Choice is an important thing in a consumer market; you’re supposed to be allowed to make a rational and informed decision on something, or even just buy into a product out of sheer preference. Choice makes things interesting; people spend a lot of time, and a lot of money, working out how to differentiate their products to appeal to a new demographic or subset of consumers in order to convince them to part with their hard-earned.
When it comes to the whole Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, there’s been a lot of whinging already about its arrival onto the Switch. Oh it’ll be graphically inferior. Why would you want that? Why wouldn’t you play it in 1080p on the PS4, or 4K on the XBox One X? Why would anyone want a 720p handheld version?
… to which I say; why wouldn’t you?
Does it affect you in any rational or reasonable way? Probably not. Even if Switch sales are higher than your own, if your platform isn’t cratering into oblivion as a result – chances are the games will continue to come to your platform of choice and they’ll always have a higher resolution. Your tradeoff for that is… your console is locked in one place and attached to a TV in perpetuity. Your games look oh so pretty… but you still gotta pause the game to go and take a dump. Oh what’s that, your game doesn’t have a pause function? Tough luck there pal. Also, lol. And kek. And roflmao. You get the point.
But Switch owners already very much know their games will get a resolution hit, particularly in portable mode. And chances are, they don’t care. If the games look decent enough, play well enough and maintain performance for the most part when on the go – they’ll prefer that. They lose resolution – but they gain portability, the ability to take it anywhere they please. Which surely is the point of buying a hybrid console in the first place, no? Why even come up with the concept if you’re encouraging people to just keep it in one place?
So one person may be a purist and play let’s say Doom in 4K on an XBox One X, enjoying it in the comfort of their own home, gibbing demons and having a ball. Another person will be playing Doom on the Switch, down the pub, where their mates are all gathered around watching him rip demon spines out of the fleshy monstrosities of hell-infested Mars.
Does the guy playing it with his mates down the pub have any actual bearing on the person playing in 4K at home? Absolutely not. Never the twain shall meet, as it were. The two people are not having any impact on each other, but they are both playing the same game. And having fun.
What people miss in this is that consumers are being given choice – they now have options. You can invest in the best tech and go for 4K if you’re a purist gamer-type. 1080p base consoles like PS4 and XBox One S will be your middle-ground; decent performance and resolution on more affordable hardware. And if you want to be able to take your game with you on a plane (yeah, right, in this day and age?), on a train, on a boat, with a goat etc. – you can have the Switch version with you day and night, wherever and whenever you please.
This is a good thing.
There are now defined boxes, obvious saleable differences between the consoles. Sure, you can look for the differences in screenshots and pour over Digital Foundary posts about the pixel-density of textures between games, but consumers are being given very clear information now. Here’s a 4K Console. Here’s a 1080p HD console. Here’s a portable hybrid console. Which is important to you? What is your lifestyle like? What will fit into your world?
The industry is broadening and I believe it may continue to broaden somewhat as the years go on, and that’s fine as well. As long as consumers are given the right information to make a sensible and informed decision, it shouldn’t matter how they choose to play their games or what bloody resolution they end up playing them in – the simple fact is, they’re playing them. And the money is going back into the industry. You know, which they need to survive?
This also broadens the market for some games; Nintendo’s little hybrid portable getting 600-720p versions for on the go play won’t affect those on a PS4 (particularly since Sony clearly doesn’t want to associate with the riff-raff of the rest of the industry on cross-play). If the game can run, and run at an acceptable pace and framerate, what is it any of yours or my business if a person is playing it during their lunchbreak, or on a ferry, or whilst they wait for someone to get out of surgery (or even whilst waiting for surgery)? More sales numbers for the games in question, right?
I can’t see any real negatives here. If the industry all rushes in because the Switch does happen to sell more, and Sony and Microsoft have another go at copying Nintendo – remember Vita Controller and SmartGlass were things before the Wii U nosedived on the market, at which point Sony and Microsoft turned a 180 and ran at full-speed in the opposite direction (so, they’re bold enough to follow Nintendo into the jaws of the beast, then cowardly enough to let it go first and run when it eats the Wii U alive – hardly something for you fanboys to be proud of I’d say…) – then yeah. I might concede that’s a bit too far. I wouldn’t want this to be a thing where one company dominates because then that company might get complacent and not fix things in their services or hardware and push a bunch of truly outrageously awful games via their social media and YouTube feeds on consumers eh Sony?
It also keeps all consoles on their toes. They’re still somewhat competing. Now they’ve got to really entice you. So if you’re a person on the fence, whether or not to go for a Switch or PS4 version of a game, it’ll be up to Nintendo and Sony to try and coax you into their gardens, giving you offers and deals and whispering sweet nothings into your ear.
I don’t see this being awful – in fact, I think Switch versions might be really good. We’ve heard all those stories about dozens of games on PS4 struggling to sell copies – no Sony fanboys, your Garden of Eden isn’t the envy of the world – so actually a million or so additional copies sold on Switch might be good, particularly if budgeted accordingly in the first place.
And even better news for Sony and Microsoft fans is if companies have to consider the Switch seriously to begin with, chances are they’ll better optimise their games which means when the resolution cranks up on your devices – you’ll have technically better games as well as visually prettier games. A win-win, would you not agree?
This is all about options.
I never thought or dreamt about big triple-A games on Switch, but now that thought is dawning and it’s quite nice. It’s about respect, ultimately – not just for the hardware, but the consumer, and being open to the concept that some people aren’t buying your games not because they don’t want them, but because they don’t fit into their lifestyle. Not everyone stays at home in the evening. Some people spend a lot of time away, or in a hospital, or travelling from place to place. They’re just as valid a market.
As the Wii did, the Switch is opening up gaming to another demographic – the busy gamer, who doesn’t have huge amounts of time to spend gaming hours on end at home. Ten minutes here, half an hour there, another fifteen minutes on the ride home… it all adds up, and they’ll enjoy their time as much as anyone embracing the full 4K experience who sits down for a two-hour Halo marathon. Different people. Different lives. Different preferences.
You’re not going to lose anything on PS4 or XBox One. But game publishers and developers might end up shifting a few more copies of their game, and even 500k here or there can really help to justify the expense sheets to the shareholders.
If someone is okay with a Switch version of Doom – let them have it. If they pay £50 for it, so what? Oh you bought it second-hand for £20? One, that money technically isn’t going back into the industry and two… so what? Good for you. Go and play it. Enjoy it. I mean, you aren’t silly enough to go spend £20 just to try and prove some kind of facetious point, right?
There’s far too deep an obsession with trying to be seen as better than the other platforms. Reality check time; we’re all different. Our lives change sometimes. Someone may value the portability of the Switch and its games over a higher resolution. That’s okay. That’s their choice.
Ultimately, at the end of the day, they’re having fun.
If you’re not… why not?