There’s been plenty of speculation over the Nintendo Switch. The hottest issue lately has been the reported lack of power compared to the industry standard PS4/XB1. The latest information suggests the Switch’s CPU will be locked at 768MHz when docked, and drop to 307.2MHz when removed from the dock in its portable form. Many have also mentioned the Shield TV uses the same chip and runs at 1.0GHz.
These are two separate issues, so let’s look at the least important one first.
Pro – Running at a lower speed outside the dock is not as bad as it sounds
When the Switch is in the dock it has to provide an HD display for screens that could be 10x bigger than its 6.2 inch portable display. It will obviously take a lot less processing power to produce a 720p image on the go, compared to upscaling a 1080p display on a much larger television.
Also, phone and tablet manufacturers have been known to proclaim the highest possible numbers for clock speed, but neglect to mention the dips in performance that come when heat-reduction becomes a factor. Nintendo has a reputation for solid performance and could be using the lower lock as a means to maintain optimum conditions.
Con – The tech is further back than we thought
Sure we’ve seen the Switch run Breath of the Wild, Splatoon, Mario Kart 8….wait a second those are all Wii U games!
Will the Switch simply be the mobile way to play retro games like Wii U ports and Skyrim?
Everyone was excited with the recent jump in GPU tech. The ability to cram more power into smaller, more efficient chips, seemed to work perfectly with Nintendo’s scheme of a smaller device. But using Nvidia’s older Maxwell instead of the current Pascal takes that idea behind a barn and puts a bullet in its head.
Pro – Nintendo has created gorgeous games on under-powered hardware before
Ever since the N64, Nintendo has found a way to work within their limitations. Mario 64 was a friggin’ launch game but looked outstanding because they highlighted the strengths of their hardware.
Big, simple, and colorful polygons looked fantastic.
Other devs were busy trying to cram in too much detail and ended up with a blurry mess.
The Wii and Wii U had far less ‘bits’ than the competition and still managed to create beautiful games. Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 are astounding on the Wii, while the Wii U’s first-party titles are generally superb to look at.
This brings us to our next con.
Con – Low power means the Switch will be for Nintendo only
All of the games I mentioned that look so nice are all made by Nintendo. They have the motivation and resources to craft Nintendo exclusive games that look and feel spectacular.
But in today’s gaming climate the big dogs Bethesda/Ubisoft/EA etc will most likely not spend the millions necessary to create a one-console game. The AAA games will continue to go PC/PS4/XB1 and Nintendo gamers will once again be left with Mario and co.
Pro – Indie and Mid-tier could fill the gap
Indie games are better than ever and often provide some of the most interesting experiences each year. In 2016, if I could only play Stardew Valley, Inside, Firewatch, Masters of Orion, Rocket League, Thumper, Crypt of the Necrodancer, Hyper Light Drifter, Banner Saga 2, and the rest, I’d be just dandy.
To achieve their vision of a seamless mobile console, Nintendo obviously had to limit the ceiling of hardware power. If the battery life can reach five hours and the performance doesn’t suffer when off the dock, I’ll be very satisfied with Nintendo’s vision.