It's fair to say that Nintendo has always been the dominant force when it comes to handheld gaming. Their biggest competitors in the market have always been Sony, and more recently, mobile gaming, but while mobile gaming can rack up millions more users, the sales of the Nintendo Switch prove beyond a doubt that there is still space in the market for them.
The last decade has been a tumultuous time for Nintendo's handhelds. In 2010 they were still riding high on the success of the Wii and DS, which was soon followed up by less-than-desirable results from the early 3DS, and of course the entire lifecycle of the Wii U. Although we know how this ends now.
Nintendo's handheld strategy has transformed for the better over the course of that last decade, and it's time for a quick chronicling of events…
The Nintendo DS became one of the most successful consoles of all time, and Nintendo knew it was time for a successor. The dual-screen design with a touch screen on the bottom was a winning formula, and plenty of games and genres found their home on the Nintendo DS thanks to the new ways to play.
Of course, this touch screen revolution was also the mainstream public's first introduction to touch screen gaming, which we are now all too used to with modern smartphones.
Nintendo decided to follow up with another new way to play and introduced the 3DS. The console was more powerful and came equipped with dual cameras and a gyroscopic sensor, but the biggest innovation was the stereoscopic 3D screen, which allowed for glasses-less 3D gameplay. And by and large, it worked.
It was also a tough sell. A lack of essential games at launch, and a public totally unsure what the benefit to the new system was, resulted in early price drops and a lackluster first year of sales. This is when Sony decided to enter the scene with their new handheld.
Viva la Vita
Unlike the 3DS, the PS Vita had a slew of big games coming at launch, including numerous handheld editions of popular console games, including Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Assassin's Creed. These games were unique exclusives, and while clearly not as crisp as their console counterparts, it was a strong selling point.
The PS Vita could've overthrown the 3DS in time, and the console still has a strong fanbase thanks to a wide range of interesting and quirky games that were released for the console. Although a poor show of support from Sony themselves saw the PS Vita slowly but surely fall to the wayside, as the Nintendo 3DS started rising prominently with excellent exclusive titles, including Pokémon X and Y, Super Mario 3D Land, and Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
From this point on, it was set. The PS Vita may have had its fans, but with Sony themselves not supporting the system, hope had pretty much been lost, and the 3DS continued to rise with the New 3DS and eventually the 2DS - a tacit admission from Nintendo that, perhaps, stereoscopic 3D gameplay isn't all it's cracked up to be. And if traditional gaming was what the public wanted while on the move, that was what Nintendo was going to deliver.
Nintendo Switch *click*
The Nintendo Switch wasn't a 3DS successor, or at least that's what Nintendo claimed. But right now it's quite clear that the success of the Nintendo Switch makes it Nintendo's only active handheld right now, and who can blame them?
The Wii U flopped hard for Nintendo, and so Nintendo decided to double down on the handheld sector which they had always been dominant in. The Nintendo Switch was a simple idea: a console that allowed you to play games of the same visual standard of that seen on Wii U, but while on the move, and even more improved when plugged into a television.
The idea was simple and genius and the console launched alongside The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Couple that with an insane first year of exclusive games, and a very strong showing of support ever since, and it's no wonder that the Switch has been a success. Although, we still can't help but miss the unique gameplay variety we saw on the 3DS.
The Nintendo Switch has brought the handheld gaming scene up to par with home consoles, and now we're seeing amazing titles like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, DOOM, and Wolfenstein II come to the handheld system, giving handheld exclusive players their first taste of modern high-end gaming.
The Nintendo Switch isn't perfect, but it's a strong system with a fantastic range of games available, and in the future, it seems that Nintendo will continue to push handheld and mobile gaming forward. That said, I would really like a Nintendo Switch Pro… Please, Nintendo?