Whether you like it or not, the Nintendo Wii was a colossal success. By heralding in motion controls, Nintendo attracted an immense new population of casual gamers that resulted in the console selling over 100 million units. It was an audience both Sony and Microsoft wanted to tap into, thus Sony fashioned their own wand with the PlayStation Move, while Microsoft went full motion tracking with the Kinect. Eventually motion controls winded down, now seeing much less action in current generation consoles.
Nintendo also kept pushing 3DS handheld devices out the door and sold them by the millions, despite many critics arguing it couldn’t compete against smart phones. Sony again tried to provide competition by developing the PS Vita, although it has adopted meager success outside Japan’s borders. Microsoft opted out of joining that fight, knowing full well it couldn’t stand toe to toe against Nintendo, Sony, and the booming mobile market.
Now we have the Switch, the first dedicated hybrid system, and once again Nintendo is turning heads and herding throngs of gamers and developers alike to their new console. So will Sony and Microsoft be once again tempted by Nintendo’s succulent fruit and try to grow their own hybrid?
Sony is the likely competitor, and they are probably already working behind closed doors to fashion their own portable home console. They’ve filed a patent for a design that looks strikingly like the Switch, and there are even conceptualized designs roaming around the internet. However, I doubt the Sony execs are dumping truckloads of money into the project… just yet. They are likely playing the waiting game, still curious as to whether the Switch is simply enjoying a honeymoon period.
It’s a big brainstorming session at the SIE Global Research and Development offices right now, I guarantee. There are many questions to answer, such as whether a Sony hybrid would be a standalone system, a peripheral that works with the PlayStation 4, or a feature to be integrated into Sony’s next-generation console. There’s also the question of how the Sony gamer base would receive a hybrid, and whether there is a market for it. Remember, the Wii brought in a whole new class of casual gamer, whereas the Switch is offering a new experience for the more traditional gamer base.
As for Microsoft, I believe they will stay out of the ring, like they did with the 3DS / Vita scuffle. With the Xbox One X nearly here, it’s clear Microsoft is focused on bringing the beefiest home console to slam down in front of a 60” 4K TV. They may continue their journey in the holographic realm with the HoloLens and their “mixed reality” endeavors. However, they have also been complimentary of Nintendo’s innovation with the Switch, and I believe we are at the threshold of some sort of partnership between the two gaming giants. Perhaps that entails sharing some intellectual properties. I don’t expect to see Mario on the Xbox One, but I could see the Fire Emblem franchise or Xenoblades Chronicles going multiplatform with Microsoft, maybe in exchange for ports of Ori and the Blind Forest and the upcoming Ori and the Will of the Wisps, or perhaps even Gears of War on the Switch. Nintendo is a fan of augmented reality applications, so who knows, maybe Mario will be bouncing around your home someday using the HoloLens. My point is, I believe Microsoft is playing nice with Nintendo because with their current and future projects they see a mutual benefit in working together.
The Switch has supplied what gamers have demanded, and now that a hybrid system is out there, don’t expect Nintendo to hold a monopoly on the innovation for long. We will likely see a Sony Switch at some point, but I think Microsoft will once again bow out of the arms race. What do you think, should other console companies make a hybrid console to compete with Nintendo? And how could Sony improve the design? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.