Explore Alastair's thoughts across three separate blog collections: 

 

contemporary

Updates and new stories about movies, TV shows, tabletop gaming and more. 

classic

Classic TV & film retrospectives from Alastair's personal movie collection.

nostalgia

Retro cartoons, toys and video games; the Nostalgia Collection is where you'll find everything that makes him feel nostalgic.

Making the Switch

As many of you know, on Thursday January 12th the world was formally introduced to Nintendo's latest console; the Nintendo Switch

Following the announcement, I made the firm decision that I would not pre-order. I thought the console was interesting, and it was certainly compelling, but I felt that I'd be far better off waiting to see what other games would eventually be announced and how well the console would fare. I already have an Xbox One, an Apple TV, a slew of iOS devices, retro consoles and a desktop computer with a subscription to LiquidSky. I don't really have room in my life to justify yet another gaming platform to invest in.

But then, in a moment of weakness, I pre-ordered one. 

What in the bloody hell was I thinking? I'd already decided that I wasn't going to be getting one and then suddenly I'm stood in the mall with a bloody receipt. What was happening?! I know that I of all people should be able to answer that one given that it was a decision that I made in my own head, but at that moment in time, I could not fully explain it. This then led me down a path of self-discovery that has since made me re-evaluate what it is that I actually want from a console these days and why I've finally decided to sell my Xbox One.

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To help me explain it, let's put this into context from the perspective of TV. For many years I haven't been happy with broadcasted television as a medium. Having to be at home at a scheduled time just to watch my favourite show was always frustrating growing up. Sure, I could always tape it if I didn't want to miss it, but that just seemed like unnecessary work and you'd always risk forgetting to set the darned thing to record anyway. It was all we knew, but it felt like there could be some better way of doing it.

The world wide web came along and at some point in the 90s, downloading video became possible. Then, after being inspired by a scene in the movie Hackers where Dade Murphy hacks into a TV station solely so that he can watch an episode of The Outer Limits, I dreamt of something akin to on-demand streaming and downloads existing in place of TV. With the likes of iTunes, Netflix, and BBC iPlayer, that future is predominantly becoming the reality. Both myself and my inner-child always get excited every time that we grow closer to that future I have always dreamed of, where being tied so strictly to a TV schedule is a thing of the past.

But there is one thing that I never really anticipated when I was younger, and that's how our viewing habits would change. It is no longer just a case of what we can watch, but that we can now watch it anywhere we want. I can watch TV shows or movies at home, continue them on my break at work, and then take my entire collection with me to a friend's. And if it came down to it, I could even watch something whilst I was sat on the shitter if I really wanted to.

The Nintendo Switch has made me realize that that's what I want from gaming as well. I already live in a world where I'm more mobile, where I can take things with me, and do the things I want to do where I want to do them, rather than being tied to a single place or time. Based solely on the devices I personally own, my Xbox does not grant me this same freedom. As a way of gaming, it almost feels antiquated. I cannot play my games in my bedroom or anywhere else outside of my home - but the Switch, however, will provide me with an experience that fits in with the rest of my life. My inner-child pretty much figured this out and pre-ordered it before I had consciously come to that conclusion myself.

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So thanks to an apparent lack of self-control, I'm now getting the Switch. But what of the Xbox One? Why am I selling it and not just keeping it?

Well the easy answer to that would be that by selling it, it makes the Switch more affordable. It's hardly an inexpensive system after all, and it doesn't even come with any games bundled in. You still have to buy those separately. But the truth is that there's more to it than that. To answer that question properly we still need to talk about the two main console giants and where the Switch stands amongst them.

It's easy to compare the Xbox One to the PlayStation 4 as they're both competing directly with each other. They're both marketed as both a games console and as a media entertainment system for your home. I made the decision to invest in an Xbox mainly so that I could play online multiplayer with my friend Tom back in the UK. But even so, I feel that Sony's offering is probably better than that of Microsoft's. Of course everyone has their own personal preference and neither console is a bad choice; they're both very good machines with their own dedicated followers.

However, I would propose that you can't really compare the Switch to them in quite the same way. The Switch isn't really a direct competitor in the traditional sense, and if you start comparing it as though it is (especially if you're comparing it based purely on hardware specs alone), then you'll probably just end up feeling disappointed. 

It is neither a console nor a handheld, yet at the same time it is both of these things. It is a portable that is able to adapt to any use case. It can be a traditional console attached to a big screen if you want it to be, but within an instant it can be as portable as a handheld, albeit somewhat more powerful. Alternatively, the kickstand can be flipped out and it can then be played upon a tabletop if you so desire. It is, quite simply, in a category of its own.

Nintendo always seems to aim to do something different, something that can appeal to anyone rather than just the mainstream, and the Switch is no exception. As someone who's never really been that excited about online multiplayer, I really love that Nintendo is also encouraging local multiplayer more than ever before. If you grew up gaming during the 8-bit and 16-bit eras like I did, you'll probably understand and appreciate how much of a draw that can be. 

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The problem I have now, of course, is that this provides a stark contrast for me between the two categories of consoles. On one hand, I have a pre-order for a portable device that compliments my way of living, but on the other, I have an existing console that in contrast feels frustratingly restrictive as a result. Whilst the two could easily co-exist, I find it difficult to justify investing in games for two current-generation consoles, especially when the very nature of my Xbox One being tied to my living room is the sole reason why I rarely get a chance to play it these days.

Everything about the Switch just feels fun! Obviously that's kind of the point for any games console, which makes it somewhat moot, but for me personally there's something different about the Switch. I definitely responded on an emotionally nostalgic level to the announcement and subsequent videos online. It seems to have evoked a feeling that I can only describe as being reminiscent of the excitement and joy I felt growing up when the consoles I loved were first introduced.

That's the kind of fun that I want again, coupled with the freedom to be able to play anywhere without feeling restricted by an antiquated method of gaming. And whilst my Xbox One is a perfectly good console in its own right, it's just not for me anymore.

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