Tech Bros Will Never Kill the Switch
Contributed by DJMMT
What so many people outside the Nintendo community and gaming ecosystem don’t understand is why the Switch is so successful. Every time a new handheld gets introduced, a bunch of tech nerds and media start using terms like “Switch killer” only to see those devices flounder or barely scrape by, doing nothing to challenge the Switch’s dominance in the handheld market. The Steam Deck, the ROG Ally, the Lenovo Legion Go, and whatever other handheld PC gaming device that comes along in the near future won’t be able to defeat the Switch, because they keep trying to make devices that aren’t actually competing with the Switch.
For years, I have asked for a PC gaming version of the Switch. And I have not been alone in making that request. Lots of Switch owners, and non-Switch owners, have asked for a device that mirrors the Switch for PC gaming. And in true PC hardware, tech bro style, the companies that decided to take on this task misunderstood the assignment. Or rather, they misunderstood what makes the Switch the Switch and not just a glorified tablet. A tablet is not a Switch, and a Switch is not a tablet. You know what else a Switch isn’t? A gaming PC.
When you build or buy a legitimate gaming PC, you are purchasing a specific device for a specific experience, at a specific price range. I personally have a custom-built desktop I use for high-end PC gaming. I’m currently in the process of building a brand-new desktop for high-end PC gaming, because my system is seven years old and can’t run newer games well anymore. I would never consider buying a Switch to replace my gaming PC. And I would never consider the new gaming PC I’m building to act as a replacement for my Switch. The two devices may both be for gaming, but they’re meant for very different things.
Let me summarize what I want from my gaming desktop/PC. I want to be able to play the latest, most graphically intensive games with the highest quality of graphics, audio, and customization options/capabilities to tailor the experience exactly the way I want it to be. While I don’t personally use mods, I do intentionally purchase games on PC that I might consider using mods for, such as anything made by Bethesda. While I am not one of those “30 FPS is unplayable” people, I will not settle for the game running badly on my PC. I should not be experiencing lag, screen terrors, regular frame rate drops, or other performance issues. When I decide to play a game on PC, I expect a premium gameplay experience. As such, I expect and intend to play games on my PC in the same stationary location every time I play them. That’s what I want from my PC, that’s what I expect from my PC, and that’s what I spend months agonizing over overpriced components to achieve on my PC; and I am not alone.
Now, let me summarize what I want from my handheld AAA capable gaming device, heretofore referred to as a Switch. First of all, I don’t really want to play AAA titles on my Switch. While I do play AAA Nintendo first party and Switch exclusive titles on my Switch, I would never purchase a multiplatform AAA title like Mortal Kombat 1 on my Switch; and I don’t want to. I have a PS5 and PC for AAA titles. So while I do often play AAA games on my Switch, all of them are Nintendo exclusives, and I basically never play them in handheld mode during the first playthrough. What I want from my Switch is the ability to play both slow paced and indie titles portably with reasonable performance. I especially like to play games on my Switch that don’t require me to play with sound for the bulk of the experience. Games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Overcooked, and Carrion are exactly the types of titles that I want to play on my Switch. I want to be able to start and stop playing instantly, and then pick up where I left off with basically no lag time. I want to be able to take my Switch anywhere; and I need to be able to store lots of games on it at the same time. I want my Switch to be easy to charge and fast charging. I want to be able to easily connect to wi-fi and Bluetooth devices with my Switch. As I don’t require the best audio or graphics experience from my Switch, I don’t want to pay a premium price for it. I should not be spending the price of a high-end GPU to buy a Switch. I want my Switch to be easy to use, out of the box, with as little friction as possible. I should not have to spend much time setting up and troubleshooting my Switch. That’s basically everything I want from my Switch; and I am not alone.
Clearly, what I want from my PC and my handheld gaming device are very different. Yet these PC tech companies don’t seem to get that. Every time I see a new PC gaming handheld announced, it always comes down to specs rather than function and price. But that’s stupid, because I don’t expect my handheld to rival my desktop. All I want from my PC handheld is the ability to play ALL my PC games, regardless of which launcher I bought them on, with decent performance. And when I say decent performance, I’m fine with 30 FPS as the minimum. I don’t want to play new AAA PC titles on my handheld. I don’t want to play competitive multiplayer, with a few exceptions, such as possibly racing games, on my handheld. I don’t want to have to hack my handheld just to get it to play all my PC games. I don’t want to have to spend several hours setting up my handheld the way I would my desktop. I don’t want to have to break my warranty in order to expand the storage on my handheld. In fact, ideally I can expand my storage without removing a single screw. Just like with my Switch, I want to prioritize indie titles that I can play casually without sound. In fact, I’d say that’s more the case with a PC handheld than a Nintendo handheld, because I actually do want to play AAA Nintendo games on my Switch. I just play them docked. I wouldn’t play a single AAA title on my PC handheld, because I’d play those on my desktop.
The problem with PC handhelds so far is that they aren’t actually competing with the Switch. They’re competing with PCs. Which essentially means they’re competing with mid to low-end gaming laptops. I don’t want a gaming laptop. I want a Switch for my PC games. If I could get a Switch for my PC indies, I’d probably never buy another multiplatform indie on Switch. There are countless indie titles I bought on Switch because I wanted to play them handheld, but would have absolutely preferred to buy on PC, because the prices were way better. The fact that these PC tech companies don’t seem to get that is weird. They keep making it about hardware performance rather than convenience and price. But it’s not entirely their fault. I actually put a lot of the blame on tech media, because they aren’t actually gamers. They’re tech bros with less money. They don’t care about gaming for the sake of gaming and what gamers want. They care about specs and hardware comparisons. They care about technology as the end goal, rather than what that technology will actually be used for by consumers.
Go look at all the people being widely referenced for their content about devices like the Steam Deck, ROG Ally, and Lenovo Legion Go. It’s not gaming channels like PewDiePie, Markiplier, or Pokimane. It’s tech reviewers like Linus Tech Tips, Gamers Nexus, and JayzTwoCents. These channels may feature a lot of gaming related content, but they aren’t actually about gaming. They use games as a tool to measure hardware performance. They don’t actually care about the games themselves or how people will ultimately play them on different devices. And that’s exactly why it’s so hard to get a PC gaming handheld that can rival the Switch. The conversations about these devices are never focused on the things that make the Switch successful. They’re always talking about what makes desktops and gaming laptops successful. I almost bought an ROG Ally. I actually really like the device. But it costs way more than I want to pay for it. The top-tier ROG Ally model is $700 right now. I can get the top-tier Nintendo Switch for $350. The Ally is 100% more expensive than the Switch, and I won’t play a single AAA title on it. I play AAA games on my Switch. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Super Mario Odyssey, Pokémon Legends: Arceus, and the list goes on. I play these games docked a majority of the time, but I do play AAA titles on my Switch. If I buy an ROG Ally, or any other handheld PC gaming device, I will never play AAA titles on it. Or at least not current ones. Because I’ll play those on my desktop, like the gaming gods intended. So I’m being asked to pay double the price for a device that requires half the functionality for my intended needs. And that’s true for a majority of people that want a PC gaming handheld. They don’t actually want a high-end gaming PC in their hands. They want a Switch that runs PC games across all launchers at a Switch price.
As soon as someone delivers Switch pricing with cross launcher functionality and no hassle, that device will sell like hot cakes. And it will potentially rival the Switch. Save for the fact that Nintendo first party titles are still god-tier games. But when it comes to all the people who have amassed giant collections of PC games over the years, like all those Epic Games Store freebies, they just want a convenient, affordable option to play all their PC games in handheld mode. And no, they don’t need 120 FPS, 4090 raytracing, and Bose level audio to play Cult of the Lamb or Cuphead. If you want to kill the Switch, make a Switch. If you want to kill desktop PCs, you won’t be able to do it with a handheld.