The Nintendo Switch is a Hybrid Home Console, Not Another PSP

The Switch has been on the market for the past five months and has been selling remarkably well since day one. Things have been going pretty well thus far for the Switch, but there’s one slightly controversial question that’s continuously brought up: is it a dedicated home console or is it a dedicated handheld? Well, the official answer is: technically neither.

Nintendo didn’t fully introduce the world to the Switch until late October 2016. Prior to that, the company did announce that it was working on a new gaming platform, with the first mention of it occurring all the way back in Spring 2015. At that time, it was known as ‘Codename: NX’. Nintendo was adamant about being as vague as possible about the new system until the time came to fully reveal it. Even so, the system was consistently described as being “new” and “unique”.

Then there was the question of whether it would be a home console like the Wii U or a handheld like the 3DS. The answer to that was “neither”, as mentioned by Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima back in May 2016. After stating that, he elaborated a bit further, saying: It’s a new way of playing games, which I think will have a larger impact than the Wii U, but I don’t feel it’s a pure replacement for the Wii U.”

From that statement, you can see that Mr. Kimishima hinted at what turned about to be the Switch’s hybrid functionality: it can be used as either a home console or a handheld system. Even so, he brought the Wii U specifically back into the picture. Why? Well, even though the Switch isn’t a traditional home console like the Wii U, it is indeed a home gaming system.

While this should be obvious, the Switch is indeed the Wii U’s replacement. 

If you visit the official Nintendo Switch website, you will find a snappy description of the system. The gist of it is laid out quite plainly and simply—you don’t have to hurt your head to understand what it’s all about. From the very first sentence of the description, what is the Switch described as? “Nintendo Switch is designed to go wherever you do, transforming from home console to portable system in a snap.” Did you notice that? Nintendo itself describes the Switch first-and-foremost as a home console—not a handheld. So, the best way to describe the Switch is that it’s a hybrid home console.

Honestly, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen someone on any gaming-oriented comment section insist that the Switch is a only mere handheld, I’d probably be rich enough to buy a warehouse full of the systems. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but my point is that this is a constant debate that hasn’t gone away yet despite the Switch being nearly a half-year old at this point. Yes, the actual design of the system is that of a tablet, but it’s still a home console at the core. You want more proof? Just take a look at this little thing called the 3DS.

Despite having released over six years ago, the Nintendo 3DS is still going strong. Many thought that the arrival of the Switch would result in the 3DS being pushed aside, but the exact opposite has occurred. The handheld family has six iterations, with the newest one having just released a few weeks ago in the form of the New 2DS. Nintendo plans to continue support for the platform until 2018 and even beyond. Considering that the 3DS makes up 50% of the Nintendo’s revenue, it really isn’t surprising why the company is continuing to push the handheld so hard. With that in mind, is it logical to conclude that the Switch is replacing the 3DS? Not in the least. This system has obviously taken the place of the Wii U.

Switch and 3DS are co-existing as two separate entities, appealing to two different markets.

I’ve seen one argument against that point (primarily from Switch naysayers) on several occasions: other handhelds in the past have done basically the same thing—functioned as both a portable and home console system. The primary example that is used is that of the PSP. Seeing that its full name is ‘PlayStation Portable’, Sony really did seek to take the home experience of the PS2/PS3 and shrink it down into a handheld device. The PSP possessed technical capabilities similar to that of the PS2 and offered multimedia functionality like the PS3, thus resulting in it living up to its name rather well. It even sported a port that allowed users to connect it to a TV, essentially turning it into a pseudo home console. While all of this is undeniable fact, there’s still a catch: the PSP was still officially a handheld system.

While the PSP did offer visuals similar to that of the PS2 and the ability to be displayed on a TV screen, it still had to share the spotlight with Sony’s true home console of the time: the PS3. The PSP was never described or marketed as being an alternative home console: it was simply a device that offered the PlayStation experience on-the-go. In the case of the Switch, it’s standing on its own two feet as Nintendo’s front-runner and the big brother to that of the true portable system: the 3DS.

If the Switch really was a handheld, then why would  Nintendo bother bundling it with the Dock? Why would the 3DS be treated as a separate entity that’s still being heavily pushed by the company? Why would Nintendo itself classify the Switch as a home console? Seriously people, nobody’s trying to grasp for straws or split hairs here—this is all very plain and easy to see and understand. The Switch offers home console experiences both on the TV and on-the-go. True, it’s not as powerful as the PS4 and Xbox One, but does it have to be in order to be considered a ‘true’ home console? The Wii was grossly underpowered compared to that of the PS3 and 360, and yet, it’s still officially classified as a 7th-generation home system, just like the PS3 and 360. The power difference between the Switch and PS4/Xbox One is a lot smaller than that of the Wii vs. the PS3/360, so why make a fuss now?

The PSP did a good job at bringing the PlayStation experience into the portable realm,
but it was still a companion to the PS3.

What’s so interesting is that the Switch is more capable than the Wii U, which was also more capable than the PS3 and 360. The Switch is in this position, all while being incredibly smaller and sleeker than those ‘traditional’ home systems. Nintendo and Nvidia have managed to cram a full-scale console into the form factor of a tablet. Seeing that mobile devices have been booming in popularity of the last few years, the technology has been rapidly improving. As time goes on, more and more power will be achieved from these small devices, which will in turn benefit a device like the Switch.

Whether you want to accept it or not, the Switch really is, officially, Nintendo’s current home system. You have folks who use it almost exclusively in TV mode, but there are others who use it almost exclusively as a portable system. Either way is fine as that’s the whole point of the system: you decide how you want to use it. Regardless, that doesn’t change the fact that the quality of the games are of a home console standard. The system is running the full versions of complex engines like Unreal Engine 4 and Unity. These can be found on mobile devices too, but those are watered-down editions. The Switch, on the other hand, is receiving support from third-party developers alongside that of the PS4 and Xbox One as a home console. This is no conspiracy—just plain reality.

Ultimately, how much does the label matter? In a realistic sense, it doesn’t have too much of an effect. This article was primarily targeted at people who persist in calling the Switch a handheld out of spite. So, if you ever stumble upon a comment like that or even know someone who refuses to accept the Switch as a home console, just shoot them a link to this piece and let them have a good read.

At the end of the day, the Switch is a home platform first-and-foremost. 


A.K Rahming
Having been introduced to video games at the age of 3 via a Nintendo 64, A.K has grown up in the culture. A fan of simulators and racers, with a soft spot for Nintendo! But, he has a great respect for the entire video game world and enjoys watching it all expand as a whole.