Real Good You Guys Nintendo Nvidia and Not Chasing Power

first_img Real There You Guys: Ready Player One and Nostalgia as Generational PoisonReal Good You Guys: ThinkGeek’s Bags of Holding (Fast Travel and M… The Nintendo Switch is a huge success, it has great games, it executes its promised concept seamlessly, blah blah blah. All of this is true, and it’s all been talked about extensively. I think a really important, interesting detail has been overlooked in all of the gushing about Switch sales numbers and game review scores, especially after the release of the Xbox One X, Microsoft’s self-described “world’s most powerful console.”I’ve reviewed both systems, along with the PS4 Pro, for And yes, while we couldn’t perform PC-like benchmarks to compare numbers, the Xbox One X certainly seems to be the world’s most powerful game console based on hands-on testing. It doesn’t come close to what you can get out of a gaming PC, but the scalability and expense of PCs means you’re comparing $500 hardware to $5,000 hardware when you’re really trying to get the best performance. For a $500 box, the Xbox One X is really impressive.And yet, while I’m impressed by the Xbox One X, I’m not actually interested in it. Outside of fanboy circles, it looks like not many people really are that interested in it. It feels like a niche product, wedged between the much less expensive Xbox One S and much more expensive but much more powerful gaming PCs. I don’t think anyone is denying the system’s power, but the response has similarly been lukewarm.The emphasis on power and the high price creating a product that seems very niche even among gamers reminds me of another device I reviewed a few years ago, the Nvidia Shield TV. You might remember Nvidia’s Shield, that handheld Android game system that was basically a big Xbox gamepad with a flip-up screen. The Shield TV was the set-top box version, an Android game console in the same vein as the Ouya, MadCatz M.O.J.O., and a whole lot of other, even more forgettable Android game systems.I’m bringing this back around to the Switch, don’t worry.The Shield TV was the most powerful Android game system at the time. Even today, its power is up there and its game-focused engineering means it’s still one of the best Android devices for playing games. It also was one of the first 4K media streamers, before Roku and Amazon caught up. It’s a legitimately impressive device that didn’t find much of an audience outside of certain groups of enthusiasts because, while it had the power, Android games really aren’t that appealing. To Nvidia’s credit, GameStream (local game streaming from your PC) and GeForce NOW (game streaming from Nvidia’s servers) are really impressive features that let you play much better games than what’s on Android. Still, it didn’t make a huge splash, because the power didn’t actually mean anything to most people.Nvidia still offers the Shield TV, and has been regularly updating it (it received a 2017 redesign that makes it even smaller without changing the processing power, and it recently got hands-free Google Assistant support), but it’s still clearly a niche product. It’s an accessory for hardcore PC gamers more than its own stand-alone device. And as a hardware company, Nvidia is well-suited for that sort of product. It was never expected to directly compete with the major game consoles like the Xbox One X is trying to do, and it can’t really be described as a failure. It just wasn’t a huge hit.It was the most powerful Android game device in 2015, but it hasn’t been chasing the position with regular hardware updates like the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro have with their respective platforms. And here’s where it gets interesting: It’s in the Nintendo Switch.The Switch is built around Nvidia’s Tegra X1 processor, the same APU used in the Shield TV. That’s two-year-old technology. And the Switch doesn’t even output at 4K like the Shield TV can at least do with video. The Tegra X1 is still Nvidia’s most powerful mobile processor, but it’s no GTX 10, and in terms of sheer power it’s far behind the Xbox One X.We’ve all given Nintendo a lot of crap over the years for lagging behind Microsoft and Sony on the power front. They were a generation behind in stepping up to HD, and they aren’t going to hit 4K any time soon. And the Switch is clearly not the most powerful system out there, with some aggressive dynamic resolution adjustments in certain games. But, for all those complaints, I’ve been using my Switch way, way more than any other game system. And, since the system came out, it’s had more excellent games that have appealed to me.And even when I notice the bits of jank from the Switch’s lower power, like rough lines in Super Mario Odyssey or rough framerate/resolution switches in Doom, I don’t actually mind any of it that much. Because I still get a ton of fun out of those games. I can feel the Switch’s lack of power compared with the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro, and I just don’t care about it.Because Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild are solid contenders for Game of the Year without 4K or any overly fancy lighting or particle effects. And because I can play Doom and Stardew Valley anywhere. It’s because engaging gameplay and strong visual design mean far more than graphical power.This is a press photo from Nintendo. The Switch’s screen is 6.2 inches. No one would actually be standing six feet away and playing it with a friend, while wearing a parka. It’s a dumb photo.Not everyone has a 4K TV, and even fewer people have HDR-capable 4K TVs. Things like absurdly detailed facial animation, individually rendered blades of grass, and photo-realistic particle and lighting occlusion effects look great, but they don’t make games great. We learned that with The Order: 1886. Technically impressive, power-hungry graphical features are fundamental to hardcore PC gamers, but they’re a novelty for most when held against gameplay and design.While Microsoft and Sony were chasing raw power at premium prices, Nintendo was studying the blade focusing on concept and design. It went with Nvidia’s Tegra X1 APU not because it was the most powerful, but because it was the right chip for the job. Microsoft gushes about (and legitimately produces) the most powerful game console in the world, and it’s overshadowed by a tablet with a two-year-old processor and no 4K support. That’s pretty amazing.This doesn’t mean that power isn’t an important factor in game systems. Nintendo can’t lag behind too much, or else it’ll find another situation where it’s pitting the Wii U against the PS4. But power isn’t the most important factor in game systems. It wasn’t when the Shield TV was the most powerful Android gaming device. It wasn’t when the PS4 Pro was released. It isn’t now that the Xbox One X is here. The experience is always more important than the power behind it.Nintendo recognized this, and that’s why they worked with Nvidia to use a mobile processor in its latest system. And now we have the Switch, a game console that doesn’t even attempt 4K, but has has one of the most strongest launch years we’ve seen in a long time, and made a legitimate smash thanks to its execution and library.I have to be honest, I’d much rather play Super Mario Odyssey in 720p than Call of Duty: WWII in 4K HDR. That’s because, even without absurd processing power, it’s real good you guys. Stay on targetlast_img

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