The name brings certain images to mind: an undeniable behemoth in the gaming industry, colorful characters like Mario, Link, Pikachu, Kirby and more, and family fun. It could be argued that Nintendo, in a sense, is the messiah of the gaming industry. After the game market crashed in the days of Atari and E.T., Nintendo brought forth the NES and saved the world of games. Despite the incredible success of the NES and its successor, the SNES, the years passed and Nintendo seemed to be losing traction. The Gamecube was successful, but after the almost exclusively family-friendly library of the Wii, the Wii U couldn’t hold a candle to its competitors in terms of technical prowess or unit sales. For a while, many people were left asking one question. “What happened to Nintendo?”
Nintendo has always had a philosophy that revolved around creating a great experience for its consumers. In the first days of 3D, Nintendo made the mistake of staying with cartridges as opposed to the newly emerging CDs, but the argument was that cartridges would load faster and were the only medium suitable for the complex 3D graphics that systems would have to load. It was a mistake done to try and improve the player experience. When they realized their choice was wrong, they fixed their issue with the Gamecube, moving over to mini-discs that still offered greater storage space but fast load times, while also helping to protect Nintendo games from piracy. Then the Wii came out. While systems like the Xbox 360 focused on hardware power, Nintendo looked to make an affordable game system with revolutionary motion technology. A system that the whole family could play on together, enjoy, and not break the bank.
Everything up to this point had been great for Nintendo, but the Wii U proved to be the black sheep of the family. The system’s core values became drowned in the gimmicks of the gamepad and poor marketing. People didn’t even know what the Wii U was, with many believing it to be an incredibly expensive expansion to the Wii. With a high price that didn’t match the power
and steep competition from Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo seemed to be trying to break into more adult territory with the Wii U’s slightly more diverse and mature library, yet didn’t bring a system with the chops necessary to do so. The Wii U, while an excellent system in its own right, lost way of the Nintendo vision and was a commercial failure.
Then, sometime in the last couple years, something incredible happened. Nintendo’s secret project, “NX” had some details leaked. For the first time, we were introduced to the idea that Nintendo was making a system that could be both portable AND a home console. When I first saw the rumors, I thought this would be the end for Nintendo. They had already been failing because of high prices for weak, gimmicky hardware. Now they were going to make a system which was expected to perform as a home console, but using a platform limited to the power-saving nature of portable devices? I was prepared to mourn Nintendo as a hardware company, expecting them to go the way of Sega after their swan song, the Dreamcast, still wasn’t enough to save them from failing hardware sales.
However, Nintendo did the unthinkable. The Wii U was the martyr that made Nintendo realize they’d lost their way, and the great new maverick that is the Nintendo Switch emerged, as if from nothing. Boasting a portable form factor, a focus on flexibility and multiplayer fun, an HD 720p display, and quite satisfying battery life, the Nintendo Switch is a true no-compromises system. For the first time ever, a player can bring graphically-intensive games on the go, play them at high resolution, and make it through a whole cross-country plane trip without running out of power. The Nintendo Switch is a shocking success story, delivering absolute grand-slams of video games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, BOTH of which are acclaimed as the best games in their series (and Game of the Year in terms of Zelda). The best part? When the day is over and you’ve made it home, you can slide the switch into its dock and play games on your home television, in the beautiful FHD 1080p that your 50″ screen deserves.
The Switch is something special, evidently more so than even Nintendo thought. They couldn’t keep them on shelves when they were released, and it’s quickly become the most sought-after gaming console to hit the market in a long time. It isn’t an iterative improvement like the PS3 to the PS4, it’s a revolution in Nintendo and in the gaming industry altogether. Yet, amazingly, it does all of this while returning to the focus of the player. The Switch isn’t gimmicky. It genuinely puts the “fun” in functional and it can only get better as time goes on, with more fun games coming out daily. Personally I can’t wait for Metroid Prime 4 to blow me away.
Nintendo could not have impressed me more with this system. The Switch truly is a return to form for Nintendo and, more than anything, is a love letter to video games and the many players who enjoy them.