I love the PS4 and the Xbox One. They are terrific machines… for the summer.
In the summer, I don’t have to get up at 6:00am to get my family ready for school. I can wake up at the more humane hour of 8:30am. This means that I can go to sleep around 12:30am, instead of 10:00pm. My wife and the kids are asleep by 11:00pm during the summer, so I can get a good ninety minutes a night in on Persona 5 or Friday the 13th, if I want to. I have celebrated this seasonal change with the purchase of Horizon: Zero Dawn today. But even with this third-quarter flexibility, my “primary” platform will likely remain the Switch. And during the other nine months of the year, I will play the Swtich nearly exclusively. Why? Because ultimately, access is more important to me than visual fidelity. Also, access outside of the house turns out to be a REALLY important thing.
When the WiiU came out, and games could be played off of the TV screen and on a handset, it felt like a revelation. That feature was more ‘next gen’ to me than upping the resolution to 1080p, or integrating Twitch streaming at a system level. As a dad with a long commute and a demanding job, the WiiU upped my gaming time by a factor of three. I could start playing Bayonetta 2 while my wife was watching “Dancing with the Stars”… I no longer had to wait to play until she went to bed.
Sony followed suit by introducing remote play at the launch of the PS4, allowing players to stream their PS4 games to the VITA. In the early days, I had a problem with my setup, which would freeze the VITA screen every ten minutes or so. This was resolved by a firmware update, but I still couldn’t use voice chat with remote play, or have the comfort of using a full controller. Nonetheless, I found that I actually ended up spending more time playing PS4 through remote play than I did through my TV, leaving me to think of the PS4 itself as a really cool (and very expensive) VITA accessory.
I only picked up the Xbox One when Microsoft confirmed that it, too, would support off-screen streaming. I even bought a Surface Pro 3, so I had a Windows device that was compatible with Xbox game streaming. It worked great… when I used an ethernet cable.
All three solutions were important, in that they expanded my game time. But they all forced me to stay not only in my house, but in the living room… the streaming solutions were only reliable with an ethernet connection, and the WiiU lost sync when you were more than seven feet away from the base unit.
It was the launch of the Switch that fixed all of that.
With Switch, I was finally able to easily take my gaming experience to any room in the house, without having to worry about wi-fi dropouts or lag. And better yet, I no longer had to stay in my house at all to play.
Nowadays, I’m happy to pack a lunch, because that allows me to get thirty minutes in on my lunch break to play the same console game I enjoy at night on my 55” TV. I can keep progressing in my favorite games when I have to take a business trip. I can finally go back to playing in a leisurely way, min-maxing character gear or mastering difficult attacks. I don’t feel like I must make the most every session; I can relax and take my time.
In the Xbox 360/PS3 era, as I stated above, I got about thirty minutes a day to play, at night, after my wife headed to bed.
The WiiU and the remote play functions of other devices opened up an extra hour a day to play, giving me ninety minutes.
Being able to play outside of the house with Switch has expanded my weekday play by another 30 minutes, meaning I can count on two hours of gaming a day. And of course, I get significantly more time to play than I used to during the weekends… now, three hour gymnastics practices for my daughter on Saturdays are a treat, because I can take out Divine Beast while she’s doing her reps.
Finally, I am back to being able to play games the way I did when I was single. To immerse myself. To dig deep. I have all of the amazing benefits of being a family man, with all the game time I used to have when I fell in love with games like Metal Gear Solid and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
For somebody that loves games so much that they’ve devoted their professional development to it, Switch offers a quality of life difference.
This newfound freedom also makes it painful to go back to waiting for the TV to be free… or suffering through the lag and limited button layout of PS4 remote play. I now want to be able to play whenever, and wherever, the mood strikes me. And I don’t want a “portable” experience at one point in the day, and a “full console” experience at another – I want ALL of my experiences to be “full console” experiences.
Of course, Sony and Microsoft can win back my attention during the non-summer seasons. But they won’t be able to do it by upping the resolution of their experiences to 4K. They have to untether their boxes. Now, I really don’t want to have it any other way.