OPINION: There are few brands as beloved as Nintendo, and for good reason. The company is behind some of the best games and consoles ever made.
Most recently, this has been highlighted by the Nintendo Switch, which at launch was one of the best and most innovative consoles ever seen.
Though it wasn’t a powerhouse technically, the custom portable form factor, motion controls and docking system were revolutionary at the time. This, plus stellar early games like Zelda Breath of the Wild, led to strong sales for the first few years of its life.
But recently, there’s no denying the Nintendo Switch has begun to feel a little stale. On the one hand this is because, outside of Metroid Dread, I’ve not seen a lot of exclusive games I’d actually like to play on the Switch this year.
For me this is just a symptom of a wider problem with Nintendo’s current strategy: it doesn’t seem to care one bit about competing on a hardware level.
This was showcased most recently when, after months of speculation, Qualcomm revealed it is indeed going to release a gaming focussed chip for use in Switch-style games consoles, the Snapdragon G3x. What’s more, it has already come up with a concept device running the chip that was built in partnership with gaming powerhouse Razer.
I’m not going to pretend the concept is terribly exciting. It actually looks a lot like a Razer Kishi with a smartphone soldered in, but the idea behind it is excellent. To catch you up, the Snapdragon G3x isn’t attempting to take on Intel Core or AMD Ryzen chips, like the ones seen in the Dell Concept UFO or the Valve Steam Deck. It’s targeting the cloud gaming market.
From what we heard at the briefing it will be able to run “most” games in 1080p at 144Hz, which isn’t to be sniffed at – though until we get a list of titles and what graphics settings Qualcomm’s referring to gauging quite how impressive this is will be tricky.
Instead it’s the chip’s Wi-Fi 6E and 5G mmWave hardware that interests me. Qualcomm spent a lot of the chip’s reveal showing off its Game Pass, GeForce Now and Stadia support, claiming it will power a fresh wave of portable consoles. This plus the Razer Concept’s ability to output to an external display via USB-C in 4K scream’s affordable Switch rival.
Yes, the Steam Deck and Dell Concept UFO have shown similar features before the Razer Concept, but for me there’s a crucial difference. Both of these devices have focussed on having powerful internal components and the ability to play games locally.
This is a key reason the 512GB Steam Deck retails for £569 – you can get a 64GB version for £349 and 256GB for £459, but considering how big PC games are these days, these will run out of space fairly fast, based on our experience. Every version of the Steam Deck is more expensive than the flagship Nintendo Switch OLED which released this year.
Considering how common key gaming features, like high refresh rate panels, are becoming on the mid-tier segment of the mobile market, there’s no reason the devices running Qualcomm’s new chip couldn’t be competitively priced.
If Qualcomm can position its, supposedly Android-powered, portable consoles as streaming stations, with low £200-300 and below RRPs this could make them a much more compelling option, especially if the services come bundled with subscriptions to Game Pass, Stadia or GeForce Now.
Given my experience using the Razer Kishi mobile controller dock and a Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus to play games via GeForce Now over the past year and a half I can definitely see the appeal of a device like the new Razer Concept.
Which is why for me, if it wants to compete, Nintendo needs to do a lot better in 2022 if it wants the Switch to retain its place as my portable console of choice.