jaunt into all things PlayStation (I had a PS2 and PS3 as well as a PSP) and it’s easy to understand how Nintendo lost a place in my gaming life, especially when my OCD just had to jump in to as many Xbox 360 games as possible in order to collect as many of those damn Achievements as possible.
So what’s happened lately that’s pushing me to make the “Switch?” As I said, the current generation of hardware (PS4 and Xbox One) simply hasn’t appealed to me. Perhaps the more grown-up styles of Microsoft and Sony have worn thin. Perhaps my desire to play all of the serious, realistic, first-person and third-person shooters that are offered on the two consoles has eroded over the years (the Call of Duty series being an exception to this). Perhaps, with the world being as ultra serious as it is, I’m simply looking for a cartoony, Nintendo escape.
I appreciate that Nintendo is focused more on giving players a fun experience than they are about buzzwords such as 4K and HDR. I like that Nintendo isn’t pushing online gaming at the expense of local multiplayer. And I really dig the fact that Nintendo does what they can to resist that type of ‘connected while disconnected’ gaming future (and overall future given the popularity of social media such as Facebook and Twitter) that Microsoft and Sony are content to pursue as those two, in direct competition with one another, seek to amplify the graphical power horse-race by releasing hardware upgrades every three or so years.
I have nothing against online gaming; I did dip my toes into the online pool when I had an Xbox 360. I’m also not against connecting from a distance; however, I never want to forget the importance of simplicity, the importance of placing a priority on fun, and the importance of being able to reach out to the other player, sitting beside me, and giving that person a celebratory hug for achieving a particularly difficult or downright awesome task in a game.
This personal connection is one aspect of the Switch reveal trailer (below). It shows how much Nintendo respects the act of gathering together to play video games, an act that we maybe took for granted a bit back in the day when online wasn’t so prevalent. Nintendo is okay with hanging on to the Ghost of Gaming Past for as long as possible, evolving their product at a slower pace while attempting to strike a balance between the old ways and the new. Maybe that’s why I’m ready to make the “Switch.” I want that balance as well. At least, for now…