The Nintendo Switch is expected to both cannibalize the sales of Nintendo’s portables and take over the company’s console business. It’s the Apple strategy: If users grow out of their iPods, make sure they’re growing into an iPhone.
But Nintendo needs to offer a certain feature if it wants to serve both portable and console markets: The Switch needs to be able to plug into a wall outlet without using the dock.
The “portable but only kind of” idea that Nintendo began with the Wii U was more powerful than some people think, and it’s something I want to see continued with the Switch. The internal battery is a great feature when you take the console out into the greater world, but I’m one of those people who likes the idea of playing longer sessions of their games from different rooms of their house.
Or, hell, being able to play six hours of Skyrim on a flight that provides power would also be a killer feature. I still don’t think anyone would want a Switch without a dock, but being able to take it on a trip without packing the dock for charging would be a very nice thing indeed.
The problem is that a countdown begins the moment you remove the Switch from the dock, and that’s an annoying state of affairs if you’d like to play somewhere else in your house away from the TV without worrying about battery life. A simple charger that connects directly to the Switch itself, without requiring the dock, would allow for marathon sessions in the basement, the bedroom or the home office without worrying about losing power.
Nintendo has a weird history with chargers when it comes to its portables. The company has launched portables that don’t come with a charger at all. The Game Boy Advance SP required a headphone adapter that plugged into the charging port if you didn’t want the people around you to hear the game you were playing. The Wii U’s base unit had to be plugged into the wall to work, while the GamePad offered an internal battery as well as the ability to plug directly into a wall outlet.
The GamePad’s battery, by the way, lasted around three to five hours, and Nintendo sorta offered a battery upgrade from time to time. The Switch’s battery has to power both the entire system and its screen, which means we can likely expect a similar battery life even if Nintendo includes a much heartier internal battery.
There’s plenty of reason to be hopeful
It appears as if the Switch connects to the dock for power using a USB-C connection, Retail leaks indicate that USB-C chargers will sold for the console. Nintendo supporting a non-proprietary charging connection would be great news for players, especially since this decision would make it trivial to have multiple charging cables kept around the house or taken on the road.
Hopefully Nintendo agrees that we should be able to play for longer sessions without taking breaks to drop the Switch back into its dock for charging, even if that charging is relatively rapid. Being able to plug the Switch hardware directly into the wall — to play games or to charge away from the dock — is a nearly mandatory feature for what Nintendo is hoping to achieve in launching a portable that also wants to be a console, or a console that wants to be a portable.
It may sound like a simple thing, but it’s an issue that is hopefully covered during Nintendo’s Switch stream tonight.