The Switch 'hybrid' concept has, over the course of four years, proven to be a significant and important success for Nintendo. It's not just about the sales figures and huge profits, but it's lifted Nintendo's brand back to the sort of influence last enjoyed in the days of DS and Wii, albeit the outrageous sales of both of those systems together is unlikely to be matched. Nintendo is once again incredibly popular and prominent in the mainstream entertainment space, playing a major part in setting trends and getting shop tills to ring.
The magic of Switch is arguably its flexibility - to some it's a portable, others a console, and in all likelihood most of us use it as both. Yet Nintendo's promotion of the hardware is often humorously — how to put it -- unrealistic. As my colleague Kate highlighted in their internet reacts to Switch OLED round up, Nintendo doesn't seem to know how most people play games. It's aspirational marketing, I suppose.
What's always tickled me about these commercials — right back to the original reveal in which a bunch of basketball players hang out by a court playing NBA 2K — is Nintendo's idea of how we might use the tabletop setup. Aspirational it may be, but the only thing it makes me aspire to is better eyesight, frankly.
As a thirty-something that wears glasses, tabletop mode has always been a fun, if impractical, oddity. In the early-ish days I recall wanting to test portable performance of Sonic Mania for our review and convincing my brother to play splitscreen with me in tabletop mode. In a scene that definitely wouldn't fit Nintendo's breezy concept trailers, both of us — grown-ups in our 30s — were hunched over the system attempting to play Sonic with just three inches of screen each. In hindsight, that was ridiculous.
I've made exceptions where I've gone all-in on tabletop mode, primarily in Ikaruga. If I had a Flip Grip I'd play it in handheld with that lovely TATE view, but instead I use the stand accessory I bought (the original kickstand won't allow it, nor will the new OLED one, for that matter) to play vertically, squinting at the screen as I use a Pro Controller. Sometimes a little discomfort is worthwhile for a great game.
But of course, when it comes to tabletop mode it's all about the memes. Who can forget the original trailer in which a system is taken to a rooftop party for a bit of Super Mario Odyssey? It spawned a million jokes but actually, it's not that crazy. Back in the distant past of actual social gatherings I saw a scene a bit like this play out. Sure, it was a friend's wedding in which many attendees were genuinely gaming addicts, but someone did actually whip out a Switch, at a party, for some impromptu tabletop multiplayer. I couldn't see the screen very well, mind, but it did happen.
Back in the distant past of actual social gatherings I saw someone actually whip out a Switch, at a party, for some impromptu tabletop multiplayer. I couldn't see the screen very well, mind.
Maybe that's partly why the OLED exists, because Nintendo is determined to make tabletop gaming a 'thing'! Heck, the kickstand is a giveaway, almost as if Nintendo is saying 'there, stop complaining, now go play Mario Kart in the pub'.
Okay, my tongue might be in my cheek there, but if you stand back and look at the evidence, pretty much everything about the OLED model is there to make portable and tabletop play better, with the only concession to TV players being a LAN input and a slightly curvier / better looking dock.
Can that extra screen size and a crisp, colourful OLED output help this short-sighted player re-discover the joys of tabletop gaming?
Er, maybe? Well, probably not. I certainly don't plan to go to a trendy coffee shop full of people relaxing, enjoying the ambiance and soft jazz, only to interrupt their vibe by yelling "oh you dirty son of a—" at a friend who just red shelled me in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Then again...
Maybe that improved kickstand won't get much use, but it's nice of Nintendo to think of us short-sighted glasses wearers, in any case.