As Microsoft and Sony continue to duke it out over whose console will offer the "true 4K experience," Nintendo has decided to head in a different direction by playing to its strengths in the handheld market.
Its new hybrid console, the Nintendo Switch, features a detachable screen that can be taken with you as a portable device. Nintendo’s direction doesn’t have graphical fidelity at its forefront. Instead, Nintendo is doing what Nintendo does best, and that’s doing its own thing.
Sony and Microsoft, however, seem to be embroiled in a fierce battle over which games run better on which console. Comparison videos on YouTube show title X running side-by-side on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
For many people, you’d have to be an eagle to spot the differences, yet these arguments on graphical power and fidelity have somehow found themselves at the center of debate over the companies' newest consoles: the PlayStation 4 Pro and the Xbox Scorpio.
Xbox Scorpio vs PS4 Pro: Which Is the Better Console?
PS4 Pro vs PS4: What's the Difference?
Sony’s new PS4 Pro console is out in just under two weeks, but you’d be forgiven for not knowing that, or knowing the main differences between a PS4 Pro and standard PS4.
For those who don’t know, simply put: Sony’s new console is a more powerful PS4 and games with PS4 Pro support are able to render higher or more consistent frame rates, increased environmental and character model detail and improved overall visual quality.
It’s up to the developers how they want to use the extra power that’s now available. Unfortunately, discussions on native rendering and frame rates often result in an over-complicated mess of jargon which many people have great difficulty understanding.
We’ve also seen little advertising for the PS4 Pro as a result, presumably because it’s so difficult to fully explain the benefits of the system without making the original PS4 sound a bit shit.
The PS4 Pro doesn’t require a 4K TV either – it can display much higher resolutions than the standard PS4. Only time will tell when upgrading to a new console becomes a viable move. For now, a lot of people are on the fence.
Xbox Scorpio: “The Most Powerful Console Ever Made”
Meanwhile, with a release date yet to be confirmed, Microsoft remains quietly optimistic about its new console, the Xbox Scorpio.
Xbox boss, Phil Spencer, said in a recent interview that he is not worried about Sony’s head start with the PS4 Pro. Microsoft describes the Scorpio as “the most powerful console ever made,” capable of supporting “true 4K gaming and streaming.”
While PlayStation split their resources into working on the PS4 Pro and PlayStation VR headset, Microsoft will be spending its time working on developing the Scorpio instead.
The added bonus of being able to watch how well the PS4 performs in its first couple of weeks will grant Microsoft extra strength on how to handle the release window for its Scorpio console.
It's Nintendo's Time to Shine With the Switch
And while Sony and Microsoft argue over the merits of true 4K gaming, Nintendo is simply focused on creating fun video games – after all, that’s what Nintendo has always been about, right?
Developers who work with Nintendo say fun is the top priority when creating video games, and the heated battle currently taking place between Microsoft and Sony presents a fantastic marketing opportunity for Nintendo to present itself in a way that stands out among its competitors.
While current owners of Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles argue over which console to pick up next, Nintendo is trying to capture the biggest audience possible. Nintendo is doing more than simply taking its first steps into the mobile market; its utilizing this platform to reach the maximum number of customers with its intellectual property. Did you enjoy Mario on your iPhone? Well, you’re going to just love it on the new console, Switch.
If Nintendo ever needed a chance to shine, it’s now. The Wii U console was an embarrassing failure for Nintendo and its latest financial report shows sales of the system are down more than 50 percent in comparison to last year. The Nintendo 3DS is now ore than five years old and, while titles such as Pokémon Sun and Moon will surely shift more systems, it’s reaching the end of its cycle.
Nintendo has said that its mobile games and Switch won’t replace handheld consoles, but these new ventures will ultimately determine its handhelds’ fate.
What Does the Future of Gaming Hold?
Microsoft and Sony also have their own ideas about the future of gaming. Microsoft’s "Play Anywhere" allows cross-party support with select first party titles. Games such as Gears of War 4 and Halo Wars 2 can now be streamed via any desktop, laptop or tablet that supports Windows 10.
Due to the restrictions of an internet connection, it’s a far cry from the accessibility and portability that Nintendo’s Switch console provides. Where it succeeds is the ability to transfer save data and game licenses across multiple platforms.
Nintendo is yet to announce if its future mobile titles will be playable on the Switch, and if there will be an extra cost to do so.
The Virtual Reality Battles
Sony is taking its first steps into the future of gaming with the release of its PlayStation VR headset. Games such as Resident Evil 7, Call of Duty and Final Fantasy will join their foray into virtual reality. While it may take virtual reality many years to become a commercially viable product for the masses, Sony’s VR headset carries the consumer-friendly price of €399, making it much cheaper than the competition.
For the time being, Microsoft seems to think it’s still early days to be pursuing VR technology for Xbox consoles. When asked about its current standing as a gaming platform at E3 this year, Phil Spencer replied, “We’re early. We’re really early.”
Phil Spencer’s right. It is early days for virtual reality. Microsoft had its own ideas about future of gaming with its Kinect peripheral. Ultimately, the functionality of the device was pretty limited. As Microsoft quietly killed the idea over the years, it’s allowed them to see how quickly things can go wrong when eager jumps are made into unexplored gaming territories.
With Microsoft taking a backseat and consolidating its creative efforts elsewhere, it'll be able to make a jump into the world of VR, or augmented reality, when it feels the time is right.
All Eyes Are on the Mobile Market
As for Nintendo, it has been slowly watching the market change and making calculated decisions as a result. The mobile game market is now more profitable than PC and console, so it’s only right that Nintendo has partnered with Japanese company DeNA to bring five free-to-play games to mobile, as well as partnering with Apple to bring Mario Run to iOS this December.
Although they didn’t publish it, the success of Pokémon Go has helped raise brand awareness and influence software sales for Nintendo’s own Pokémon titles.
Yet, for all the praise that can be given to Nintendo for finally acting with some foresight, it’s a shame that it is yet to fully embrace the digital market. With a vast wealth of quality content available across its library of old consoles, why isn’t Nintendo utilizing the strength in previous generations and bringing that to the table?
It’s an opportunity that was missed with the Wii U, and we hope that, if the Switch is successful for Nintendo, it will ride the nostalgia train and offer top-quality, old-school Nintendo titles at affordable prices.
So What Does It All Mean for the Gaming Giants?
Right now, Nintendo is aiming to hit a huge target audience of gamers. Of course, if the Nintendo Switch is a failure, it might only be the mobile market that Nintendo is part of in the future.
For now, Nintendo’s Switch console grants an opportunity to reconnect with the Nintendo fans they may have lost over the years. Alongside that, the Nintendo Classic Mini NES is Nintendo’s chance to case in on its nostalgia-fueled back catalogue; Nintendo fans old and new will be able to play some of the greatest Nintendo games ever made for the NES in HD when it releases later this year.
While the Sony and Microsoft console wars continue, Nintendo proves it's pursuing as many paths as possible in a bid to stand out.