Whenever a new flagship product is released by a company, you have to wonder what the future holds for that product's predecessor. In this case, I'm referring to the recent launch of the Nintendo Switch and how much of an impact the Nintendo 3DS is going to take in effect. While the two products are currently serving different markets, there is no reason why they cannot eventually overlap at some point.
As of today, the Switch is off to a great start. With already selling more than 1.5 million units, the future is looking bright. Sure, that may seem like nothing when compared to the 65.3 million Nintendo 3DS units that have been sold worldwide, but it's certainly worth noting — especially if you factor in how many sales the Wii U brought in during its first week. It wasn't pretty.
So, what's it going to take for the Switch to be the only Nintendo system on the market?
First of all, convincing the millions of 3DS owners isn't exactly going to be easy. Any kind of significant transition between products can take a while, and that's exactly why Nintendo is going to take their time. They understand how truly large the 3DS fanbase is, so they are not going to risk alienating their own users. And besides, the 3DS already has far more games than the Switch currently does.
Secondly, it's important to consider battery life and how important it is for those gamers who are looking to play while on the go. As of launch, the estimated playtime of the Switch while undocked ranges from 2.5 hours to 6 hours. This can vary depending on what game you are playing at the time and how intensive it is on the system. For example, playing a game like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild can easily drain the battery in less than three hours. I've experienced this firsthand.
Now let's talk about portability. If you try fitting the Switch in your pocket, you're likely going to have a difficult time. It was obviously not designed for this purpose. This is especially apparent since Nintendo is well known to refer to the Switch as a home console first and a portable console second. And honestly, I cannot argue against that. While the convenience of being able to use the Switch in handheld mode is nice, I almost always prefer playing it in my living room via TV mode.
If Nintendo treats the Switch anything like they did with the 3DS, then it's safe to predict at some point we will see multiple iterations of new hardware — including a smaller, more portable version, and possibly even a Switch XL of some kind. Mobile gamers typically like having the choice in different play styles, so I could see all of this happening sooner or later.
But what's all this fancy hardware talk without the games? Well, that's where things can become a bit complicated. As of right now, the Switch simply doesn't have many physical games to choose from. Titles like Mario Kart 8: Deluxe and Splatoon 2 may not be too far off, but Nintendo is going to need a lot more than that to hold the attention of millions of gamers worldwide.
Nintendo, however, has a little something called the Virtual Console — an á la carte library of downloadable games from past generations that are playable on modern systems. The opportunity to replay your childhood classics is huge and definitely something that is welcomed by gamers, myself included. Already available on the Wii U and 3DS, I think it's only a matter of time until the Switch gets support. When that happens... Well, things are going to be looking really good.
And finally, wouldn't it be nice if there was one console for Nintendo to focus on? Rather than being forced to fragment the market like it is now, directing all time and attention to just the Switch could be quite beneficial for gamers of all types. This would mean all game releases being accessible by one unified group of players and third party developers feeling confident in knowing their work is reaching a mass audience. It could also allow for more frequent system updates, introducing new features at a faster rate than normal.
As fun as it is to speculate what the future holds for Nintendo, it's still way too early to tell. Considering the Switch hasn't even been available for one month, it's impossible to predict this early in the game. In the meantime, I'm going to continue to enjoy my Switch and its current offering. What can I say? Zelda has me hooked.