As of this writing, one of the top stories on N4G is an interview with the creators of Oceanhorn 2. Oceanhorn, for those unfamiliar, is a pretty popular Zelda-type game that started on iOS, found success, and has trickled out on to other platforms. It has even found a good chunk of success on the Switch, a console platform that runs on mobile hardware. In the interview, the devs speak to how Oceanhorn 2 is being developed on mobile platforms first, for the sake of optimization. They also said that, compared to current iOS platforms, the Switch’s modified Tegra X1 tech is a few years old. So of course, the headline of the article points to that snippet. It has blown up as planned, with comments trolls flinging mud at each other as a result. But here’s the thing. Nobody outside of internet comment sections actually cares how powerful the Switch is, and there’s plenty of evidence to support that.
Around the same time period, Nintendo released its quarterly financials from 2017, leading up to the end of June 2017. The numbers blew people away, prompting several gaming and tech sites to cover the story with a ton of enthusiasm. In just four months on the market, Nintendo’s new handheld/console hybrid hardware sold just under five million units. The attach rate for software has been nuts, with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild selling almost that many units and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, an enhanced port for chrissakes, not being that far behind. Even ARMS, a brand new IP, sold over a million copies in like, two weeks. That’s wild for any console. It still remains to be seen what the Switch can do with this momentum, but it’s flying out of the gate. Splatoon 2 just came out and already has tons of traction.
Why’s that? It’s not because the software is good. Good games matter, but they don’t matter to the point of selling hardware all by themselves. Look at the Wii U. It had everything and failed to make a serious impact beyond the most hardcore of Nintendo fans. It’s about the central gimmick, the raw appeal of the Nintendo Switch as a piece of tech. Consumer tech is crowded, and a machine that plays Mario games isn’t enough. The Switch is not just a system that plays Mario games; it’s a cool system that plays Mario games.
The Switch taps back in to the lost magic of handheld gaming. It taps back into the days of the original Game Boy and the promise that brought to younger, more impressionable minds. When the Game Boy came out, it promised real gaming experiences in the palms of our hands. Tetris coming with the unit out of the box was a success, a phenomenon. Video games were playable on the go, but as time passed, the gimmick lost a certain degree of attraction. Handheld gaming gained a reputation of being lesser than console gaming, with limited versions of the real games on consoles, spin-offs, budget and kid-friendly prices, and so on and so forth. The Switch brings that parity to the table. You get a Switch, and play real console-tier games on the go. The Legend of Zelda is The Legend of Zelda, Mario Kart is Mario Kart. It’s decades of promise become reality.
The Switch isn’t powerful, but it’s powerful enough. It runs games in HD, runs them well, and has plenty of multiplatform options. It can support Unreal 4 as well as games built with mobile platforms in mind. it's flexible. It’s a great second console to have, and folks already into handheld gaming love it. It has innate appeal that a clunky prototype the likes of the Wii U sorely lacked, through offering something that is not only different but appreciably and practically so. Power doesn’t matter; function and form do.