It’s been a strange year for consoles. Despite the popularity of the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X, both of which had their first anniversaries this week, few consumers have been able to get their hands on one thanks to chip shortages and manufacturing delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite talk of the exclusive, high-tech features like ray-tracing that these consoles can deliver, developers and publishers have been forced to publish their games on both PS5/Series X and the last-generation PS4 and Xbox One in order to reach a larger audience. Despite both of these consoles being a year old, some are still referring to the PS5 and the Series X as “next-gen,” and there are very few true exclusives for either platform.
In the middle of all this mayhem sits the Nintendo Switch, a four-year-old console that’s still going strong despite its age. The Switch was also caught up in manufacturing delays and chip shortages, but because it has been on the market longer, the delays didn’t make quite as much of a splash.
Even as the PS5 and the Series X are slowly becoming more readily available, I don’t have much interest in investing in one yet. Why? My Switch has just about everything I need.
A little bit of a disclaimer: I was a Nintendo kid growing up.
I spent a decade of childhood on the GameCube and the Wii before I got my hands on a PlayStation 2, my first non-Nintendo console. Back in those days, one of the major complaints about the Big N’s platforms was that they didn’t have the biggest third-party titles on them. You couldn’t play Call of Duty on a Nintendo system, for example, at least not until Black Ops came to the Wii. A lot of kids I grew up with had both the latest Nintendo console and either a PlayStation or Xbox equivalent so they could experience everything.
These days, Nintendo has gotten a lot better about giving major third-party games space on its consoles. You can now play big-name, non-Nintendo titles like Apex Legends on the Switch, if that’s your cup of tea. Nintendo is also experimenting with cloud gaming to bring modern games that normally couldn’t run on a Switch to the platform. While these games and shows might not look as good on the Switch as they do on more powerful consoles, Nintendo lifers have never come to the company for raw processing power. The PS5 and Xbox Series X unequivocally trounce the Switch in that area, but the gap isn’t as restrictive as it used to be.
The Switch’s incredibly strong library of exclusives, which includes the likes of Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury, Splatoon 2, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, have enough depth and variety to provide a strong experience for any kind of gamer. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, a repackaging of the Wii U title Mario Kart 8, recently outsold the next best-selling entry in the franchise, despite having been on the market since April 2017. More copies sold means more players playing online, which means a more robust and competitive online experience. Few other individual games can boast the longevity of Mario Kart 8.
Though it might be harder to back up with facts and figures, my Switch has simply kept me perfectly content during the dark days of the pandemic. Sometimes all I wanted during social lockdowns was something bright and happy to take my mind off of what was going on in the world just outside my door. That’s one of the reasons that Animal Crossing: New Horizons sold so well: People were hungry for joy. There are positive and wholesome games on all platforms, but it’s what Nintendo specializes in. When I’m using my Switch, I know that, with very few exceptions, I’m probably going to be playing something that’s colorful, funny, and engaging.
When I was stuck inside at the height of COVID-19, my Switch kept me moving, laughing, and looking up. Even after things opened back up, it was easier to take my Switch to someone’s house for a round of multiplayer than it was to lug another, more permanent console over. It’s something that no other console has been able to do yet for me. While the PS5 and the Series X have joyous experiences of their own, something about the Switch keeps me coming back again and again to discover what other charms lay hidden within its deep library.
Console choice isn’t arbitrary. Each platform’s marketing, exclusives, and non-gaming content (like streaming services) influence our investments. Historically, players tend to stay in one or two consoles’ ecosystem, rather than jumping around every generation if another had a better launch title or suite of streaming content. Since the Wii, Nintendo has made a conscious effort to make its consoles part of its fans’ lifestyles rather than just another black box that sits underneath the family TV. My Wii and Switch have always felt like members of the household — tools I would use to complete daily tasks, like working out in Ring Fit Adventure, alongside more purely gameplay-oriented experiences. I value the combination of breadth and depth when it comes to console possibilities, and the Switch has stood up in every way possible.
I may very well end up investing in a PS5 or Xbox Series X down the road. Each console has perks and high points that fans continue to sing the praises of. In the last several years I’ve been introduced to franchises that remain exclusive to those platforms, and one day I may decide that I want to experience Halo Infinite on an Xbox or Horizon Forbidden West on a PlayStation. Even so, I know that my Switch will continue to be my closest console companion, despite the flash and pizzazz of other options.
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