The Nintendo Switch is less than a month away, and Nintendo has yet to reveal the full technical specifications of the console. We know that the tablet itself has a 6.2-inch multi-touch capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 1280 x 720. We know that it will only have 32 GB of memory and the rest will be left up to SD Cards. We know that the battery life will be somewhere between three to six hours in portable mode. What we don’t know, even just fifteen days away from launch, is what’s happening under the hood.
As each day passes, it becomes an increasing worry that the Switch is mysteriously less powerful than we expected. The PS4 and Xbox One are both strong pieces of hardware, and are only getting better with incremental upgrades like the PS4 Pro and Scorpio. This means that AAA games are only going to become more visually impressive in the next several years, as developers stretch this generation’s power in hopes of attracting larger audiences.
Exclusives are great for any console, but it’s third party releases that drive the majority of sales. Someone may pick up a PS4 because they want to play the newest chapter in the Uncharted saga, but they’ll likely also want to get their hands on the newest Call of Duty, Mass Effect, Red Dead Redemption, and a slew of other titles. If the Nintendo Switch can’t match the power of other systems on the market, a lot of these games won’t come to the company’s newest game system. We already have confirmation that Titanfall 2 won’t be receiving a port and that Borderlands 3 will also stay away from the Switch. The main reason given for the exclusion of these titles is that the Switch is only marginally more powerful than the Wii U due to its portability, so the console’s rumored Tegra chip won’t be able to handle the textures and particle effects that new multiplayer shooters and action games will employ.
If Nintendo were to come out and announce all the components that make up the Switch, we could quickly decipher what this means about the true capabilities of the console. This would also shed light on the future of the Switch, and perhaps not a flattering one. Despite the new niche Nintendo has created for the Switch, the fact that it is lacking in power will inevitably turn off a great number of consumers. In a time where Nintendo is trying to reassure potential purchasers of the Switch’s capabilities, it may signal a weak third party lineup moving forward, as we saw with the Wii U, and frame the system as an unwise purchase.
The Switch is an incredibly innovative piece of technology, fusing handheld and home gaming consoles. The idea of being able to take a game with the scale and depth of Skyrim on the go is incredible, but creating a machine as powerful as the PS4 that is the size of the Switch is likely incredibly difficult. Nintendo is trying to create a portable console that is still affordable. Its likely lower power is nothing unexpected, but this doesn’t make the hiding of this information a good idea.
The Switch will likely find its strength as the home to Nintendo’s fantastic library of exclusives. It might not be able to play third party titles people want to get their hands on, but like any Nintendo system, successful or not, the biggest, and possibly only draw for some people, will be the library of exclusives. Releasing the Switch’s specs would only prove this to consumers, but we need to be able to know the capabilities of this new hardware, especially before dropping $300 for entry.
Consumers need to know exactly what they are investing in. The Switch can hold down its own corner of the market regardless of power, but if it is significantly underpowered compared to the boxes offered by Sony and Microsoft, it’s a fact that needs to come out now, rather than on the heels of its launch.