Throughout the years gamers have continuously had options between playing on quick and easy mobile handheld consoles or the luxury of diving into powerful home systems. But what Nintendo has done with their latest hybrid Switch console simply gives us both of those options in one, tidy package. Within an industry that just can't seem to shake off the less than inspiring mobile market – at least for the foreseeable future – is it time for other major console manufacturers to hop on board the hybrid bandwagon?
While our first reaction to this blasphemist thought is to berate anyone who cherishes options over power, let's not forget that video games were introduced as a form of entertainment packed with the coveted "fun-factor". It's true, many modern video games expertly created by powerhouse developers introduce some of the most astonishing and breathtaking visuals we've ever seen in gaming. But, with the age of technology beginning to pick up the pace over the last few years, how soon before portable tech catches up to the driving force of today's powerful systems we all know and love? Well, with the future of standarized gaming potentially becoming overshadowed by the incredibly daunting and ambitious internet streaming technology, the answer may be sooner than we think.
But this isn't an article about the future of game streaming. There's simply not enough solid foundation for the new tech to make an accurate assumption on whether or not the Netflix style of gaming will stick around, at least, for the near future. However, the handheld market has been around almost nearly as long as standardized household gaming consoles themselves, and to many surprises – still finds itself riding on the coattails of modern gaming tech, let alone, surviving. Even if at times, it seems like by a thread.
With innovations in graphic enhancements and performance seemingly hitting a wall – or at least pumping the brakes – it seems like the next logical step is to introduce a true form of mobile gaming. Stripping titles of content in order to introduce them onto a handheld device is beginning to be a thing of the past, and it's Nintendo that's leading the herd. Of course, Sony gave us two analog sticks, impressive visuals and augmented reality tech on our portable gaming devices first, but Nintendo has managed to thrust the mobile market into new territories by creating full gaming experiences in the palms of our hands. Sony innovated, but Nintendo has taken the lead.
And with the rise of Switch numbers continuing to increasing, it appears many gaming enthusiasts are beginning to see the value of continuing their beloved journeys wherever life takes them. Whether it's gaming traditionally in a living room, during their daily commute, a doctor's office or in the comfort of their own bed – video games (including high budget ones) should no longer confine players to designated play spaces. Even rising tech features such as VR are beginning to branch out into the handheld market, further allowing the industry to only benefit from the various challenges of pushing the industry into unknown territory.
But when could we see some of our favorite console manufacturers jump aboard onto a more accessible hybrid design? That's hard to say. Sony has been killing it most of the current generation, and it's largely due to their home console, the PlayStation 4. While their initial dive into the handheld market with the PlayStation Portable saw some incredbily high sales numbers to go along with its lengthy lifespan and various other handheld iterations, it's main successor – the PS Vita – was deemed mostly as a flop, especially outside of the Japanese region. So, while Nintendo has seemingly locked in a solid foundation within the mobile market, Sony seems to be on another page entirely.
And with all of this talk about Sony and Nintendo on different pages within the same book, Microsoft might be finding itself in a completely different book altogether. With absolutely no mention of joining the handheld market – or even VR on their Xbox consoles for that matter – they seem poised with the cloud streaming future. However, just because they seem to have no intention in the handheld console market per se, their Project xCloud streaming service looks to bring high-end IPs, such as Forza and Gears of War, over to mobile devices – whether the device is intended for gaming, or not.
There's plenty of risks being taken by some of the industry's leading manufacturers, but right now things seem to be set in place. Yes, Switch owners – even those who have only recently jumped on the Nintendo bandwagon – are (mostly) loving the flexibility the hybrid console provides. Does that mean we hybrid enthusiasts would prefer a console with options over high-end performance? Not necessarily. But it does give something new and refreshing to a market that typically only sees multiple similar powerhouse systems competing with features like trademark exclusives.
There's no telling if the Switch has paved a new road for the future of gaming to take. Streaming is becoming the talk of the town, yet, the Switch's unique design is still showing us just what it's capable of. Playing massive games like Skyrim, Breath of the Wild and the upcoming fighting giant, Mortal Kombat 11, on a handheld system – and having the option for TV play – does bring some interesting concepts to the table. And now that Sony, Microsoft and other companies have had time to digest the revolutionizing idea, it sure would be interesting to see what they could draw up, no?