When I turn on my Nintendo Switch, like every other owner, the first thing I see is my current games library. What becomes instantly apparent is it’s full of games I’ve played before. But not just games I’ve played on my Switch but on lots of different consoles or even PC over the years.
Without me realising until now, my Switch has turned into somewhere I gather many of my favourite games from the past so I can revisit them whenever I want, wherever I am. It’s also a platform where I can play the list of games I’ve always wanted to play, but for whatever reason never got round to. A list that grows larger and more unmanageable year after year.
I’ve always enjoyed portable gaming, since the very first Game Boy so I was always going to be a fan of the Switch whatever happened, but that’s not what keeps me playing it. With a new lighter version of the Switch on the market and another with extended battery life, it’s clear Nintendo knows its audience.
The truth is my gaming backlog was an important part of my motivation for buying a Switch. The fact that I could now play these games portably when I couldn’t previously meant I could get through more of them. I could save my PS4 and Xbox One for triple-A titles in the here and now, then use my Switch to plough through my ever expanding back catalogue.
This strategy is actually working rather well. Dragon’s Dogma, Bayonetta, Darksiders, all games I always wanted to play on previous consoles but never got round too. Now while my wife watches an endless stream of reality TV, I can chip away at my backlog. The Nintendo Switch has eliminated any competition for the TV. I don’t mind playing games around my family if they don’t mind, but truth be told I’d rather spend time with them. If they are occupied doing other things and the TV is often part of that, then it’s Switch time!
The older we get, the more responsibilities life thrusts upon us and we have less time for video games. It’s genuinely one of the reasons I got involved in videogame journalism. As a journalist by trade anyway, it was a desperate attempt to do more of what I loved.
Nintendo seem to understand my struggle and the Switch has absolutely found a grateful customer in me, but while I download ports of Resident Evil 4 (a game I’ve now owned on four different consoles) and chomp through my backlog, I realise that I’m spending money on games that are often sold for a quarter of the price on older consoles. Consoles I still own.
The fact is I’m spending this money for the convenience of portability. The freedom to simply un-dock my Switch when my wife wants to watch Strictly or the Bake Off and keep playing. I owned a Wii U for similar reasons and loved the PlayStation Vita for the quality games it offered on a portable basis. But why did they ultimately fail while the Switch is selling like gangbusters?
To be fair to Nintendo, they have plenty of new IPs and first party titles. Third party publishers/developers like Ubisoft, Bethesda and EA are also much warmer towards the Switch than they were towards the Wii U. It could be argued that the PS4, Xbox One and PC have just as many ports, and they don’t come at such a high premium.
The main difference though? Portability. The option to take triple-A games (granted they are slightly less glitzy then their PS4/Xbox counterparts) on the go for the first time. And the fact that these games didn’t used to be portable. If you had told me in 2011 that I could play Skyrim or Diablo 3 in bed or while I was on holiday I would have fallen off my chair.
So is the Nintendo Switch relying too heavily on ports? Probably, but I’m so very glad they are.