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Why the Nintendo Switch is the ideal streaming hardware for parents

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God bless you, Nintendo, for not including a browser

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The Nintendo Switch is an interesting case study in what’s actually required to have a competitive gaming console. It’s neither a very powerful system, nor did it launch with many of the features most people would consider mandatory for systems in 2017. But it’s wiping the floor with the competition, and is home to some of the best games in recent years.

And now Hulu is available on the Switch. Hulu is the first video streaming service available for Nintendo’s latest console in the United States, and the portable nature of the Switch makes it an attractive home for the app and those like it. It’s competing with everyone’s phones and tablets for that honor, of course. But in this case, it’s important to look at what the Switch doesn’t do — because that’s why it’s a great fit for parents who want to let their kids watch television on a portable screen.

The Nintendo Switch can’t accidentally make calls like your phone does. Your children won’t find themselves on YouTube, at the mercy of some questionable algorithm. There is no web browser at all, so you don’t have to worry about your children somehow getting online and being exposed to all the “joys” the wider internet has to offer.

It’s easy to set up a password to get into the eShop, so that children can’t spend money without their parents’ permission. In short, there’s very little trouble a kid can get into while watching Hulu on the Switch, outside of seeing what else is available on Hulu.

And that’s a relief. Trust me, I have five kids. That’s a lot of kids. Take the number of children you have, and add a few kids. That’s what it’s like having five kids. As Jim Gaffigan has astutely pointed out, having that many children is like you’re drowning ... and then someone hands you a baby. It’s a lot to deal with.

Yes, you can set up your phone so your children can’t get up to any monkeyshines, but at some point you have to remove all those blocks, and it’s a pain in the ass. You can lock down your iPad the same way, but it takes at least a tiny bit of time, and if you want to use the tablet yourself, you’re going to have to, again, be switching your safeguards on and off. That doesn’t seem like much, but having one less to worry about in a house filled with children is a blessing. And right now, Nintendo is delivering that blessing.

The Switch is a toy, sure, but it’s also another screen you can hand to a kid so they can watch or play what they want to watch or play without taking up the television in the living room. It’s a toy that now includes streaming but not all the other bullshit that’s a big temptation for kids to get into and watch all sorts of whatever.

Nintendo started with nothing but games, and it’s slowly adding functions to the Switch. That’s the way to do it. Handing a kid a screen that they can watch Steven Universe on but that doesn’t, in any way, allow them to get online outside of that app is amazing. Limitations can actually improve systems, and Nintendo is proving that approach to be a sound strategy.