I’ve had my Nintendo Switch for just over twenty four hours, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the innovation that Nintendo brought to the table with their latest console. There is a lot of discussion to be had about specifics but that’s not what I’ve been focusing on. On a high level, Nintendo’s hybrid device has brought something to console gaming that we’ve been enjoying in the PC laptop space for some time.
A hybrid device’s home: the docking station
Some laptops or tablets connect via a USB port. Other manufacturers have even created proprietary ports that allow tighter integration and a cleaner form factor. Regardless of how you get connected, laptop and tablet users have enjoyed docking stations for years.
Using a laptop on the go can feel limiting. Trackpads are usable, but not ideal. Some smaller laptops don’t even have full size keyboards, and hardly any of them have a number pad. Having a docking station at your desk takes all that away. As soon as you connect, you have access to a mouse and keyboard, additional monitors, and who knows how many other devices you might have plugged in.
Owning a laptop or tablet with a corresponding docking station yields the best of both worlds. You have a workstation that feels “full size” but can easily take your work on the go. That’s the same thing Nintendo tried to do with the Switch. You have a full-featured console experience at home that you can take with you when you leave the house.
The merging of desktop and mobile
This trend first began with PC operating systems. iOS and Mac OS X began sharing features and becoming more like one another. Microsoft Windows and the Windows Phone platform grow more similar all the time. A future step of this merging is at the hardware level.
I firmly believe we will reach a point in time when hybrid devices will be the standard. Your phone will be your laptop or your desktop, depending on what shell you dock it with. What Nintendo is showing us with the Switch is that general purpose computers aren’t the only technology that will go this way. I don’t know how many years it will take, but I think eventually all game consoles will act as both home and mobile consoles.
What I’m not saying
I want to be clear. I’m not saying that the Nintendo Switch is a perfect example of how to implement this hybrid pattern. I will say I’m enjoying my Switch so far but, again, I’ve only had it for a day. There are also a number of issues people have reported such as:
- Many users experienced disconnect issues with the left joycon.
- Some have reported inserting and removing the Switch from the dock causing scratches on the glass.
- I myself have had some issues with the motion controls “drifting” in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- The placement of the power port on the bottom of the system makes it impossible to charge while playing on a table top with the kickstand.
I’m not saying anything either way about the quality of the Switch as an example of a hybrid device (not in this post anyway). What I am focusing on is the evolution of the hybrid device as a concept.
Companies have been building hybrid tablet/laptops for years. As technology advances, we are seeing these hybrids become more robust and more common. Now, the Nintendo Switch has brought the hybrid device into the gaming world. I believe this trend will only continue. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.