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The Nintendo Switch is winning because it’s ‘good enough’

Graphics aren’t the most important thing

Rocket League on the Switch Psyonix

Nintendo doesn’t release sales information for non-Nintendo games on the Nintendo Switch, but chatter among indie devs about strong sales has been common since the system launched.

According to the sales charts on the system itself on Nov. 22, Rocket League is outselling Super Mario Odyssey, and Skyrim and Stardew Valley take the third and fourth-place slots. None of these games look the best on the Switch, but Nintendo has made a system that is thriving due to games and ports that look good enough, but no better.

Everyone likes to say that a game’s visuals aren’t the most important thing, but we also argue endlessly about frame rate and resolution. The entire point of the Xbox One X is that it’s the most powerful console ever made; it’s a product for people who want to rest easy knowing that they are getting the best looking console version of every game that’s available on the system.

Rocket League is an ideal Switch port. The resolution is limited, and there isn’t much in the way of aliasing. The team made graphical sacrifices to make sure the game ran at 60 fps, and it was the right decision. The game feels amazing in action, and the bright colors of both teams and the ball itself makes the action easy to follow even if the graphical fidelity is lacking a bit when compared to more powerful systems. You can tell it doesn’t look as good as other versions of the game, but you can play it in the bathroom. The rest is meaningless.

Skyrim is in the same boat. The visuals have taken a hit, especially if you’re used to playing on a PC with mods installed. But who cares? The game itself is there, and it looks good enough for you to get lost in the adventure.

The same can be said for the heavily graphically reduced version of Doom that is currently the fifth best-selling game on the Switch. It doesn’t look great, and the frame rate is all over the place, but it’s good enough to be a fun diversion on the road ... as long as your hands can handle the strain.

This is the first time my children have played the game, and their beautiful little minds are being blown by the number of things to do and see, and being able to let them play on the Switch while the rest of us are watching the Great British Baking Show on the television makes everyone happy. It’s good enough, which is exactly what it needs to do to sell well on the Switch, which happens to be the bestselling console on the market right now.

This is the beauty of Nintendo; while Sony may think it’s in competition with Netflix, Nintendo went ahead and created a console you can play while watching Netflix.

What the hell, Paul?

Nintendo focused on making a system that was easy to use, relatively inexpensive and could be both a portable and a home console. The stats show that players are taking advantage of these factors, and the sales speak for themselves. In a business where it often seems like companies are killing themselves trying to push for the greatest visual fidelity possible, Nintendo has completely shifted the conversation to convenience and fun. The Switch is being richly rewarded for this approach.

Nintendo has also changed the game when it comes to third-party developers. Visual quality is no longer the most important thing, the game just has to run well enough to be playable and enjoyable. A company’s back catalog of older games is now a treasure trove of potential Switch ports. Fans are asking for any number of games from any number of companies to be brought to the console, and publishers would be wise to listen to them.

The Nintendo Switch once again proves the value of changing the game if you can’t win by the existing rules, and there’s not much Microsoft or Sony can do to gain the same momentum with strategies that focus on raw power. Nintendo has this market all to itself, and that’s a great place to be. The game developers just have to learn that looking good enough is a great way to sell a game to an appreciative audience.