carter_craterThe great gaming convergence just took one big step closer to reality with the Nintendo Switch. For a long time, I've been predicting that gaming will advance to a point where the divides between mobile, console, and PC that we have now will just kind of fall away. Eventually, playing a game will just be a thing in the same way that any other form of media is increasingly not locked down. Games have for too long persisted on the difference between platforms, between desktop, console, portable, and mobile. And Nintendo has made a shockingly future-forward move to create a system that is both portable and console. The convergence is coming, and Nintendo is set to hasten it.

The thing that people don't fully realize is that we're living in an increasingly post-TV world, where watching TV doesn't means actually watching on a TV. Movies and TV shows are available on our phones, tablets, and TVs. We're beyond the days in music of where you were locked into one device, one copy of your music – now the entirety of recorded music is available to you within seconds wherever you want it. And it's why traditional cable TV is in a risky place, what's happening is that streaming methods are picking up major steam. And it's not hard to imagine that the flexibility that something like Netflix has, where you can watch an episode while working out at the gym, and then continue seamlessly when you get home, impacts why people like the service. Other forms of media are converging to this point of decentralization, breaking down the barriers between arbitrary distinctions between screens, and it'll be only a matter of time before cord-cutters miss out on literally nothing.

Games have been slow to hit this point of convergence. Games are still rather rigidly locked to one screen. Part of it is because of decent reasons, namely that there are interface differences between console/PC games and touchscreen games. But this problem always exists between different hardware formats. For example, there are plenty of people who gripe about controllers as compared to keyboard and mouse with first-person shooters. And often, just having the ability to select between cross-platform games with multiplayer or not a la Critical Ops [Free] ensures that players can get the same experience between platforms, but don't have to worry about one set of players having an unfair advantage. In the convergence future, it will be about figuring out workable solutions, not about thinking that a particular interface type is an impassable barrier.


But I think that the convergence in gaming is already well underway and mobile has driven it. Mobile games have the advantage that they don't tether you down to one spot. You can check in on the guild in your favorite mobile game between commercials of a sporting event, for example. You can play your favorite game while waiting in line. And while I think longer-form games are not as viable on mobile as I would like, those experiences do exist! There's a lot of good ones! It's just that right now, mobile games don't let you take advantage of large displays in the way that the convergence future would really allow for. I blame Apple in many ways for not making the Apple TV 4th Generation the ideal gaming platform for the convergence future yet. And it's why there's still so much room for Google, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony, to operate in this future.

And the other companies are trying to achieve convergence. Nintendo already had off-TV play with the Wii U Gamepad, and the Switch is basically just that extended to its logical conclusion. Microsoft pitched the Xbox One as a multimedia device, and its HDMI input functionality is really cool, but when multimedia streamers are so cheap nowadays, why would someone need to buy an expensive console unless they were in it for those games specifically? Really, I think it's just a matter of time until media streamers of various sorts make playing games of console caliber easier than ever. This is where streaming efforts like Sony's Remote Play and PlayStation Now have been smart bets. While I'd like to see internet speeds get faster to accommodate game streaming, the technology exists, it just requires the content and infrastructure. The day Sony starts putting modern games on PlayStation Now will be a momentous one indeed, especially as their game streaming service exists on so many operating systems and pieces of hardware right now. Even Microsoft is advancing towards a decentralized, convergence future with features like streaming from Xbox to Windows 10, and making their big titles available for download on both platforms.


And that's the thing: you can look around and see many major players in the industry involved with gaming hardware making plays to spread their wings beyond where they have been established. The convergence future is inevitable, it's just that nobody's gone all-in yet. That's the thing that makes the Switch so compelling but also kind of frustrating: it's Nintendo making the biggest bet that convergence will happen. The experience you get on the go and at home is identical. There's no streaming to deal with, no partial experience, it's a system that you can play the exact same games on the road as you do at home. The lines have been blurring for a while, but Nintendo just erased part of them.

But not all of those lines are erased. The issue with the Switch is that while it's certainly classified as a portable device like the 3DS, it might not actually be a mobile device. It might not even have a touchscreen. Now, it would make sense if games had to work without it, because Nintendo would want to make sure players could carry their games from portable to the television and vice versa without a hitch or without losing anything in the experience along the way, sure. But what about the aspect that the Switch might not have the ability for shorter-form, traditionally mobile games to exist on the platform?

That's the ultimate dream for the convergence. See, when people hear that mobile's taking over, they fear that all games will be Clash of Clans and Candy Crush Saga. That doesn't have to be so. There's no reason why the short-form games have to exist separate from the larger experiences. Perhaps an attitude adjustment is key. Mobile was founded on short-form experiences, and the long-form experiences have been more akin to games that are played in incremental form over days, weeks, months, as regular experiences. The idea of sitting down for a while on a tablet just hasn't quite taken off (perhaps the universal app was a mistake), but if the big experiences are made the core usage of something like the Switch, then the short-form games can exist alongside.

Perhaps the Switch's dubious 'mobile'-ness is because Apple and Nintendo have a relationship where Shigeru Miyamoto got on stage at an Apple keynote for Super Mario Run. If Nintendo is hedging their bets, I'd be disappointed. Given the Tegra internals (and the possibility that the Nvidia Shield Tablet X1 was canceled), and previous rumors that the NX was going to run Android, one could imagine the Switch being basically an Android fork. Which would get a ton of developers to release on a Nintendo platform if they could do so with ease. The familiar internals are sure to be accessible to developers, but I would love to see Nintendo make a system that incorporates 'mobile' in some form. Perhaps it will. For any sort of portable media usage, touch would be perfect if not required. Then again, Nintendo is known to make strange design decisions. And Apple's weird policies could be a problem too. Apple is not a great gaming company, and it's worrying because it's an attack vector for other companies whose survival may rest on being established when the great gaming convergence happens. Perhaps Apple needs Nintendo more than Nintendo needs Apple to promote their games. If anything, Nintendo showed on mobile with Pokemon GO [Free] that the rules don't apply to them...yet.

All I know is that the Nintendo Switch is the first console I've been really excited for in a while. Mobile has spoiled me with a wide variety of experiences that I can enjoy whenever and wherever I want. I have a laptop with a dedicated graphics card, but I might not always have the controller I would want. I have been ready for the gaming convergence for a while, and I think whoever figures out how to make gaming transcend the differences between its myriad form factors in the best way will reap the greatest rewards in the coming years. Nintendo is taking a big step – but I am ready for the convergence, and am growing tired of half-measures toward that goal.

  • timmfox

    This just might be the console for the busy parents, workers, and other professionals who stopped having the time for a full console when life priorities shifted. I love the idea and I just want my 3DS virtual console purchases to crossover!

    • curtneedsaride

      That's the weird tear in the fabric of this convergence... games that might not crossover or might disappear into oblivion because they're old. Having already seen that happen on the App Store, it really is disappointing. I hope when we reach a certain level of convergence, we'll figure out how to effectively create the ability to access old games on any device.

      • Dankrio

        I was all about convergence until some great simply vanished into the oblivion or wouldn't work with a minor OS update.

        I think we are distant from it yet, sadly.

  • RossmanBrosGames

    I agree with Carter, I am looking forward to this and think that the "convergence" of the different forms of gaming we have will be a cool thing. I understand fears of it only be quick play style games, but agree that it doesn't have to be so and that really it won't. I have already seen both areas of game bleeding into each other, there are games I enjoy on my ps4 that are clearly in some ways influenced by mobile, and tons of games I love on my iPhone that are something you would sit and play on a console. It would be nice to have these experiences mesh more like netflix does, where I can access it just about anywhere. How awesome would it be to see game companies make games that mesh the experience. Imagine using your switch hooked up to your tv to play the games in your Madden season, but on the go being able to make changes to your roster and different things. Just one example but many games could have the sit down and play experience with things to do on the go as well. I think the switch itself would have benefited me more when I was younger and in school to pack around with you, but I can see how I could have a lot of fun with it and my kids. Thanks for the article!

    • speedyph

      Must buy ❤️❤️❤️

  • HelperMonkey

    Yeah. Great concept. But the obvious questions (beyond price) are whether it has a touch screen, easily accessible third-party apps, web-browsing, camera, etc... Basically, all those things besides gaming that cause us to be so committed to carrying our mobile devices with us everywhere.

  • curtneedsaride

    I'm all for the convergence. This is what I've wanted since I was 8 years old. I eventually had a Gameboy, NES, a Sharp electronic pocket organizer, and eventually a graphing calculator and portable CD player. I wanted to have all of this and a TV in one device, and it happened with the smartphone and tablets. And many of my favorite games of all time are now playable on many different platforms.

    But I do hope all these companies work towards this convergence, with Nintendo showing how to do it with gaming. I'd finally invest in an Apple TV if it could allow me to play a game that I was playing on my device, but without my device streaming it. However, I'm already enjoying going back and forth between iPhone and iPad on many console experience, and it's so close.

    I doubt I'll end up getting a Switch because I don't have enough free time to even play all of the games I currently own and I already have an iPad that does everything I need. But, I do hope it does well and encourages Appel, Microsoft, and Google to step up their game that much more.

    • Dankrio

      I think we can't look into Apple as an example of convergence, sadly. At least not yet.

    • Michal Hochmajer

      Same here. And I am curious and carefully watching, what Apple will do. Google play grow every year and eventually surpass itunes in many ways. Now Nintendo Switch is interesting add in mobile gaming. So much is happening.

  • Adams Immersive

    Looks good. (I hope a VR component comes along! Any rumors?)

    • RossmanBrosGames

      I was hoping the same thing! Would have been cool if the screen was slightly smaller and fit into a headset. With the detachable controllers this would have been great. Though I think I read the screen resolution would not be great for vr... could be wrong.

    • TeddyNYC

      Zelda and Mario VR would really be interesting.

  • Shkrbby

    It's all about the specs.

    • Earth Vs. Me

      No, it's all about 3rd party support.

  • TeddyNYC

    Combining the two (mobile and home) makes a lot of sense on paper when it comes to the flexibility, convenience and mobility of 21st century technology many of us have come to expect, especially now that we all own a good example of that in our smartphones, but ultimately it will come down to the games like always. It's been 5 years since I last owned a Nintendo system and I'm definitely ready to give Nintendo another chance based on what I'm seeing now.

  • Player789

    It will be third party compatible - gamestream

  • Earth Vs. Me

    Certainly an optimistic view, but we'll have to wait until March to see. I was gung ho about mobile gaming once, but I think it's just a flash in the pan now, and let's face it, Nintendo hasn't been relevent since the fist couple years following the Wii's launch. I'm curious but pessimistic about Switch.

    • Player789

      What it runs Android and has Nvidia game streaming? I had the shield portable and the main thing missing was AAA support. Nvidia shield with Nintendo exclusives shoulda pretty great to me. There will also have to be a kids version as no parent will be handing the tablet to their child.

    • OrangutanKungfu

      Flash in the pan? Really? Have you seen how much money Clash of Clans and Game of War are still making? I want to see Nintendo do well, and hope the Switch is a hit, but even if their wildest projections they're not going to rival Apple. Lots of people like Nintendo; but everybody has a smartphone. You might leave your Switch at home; you never forget to take your phone with you. That's a customer base that can't be ignored. I kind of get your disappointment with mobile, but I also don't think it's going away.

  • Michal Hochmajer

    I fully understand all these positive reactions on Switch. Dunno, if Switch will be successful or not. Still don't know, what to think about it by myself. We still don't have enough information. Just a few things before some diggin' deeper.

    I believe that Switch will run custom OS, not Android.
    Probably unix based or even some custom linux/android. Biggest question here is. If so, will it support google play? Probably not. Almost everyone in business tried to do big thing by yourself. OK, another closed system.

    I believe, Nintendo Switch will be sort of multipurpose tablet.
    We know it is gaming device. We know it is partially portable. It will be probably based on sort of Nintendo services. We can expect touchscreen, browser and all this basic necessary things I suppose. Imagine Nvidia Shield and you are home.

    I believe, partnering with interesting names in business is good thing.
    Obviously biggest selling point here is Nintendo and their games. But what somewhat surprised me in good way was Atlus and From Software. What is also interesting is partnering with Epic Games (Unreal) and Unity. Good. And. Autodesk?

    Problem here is, who needs another portable device. Is it really sweet spot between console gaming and "crappy" mobile gaming? Or will this end exactly like nvidia shield? Isn't a bit late for such a device, when mobile phones are slowly bringing virtual reality to masses, or even augmented reality? New way of entertainment. Can Nintendo live little longer out of their fan base?
    There are certain things (closed system, battery life, pricey 7" tablet and games, slow hardware etc.) which can easily mean "LOSE" for Nintendo.
    On the other hand, classic gamers like me would welcome this device.
    But last thing I want is "just another dedicated" device...
    We will see, what Nintendo bring around March. And I will decide which devices leave and which one stays.

  • bigred447uk

    Fingers crossed for long battery life and strong third party software support.

    Nintendo should also take a hit on the price of the hardware to ensure it sells boatloads.

    A strong launch lineup of games will ensure success. Give me Mario and Skyrim HD at launch and I will be first in line.

  • riChchestMat

    We know it will not have touchscreen, so it's not a 3DS replacement. It's a single screen experience too. The battery life will be tragic, far lower than Wii U off-TV play. Skyrim is not confirmed.
    So actually this is a short range Vita with a dock and snapable controls.
    It won't be a disaster but it won't save Nintendo. I say his as a fan who mainly plays on 3DS and Wii U.
    Also, once again, Nintendo had little to do with Pokèmon Go.