Nintendo Switch May Not Be As Powerful As PS4 And Xbox One – And That’s Okay

There is less merit to the specs argument than you would think.

Posted By | On 07th, Jan. 2017 Under Article, Editorials | Follow This Author @Pramath1605


We’re less than a week away from the full blowout on the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo’s upcoming machine has already caught the imaginations of everybody, thanks to an effective three minute video debuting the system and its central concept that Nintendo released back in October, but the conversation around the Switch has been as much about what we don’t know about it as it has been about what we do. Notably, as is always the case with a new system, a lot of people are once again caught up in discussions of whether or not Nintendo’s newest machine will be as powerful as competing systems, pooh-poohing it prematurely every time a rumor says it won’t be, being skeptical every time a rumor says it might be.

But honestly, the specs discussion is probably missing the point when it comes to the Nintendo Switch. More than any other game system before, the Nintendo Switch is unlikely to be defined or limited by hard numbers and raw hardware power. The Switch is billing on selling itself as a machine that caters to you and your lifestyle- a machine that adapts itself for you, that becomes whatever you need it to be, so that you can continue playing games, so that nothing gets in the way of you playing, as, when, and how you want to play. It is entirely unlike other systems on the market, with their install times, updates, loading, and so on. You simply pop in your cartridge, and you’re good to go- no matter where in the world you are.

But the power argument- we keep coming back to the power argument (as if the system’s ability to output in 4K matters on its 6 inch screen). I don’t want to even get into the principles of discussing hardware specs- as mid cycle upgrades like the PS4 Pro have shown us, better specs might lead to prettier games, but don’t mean anything for gameplay. And as games like Rocket League and Minecraft have shown us, very often, the best games don’t need cutting edge tech- just enough power that their vision is not compromised. No, specs in and of themselves are not the problem- the problem would be what they mean for third party support.

"The specs discussion is probably missing the point when it comes to the Nintendo Switch. More than any other game system before, the Nintendo Switch is unlikely to be defined or limited by hard numbers and raw hardware power."

The Switch, by all accounts, is more powerful than the Wii U, which means it is also more powerful than the Xbox 360 and PS3. It is, however, less powerful than the Xbox One (and so naturally the PS4 as well). It is probably closer to the Xbox One than it is the Wii U, but that is a moot point- the fact remains that it’s weaker than the weakest console of the generation so far, the one that third parties probably target as the lowest common denominator. This is a problem, right?

In the past, this has led to catastrophic exoduses of third parties from Nintendo’s systems- the Wii and Wii U both saw third party support dry up, because they were too weak to run games that the Xbox 360/PS3 and Xbox One/PS4 were running, and it was too much bother scaling games down to run on them. In turn, this led to a dearth of good games on the systems, as well as the infamous droughts that are now almost synonymous with Nintendo. Why, then, should we believe the Switch will be any different?

If the primary argument that one wishes to make when discussing specs is this shortage of games on Nintendo systems, then there are many reasons why the Switch will not have the same problems that the Wii and Wii U did. The most obvious one is that the Switch is the first time that Nintendo will be able to give their undivided attention to one system- in the past, their attention has always been split between their handhelds and their consoles, and as handheld games have grown more complex, as console games have transitioned into HD development, and as Nintendo have found the need to prop up their tapering handheld sales themselves with the full force of their development talent, their games have always ended up split up between two systems. Nintendo are among the most prolific game companies in the world, and easily put out over a dozen games a year- but split between two systems, that comes to one game every two months. If you own a Wii U, a game every two months is pretty dismal, especially with no third party support.

With the Switch, all Nintendo games are going to be on one system. You will not have to sit and watch as your handheld brethren get the latest Fire Emblem or Pokemon game- you will be getting those games yourself. By itself, this directly tackles the issue of droughts and game shortages on Nintendo systems. The Switch’s status as a hybrid of, and successor to, Nintendo’s handheld and console hardware lines has another great benefit- all the great third party support that Nintendo have enjoyed on their handhelds, games like Monster Hunter, Professor Layton, Shin Megami Tensei, Yokai Watch, Dragon Quest, all of that will make it over to the Switch, too.

"With the Switch, all Nintendo games are going to be on one system. You will not have to sit and watch as your handheld brethren get the latest Fire Emblem or Pokemon game- you will be getting those games yourself. By itself, this directly tackles the issue of droughts and game shortages on Nintendo systems."

But of course, this isn’t enough in and of itself- while it ensures that you won’t be unhappy with a Nintendo game system purchase, it also ensures that you won’t be purchasing a Nintendo game system as your primary- not unless you want to miss the latest Elder ScrollsAssassin’s Creed, or Call of Duty. Which brings us back to the question of third party support, especially console scale third party support.

This is where things get interesting- a while ago, I predicted that the Switch (then known only as the NX) would basically become the Japanese equivalent of the Xbox as far as third party support goes– just as Xbox gets 100% of western third party support, and some, but not extensive, Japanese third party support, so the Switch will get 100% of Japanese third party support, and some, but not extensive, western third party support. At least a part of this statement looks to be true- the 3DS, Wii U, and Vita are all winding down in Japan, and the PS4 alone isn’t performing well enough for publishers to make up for domestic revenues and sales that they otherwise stand to lose. The Nintendo Switch, which gives Japan, a country that has always gravitated to portables more than consoles, a literal portable console, is likely to appeal to Japanese demographics- meaning Japanese third parties are likely to support the system.

We’ve already seen early indications of it. Square Enix have already confirmed Dragon Quest 11 for the system, and have also discussed bringing Final Fantasy to it in the last. Japanese third parties like Sega, Capcom, Atlus, From Software, and Level-5 have all openly pledged support for the system. In the future, one should not be surprised if most Japanese games are announced for the PS4 and Switch- just as most western games are currently announced for PS4 and Xbox One. The Switch can become a haven for Japanese games, with titles like Tales, Tekken, Persona, Dragon Quest, Monster Hunter, Kingdom Hearts, Resident Evil, Dark Souls, and more all finding a home for it. If your primary interest in gaming is in Japanese games, it is very likely that you will be able to do with just a Switch in the future- the entirety of the Japanese gaming industry will be united behind it, along with Nintendo. Nintendo have already shown the ability to court and retain Japanese third party support in the past- even when western third parties were abandoning the Gamecube and Wii, we were getting games like Viewtiful Joe, Resident Evil 4, Tales of Symphonia, Monster Hunter 3, and Skies of Arcadia on them. Nintendo can provide Japanese third parties, displaced by the sudden void left by the death of the 3DS and Vita, with no handheld to go to, and by the massive expenses that PS4 game development incurs, a home- a home that they are likely to gratefully flock to.

Japanese third parties are not the only third parties Nintendo have shown an ability to work with, either- there is one other, very important segment of third party developers that Nintendo been silently working with and courting over the last few years, a segment of developers who have shown themselves to be all too enthusiastic to support Nintendo- indie game developers.

"Nintendo can provide Japanese third parties, displaced by the sudden void left by the death of the 3DS and Vita, with no handheld to go to, and by the massive expenses that PS4 game development incurs, a home- a home that they are likely to gratefully flock to."

The importance of this cannot be overstated- with AAA game development taking years upon years per game now, the bulk of third party support that modern systems get is from indie developers. The Xbox One has half the number of games the PS4 does- because the PS4 has courted the indie game community that much more successfully. The 3DS, in spite of being so successful, still doesn’t have as many games as the Vita does, simply because the Vita is a bigger hit with indie developers.

Indie developers have also delivered some of the most outstanding hits of the last few years- The Talos Principle, Inside, ARK: Survival Evolved, Shovel Knight, We Happy Few, Furi, The Witness, the upcoming Rime, and of course, Rocket League, are all games from independent game developers, which struck a chord with mainstream audiences. The fact, then, that Nintendo are able to work with indie game developers, and secure the bulk of it for their systems, is an extremely important asset- especially when you consider that working with the Wii U and 3DS, Nintendo was hindered by the 3DS’s inability to run most modern game engines, including Unity (the one that most indie game developers use), the Wii U’s install base (which makes it unappealing for indie game developers), and the Wii U’s own problems running Unity and other modern game engines. The fact, then, that Nintendo managed to garner as much notable indie game support for the Wii U especially as they did, and that so many successful indie hits, like Shovel Knight and Steamworld Dig, managed to find a bigger fanbase on Nintendo systems than on other systems, speaks volumes.

So yes, between indie games, Japanese games, handheld games, and Nintendo’s own games, the Switch is really unlikely to actually see a lack of games for one to play- a Switch owner is unlikely to ever find themselves wanting for games. But okay, let’s address the elephant in the room, as well- you care more about western third party support than you do about any of this. If you can’t be assured that Activision or EA are on board, then why bother with the system?

"That Nintendo are able to work with indie game developers, and secure the bulk of it for their systems, is an extremely important asset."

It’s an important question, but it is also one that has been answered already- all western third parties, such as Activision, Ubisoft, Warner Bros., and even EA and Take 2 (the folks who bring us XCOM, Bioshock, GTA, and Red Dead) have already pledged support for Nintendo’s system. But, I hear you say, we heard similar things before the Wii U’s launch- and look how that turned out!

In this case, I would contend that you remember wrong. Not only was the Wii U’s list of third party support dismal (you can check it here– compare this to the Switch’s, and tell me for yourself how it holds up), but the general sentiment towards the Wii U in the lead up to its launch was outright contempt- does anyone remember Epic Games’ executives laughing uproariously when Wii U support was brought up in an interview? Contrast that to the Switch, where we have seen western third parties be openly enthusiastic about the Switch and its prospects, or at the very worst, be cautious, but still on board- it’s a world of a difference.

But, you ask me, trying to return to the original question- just how long will these third parties actually bother to support a weak Nintendo Switch, especially with the just released PS4 Pro, and the launch of the Xbox One Scorpio on the horizon? Why would they even bother to do that in the long run? Wouldn’t the Switch run into the same problem that the Wii and Wii U did, where it was too much effort to get games running on them, leading to third parties passing on putting their titles on the system?

"All western third parties, such as Activision, Ubisoft, Warner Bros., and even EA and Take 2 (the folks who bring us XCOM, Bioshock, GTA, and Red Dead) have already pledged support for Nintendo’s system."

And this is where my original thesis comes into play- no, hard specs will not matter here. The Nintendo Switch is using a state of the art development environment provided by Nvidia, to facilitate easy ports from Xbox One and PS4; it crosses the minimum threshold necessary to run most modern AAA games; most modern development pipelines and game engines are scalable all the way down to smartphones and tablets, and up to the most powerful PCs, including Unreal, Crytek, and Frostbite (EA in particular take great pride in Frostbite’s scalability, and how that will help them with new hardware in the future)- and no matter how weak you think the Switch might be, you know it is more powerful than smartphones and tablets. Modern middleware and assets only need to be scaled down, which requires little effort, to be put on Switch, as opposed to the case with Wii and Wii U, where developers had to redo their games in an entirely separate pipeline, to account not only for those console’s weaker power, but also their entirely different development environments. In other words, even with AAA games, there is very little about the Switch’s specs that should stop third parties from supporting the system.

Does this mean that I anticipate the Switch to get all AAA western third party games? Oh, goodness no- I know, for instance, that the Switch won’t get games like Mass Effect Andromeda, which it is too late for, or Red Dead Redemption 2, where the demographics of the Switch audience have not yet been proven. But I feel reasonably positive in suggesting that Batman, Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, Destiny, The Elder Scrolls, Far Cry, Beyond Good and Evil– these are all western AAA games that the Switch will get.

Actually, I think this is a good analog for how I think the state of third party support on the Switch will be. Will it get all indie games? No, it will not. Will it get all Japanese games? No, it will not. Will it get all handheld third party games? No, it will not. Will it get all AAA games? No, it will not. But I think it will get just enough in each category to make the Switch a viable, alluring prospect- enough western third party games, enough Japanese third party games, enough handheld third party games, enough indie games, that, put together with Nintendo games, the Switch will become a bustling, healthy ecosystem of games, a third pillar to stand aside PC gaming, and Xbox/PlayStation. And unlike the Xbox/PlayStation, the Switch may even be able to deliver experiences across the full spectrum of games- AAA titles, mid sized games, bit sized games, full priced games, budget priced games, indie games, everything. That is something that has been lost on modern consoles, and something that Nintendo could be in a unique position to cultivate on the Switch.

"The Switch may even be able to deliver experiences across the full spectrum of games- AAA titles, mid sized games, bit sized games, full priced games, budget priced games, indie games, everything. That is something that has been lost on modern consoles, and something that Nintendo could be in a unique position to cultivate on the Switch."

So sure, in terms of hard specs, the Switch might be weaker than the PS4 and Xbox One. But chances are, that won’t matter. If you look at the specs as a means to an end, the end being games to play, and are worried about the Switch’s specs because you are worried you might not get enough games to play- well, don’t. As I’ve discussed at length here, that shouldn’t be much of a problem. On the other hand, if you’re more interested in pixel counting, and arguing resolutions, then yeah, there’s no getting around the Switch’s probable weakness over the Xbox One and PS4- but in that case, the Switch is also not likely to be a console for you, and you should probably stop concerning yourself with it, and focus on the consoles that can give you what you do enjoy.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.


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  • Andrew

    And that’s okay? Look how things turned out for the Wii U when everyone said Nintendo’s innovation and the cool concept of not needing your TV would win everyone over. Guaranteed developers get tired of working twice as hard for a fraction of the sales within a year and we’ll be back to Nintendo 1st party games and the same HD remakes over and over. Nintendo needs to just come out and say that their platforms will only host exclusives and 1st party games and stop misleading people.

    • Loghorn

      Except that the Switch is far more different from the Wii U. Not even the Wii U could do the same things that Switch can do.

      Plus Japanese 3rd party publishers are going to most likely develop more of their games for this than they will with PS4 from here on out, especially when Japan is all about portability (in which the Switch offers) & in which there will be much lower development costs than with PS4 (just like with 3DS Vs. PS Vita).

      Like the article mentioned, the PS4 alone isn’t performing well enough for publishers to make up for domestic revenues and sales.

    • Andrew

      It doesn’t matter if the Switch is different than the Wii U. The only thing that matters is that a console is as powerful as its next competitor. The Switch is less powerful than the XBOX One and PS4 and will be EVEN MORE under powered when compared to the PS4 Pro and Scorpio.

      That means when a dev is working on a Switch version of a game that releases on both the PS4 and XB1 they need to do more work to have it function on the switch. Then based on everything we’ve heard about the Switch’s power when out of the dock they’ll need to put work into making it run on even less power.

      So these developers now have to put in at least double if not triple the work they’d normally have to put into a game.

      Then once they do this they’ll probably sell 80% less on the Switch than the XB1 or PS4. So after a few years of making no money you will 100% see these developers abandon it.

      This doesn’t even factor in Nintendo’s brutal and archaic online interface.

    • Loghorn

      And what exactly has “more power” done for the gaming industry within both PS4 & Xbox One, huh? Tons of remasters, higher development costs, shallow games, & less newer AAA titles. You think that developers are saving more money, especially when they now have to have graphical updates for PS4 Pro & Scorpio? Guess what? That’s even more work for them, too.

      You think that both PS5 & Xbox 4 are gonna be any different? Highly doubtful. In fact, development costs for those will be even worse because the focus will be on 4K.

      Power has never lead to great games. It’s been proven again & again since the 80’s.

    • Andrew

      What has it done? It’s called having more than a 1 year lifespan for each console lol. Wii U was literally dead within a year.

    • Loghorn

      Power had absolutely nothing to do as to why Wii U bombed. It was because of it’s awful advertising in which they only showed the Wii U controller which led a lot of people to think that it was a Wii add-on (happened twice as a matter of fact).

      Plus you have brain-dead Western 3rd party publishers that doesn’t know better in which they think that power matters within games & that a lot of people care about movies & cinematics within games. And they’re the same ones that had caused the 1980’s gaming industry crash in the U.S.

      So if you want the gaming industry to continue to be shallow & stagnant under Sony & Microsoft, then by all means, be my guest. A lot of true gamers (especially old-school gamers like me) however, will be demanding better.

    • Andrew

      If you honestly think it was just marketing that killed the Wii U and not the complex weak power it had then we’re done here. Dumbest comment I’ve ever read to be honest if you think that’s it and it had nothing to do with developers abandoning it left and right because of how complex it was to work on and how powerless it was for running stuff like BF and COD, Skyrim etc. Seriously like LOL at your statement.

    • Loghorn

      Yeah, you go on & continue to believe that power was the reason why Wii U bombed. We all know the truth. And it was the same for Xbox One.

      By the way, PC gaming is already making both Microsoft & Sony irrelevant in that space, especially as more & more games are coming out onto it, & for a lot cheaper.

      And average consumers couldn’t care less about power. You truly believe that most of them picked up PS4 just for that? If you do, then you’re blind. They picked them up because it was the hottest item on the market in which most of their families & their friends have owned & because that both Nintendo & Microsoft botched up on their Wii U & Xbox One console reveals (Nintendo with Wii U twice). Sony had just gotten lucky on that front, & it was the same with both the PS1 & the PS2.

      LOL at you.

    • Dr.Phishshoe

      The only console that sold the most and was the most powerful was the SNES and maybe the PS1 but that had more to do with the disc space in contrast to cartridges. The Ps1 was more powerful than N64 in some places but weaker in other cases.

      And yes now the PS4

    • Loghorn

      That’s only because that both Microsoft & Nintendo had botched up on the messaging & marketing on both Wii U & Xbox One, not because that PS4 was “more powerful.”

    • chaz

      Do people really not read articles anymore, and just reply to headlines instead?

    • Johnny J

      You started imma finish

  • DevilDogA99

    Ya no. It’s in trouble without third party support, which its not going to get. If they made allot of new Ips and had a bunch of new games for it, that would be ok. It’s the Wii U all over again.

    • chaz

      It’s like you didn’t even read the ~3,000 word long article, and just decided to reply to the headline

    • DevilDogA99

      No I read it. It’s just easily disproved. Without the power, 3rd party developers won’t continue to make games. The program it uses won’t trasfer well like the article says. Nintendo only makes the same games over and over like COD but COD is multiplatform. (COD is bad) Only the Nintendo faithful will buy this console and it will fallow the Wii U

    • Dr.Phishshoe

      I think DevilDog represents the current gamer , specs specs and specs, which is a sad thing really. There were some consoles who were the most powerful and sold the most the SNES and PS4. If a console sells well a 3rd party would flock to it more easily.

      The reason the wiiu failed was the utterly bad marketing the difficult development environment and just people were done with the wii, they even thought the wiiu was a new controller(WiiUs 1st trailer only said new controller) even Reggie said during the WiiU preview event , when talking about bundles, ”Wii Console and WiiU gamepad” yes you read it right, the head of NoA even said it wrong.

      The Switch on the other hand has a demographic the traveling type, furthermore is it a console that very much is exactly what Japanese want. The Switch has all the coming Nintendo games and it wont be spread between a console and a handheld. The Switch’s marketing is also good, people know what it is.

      See im not saying the Switch will sell gangbusters but i see a moderate succes happening, 25 Million would be a nice step up from the wiiu.

      Besides I dont think people are really waiting on the 3rd Underpowered PC clone when they already have a PS4 or Xbone.

    • DevilDogA99

      Specs only matter up to the point of making it easier/more inviting for 3rd party developers to make games for you. You’re also correct that they made a travling type console, that’s great. We want that but without allowing it to play 3Ds games,specs to low for 3rd party games, 3 games from the studio a year and their the same game but rehashed. It’s another set up for failure.

    • Brandon Williams

      Reading must be really hard.

  • Tactical Lag-fighting tips

    It’s OK, a mobile gaming future with Sega will suit them well.
    Thank you Nintendo, its time.

  • Fowket

    When will people understand that when a company like Ubisoft, Bethesda or Konami say they’ll support a Nintendo console it only mean they’ll release ports or smaller, unimportant games for it?
    By the way, if the console is really underpowered that will only affect the games released on it, we’ve seen how lazy companies struggle so much to get 30 fps on the PS4 and Xbox One, now imagine how much problems they’ll have optimizing their games for the Switch.
    PS: I’m sorry, but I’m not very good with english.

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  • Gabriel Porto

    Nintendo needs to keep innovating they way they always do but to allure third parties is mandatory to build a current machine that don’t fall behind what’s in the market for 4 years now. If they don’t want to do marketing with specs, that’s OK, but the power should be there.

    Oh, and about Nintendo going ARM. Ok, every dev knows how to code for ARM processor if your framework is not a mess (which we know is not the case of Nintendo that always provide nice tools), but just tell me one AAA game that was ported to ARM without becoming simplified versions of the original game, with lowered poly, aliasing, lighting, etcetera.

    So, it REALLY matters Switch being an underpowered console. Good luck when playing Candy Crush, btw.

  • Steve Arturo

    For a secondary device to play on thats all is for me. I just hope the games arent in the price range of $60

  • Dantewolfwood

    Do we have confirmation that this is THE Hybrid console?

    We’re sure we won’t see another console in the same generation?


 

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