The Nintendo Switch is beating smartphone manufacturers when it comes to mobile gaming

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

Very recently, I picked up the Nintendo Switch. I wouldn't consider myself as a hardcore gamer in any way, but I still on occasion find myself firing up my PlayStation 4 whenever a decent title comes along that ignites my interest. With the Nintendo Switch, however, it piqued my interest the moment it was first announced back in 2016. Considering that I was a Sega fan in the early days of the console wars, and subsequently Sony by the time the original PlayStation was released in the mid-90s, it's unbelievable even now thinking that I ended up getting the Switch – more so when I bypassed classic consoles from the famed Japanese company like the original Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and N64.

As much as mobile games have come a long way, they don't seem to have what it takes to keep my interest on a long-term basis. It's really ironic how Nintendo of all the current console giants, was able to reel me into its grasp – while opening up my eyes in the process to realize that smartphone manufacturers have been trying for ages to bridge the gap between consoles and mobile, but without much avail. To be more specific, I'm talking about those hardcore gamers, those who really invest a ton of their time into their games.

And then it dawned upon me, the Nintendo Switch, even in its short existence is already beating all of these mobile manufacturers when it comes to mobile gaming. Even though the Switch is first and foremost a console, it breaks the mold with its uncharacteristic design and portability – drawing inspiration from our mobile devices. I really hope that companies listen up, taking what Nintendo is doing with the Switch, and elevating mobile gaming to the next level.

Mobile gaming from the beginning to now

Ever since my first cell phone, a Nokia 5190, I remember picking it up and playing Snake to kill time. It was crude for sure, nowhere as satisfying as a PlayStation 2 or Microsoft XBOX back in the early 2000s, but it still achieved what we get out of games on-the-go even now. Through those early years, mobile gaming has been relatively isolated to these puzzle and card games, mainly because the hardware in mobile devices wasn't really tuned for gaming. Needless to say, it wasn't a priority for most phone manufacturers back then. Anyone else remember Solitaire preloaded with Windows Mobile phones?

It wasn't until we started to get into today's modern smartphones, iOS and Android devices, that really upped the game to a new level. Games now are complete with beautiful visuals, compelling stories, and deeper gameplay – often requiring some serious investment of time. Come to think of it, most of today's high-end mobile devices can rival the graphics produced by last-generation home consoles. It's amazing how far we've come when it comes down to mobile gaming, so it's a testament in how they can rival dedicated consoles in terms or raw power when you consider how compact they are in comparison.

Interestingly enough, we've had a handful of mobile devices that were specific to gaming. Do you remember the Sony Xperia Play? Or how about 3D gaming courtesy of smartphones like the HTC EVO 3D and LG Optimus 3D, which featured 3D displays that didn't require users to wear glasses. And how can we forget the vast gaming centric devices, like the NVIDIA Shield Tablet or more recently, the Razer Phone? These all were undoubtedly created with mobile gaming in mind, but none of them have been able to really capitalize in bridging the gap.

Personally, I feel as though that the Sony Xperia Play was the closest thing to bridging the gap. Commonly referred to as the PSP phone, it's one of the few phones ever to be imagined and brought to life with an actual integrated gaming pad. I remember how awesome it was to play Gun Bros using the digital sticks, which were used to emulate your standard analog sticks on a controller. On top of that, many classic PlayStation classic games were ported over – allowing me to experience the same console-grade games I remember playing growing up, but now on mobile. Unfortunately, the brakes were applied and we never saw such a thing again after the Xperia Play. What a shame I tell you, it definitely had some promise!

We've also seen several accessories through the years that aimed to deliver that console experience to mobile. Take for example all of those Bluetooth gamepads, which have practical applications over touch controls. For first person shooters that require a multitude of toggles and buttons to manage, these gamepads are essential – providing superior controls over on-screen touch buttons. While we've been given several gamepads to choose from, the problem in most cases is the lack of support from the developers. Frankly, not all games supported them, which reveals the fragmentation that's plagued mobile gaming.

A console, but not your average console

All of this leads me back to the Nintendo Switch, which isn't your average gaming console. Nintendo has been through a whirlwind rollercoaster ride, garnering acclaims with past consoles such as the SNES and Wii, but not without failures of its own in the process – like the Wii U for example. Gaming and mobile has been intertwined with one another in a more intimate fashion in only the last decade, but it's just now that we're getting the perfect implementation.

What makes the Nintendo Switch so unique is its design, which improves upon Nintendo's previous efforts with the Wii U – a failed attempt in trying to bridge that console and mobile experience. In terms of the guts, Nintendo hasn’t outright clarified what's under the hood powering its latest generation console. It's been revealed, though, that it's powered by a custom Tegra chipset from NVIDIA. More akin to a mobile device, as it features a 6.2-inch 720p LCD display, there are obviously similarities that paint it as a tablet or phablet – sans any cellular radios though.

The true beauty in the Nintendo Switch is how its game controllers, known as Joy-Cons, are able to quickly snap on or off the Switch. At home, you can remove them from the console and play your games on the big screen – while sitting back and relaxing on your couch. Alternatively, the two Joy-Cons that come packaged with the console can actually be used as two separate gamepads, allowing for multi or cooperative gaming on the go. And of course, what's really satisfying about the Switch is that gaming can continue beyond the home while it's docked – just because you can simply continue where you left off by attaching the Joy-Cons to it and removing it from the dock. It's mobile, which makes it unique amongst home consoles.

This sort of implementation is something that's lacking with today's mobile devices. Sure, using a Bluetooth gamepad can achieve something similar with smartphones and tablets, but they're not quite as effective or ingenious as the Joy-Cons. Nintendo seriously put a lot more thought in this than most mobile  or accessory manufacturers, showing me why it's the kind of route that companies may need to follow in the mobile space if they want to be serious about mobile games. Don't get me wrong, smartphones today can easily be transformed into a home console of sorts, but it involves a bit more beyond the intuitive approach we get from the Switch.

Being complacent

Speaking about that, the reason why there's been a lack of innovation when it comes to gaming from a mobile perspective is that developers, manufacturers, and publishers have all become complacent. They view mobile gaming in a totally different light, than say, these console manufacturers. And you know what? The evidence is apparent by just visiting either the iOS or Android app stores, where the majority of games leverage the same model – touch games that have you tapping and swiping your way through them. And don't get me started on all of those endless runner clones that seem to be popular.

I'm not saying that they're terrible, but rather, they don't really have what it takes to engage me on a long-term basis. Most of the time I just resort to playing them to kill time during a commute, or beat my previous high score. Recent mobile games that I've personally played, like OneMoreLine and Snake vs Block, are two prime examples of what I'm talking about. Then you have those endless runner and puzzle games, which are a staple with mobile gaming – with barely any learning curve associated with them! Well, I suppose that's their intent, offering anyone to play them without much skill involved.

They're fun, especially when you're competing against a friend to achieve bragging rights. On the other end of the spectrum, however, there are still many other notable mobile games that get my attention – such as the case with console ports, like Grand Theft Auto. Then again, the controls scheme on mobile tends to diminish my desire to play them. For a while, I was invested in a few first person shooters on mobile, like the Dead Trigger, Modern Combat, and NOVA series. Visually, these games were utterly amazing looking, rivaling consoles to some extent. As I mentioned already, the controls with these types of games were never convincing to me – so after a while, it just became boring when auto-targeting would constantly kick in.

Looking at the Switch's success and innovating mobile gaming

Thanks to the Nintendo Switch, it has opened my eyes about an aspect of mobile gaming that's lacking. That's co-operative gameplay, where two or more players can join in on the fun using one device. I haven't come across that yet with a smartphone or tablet, so that's an area of opportunity. I bet that it's feasible when you can pair multiple Bluetooth gamepads to a device, but to date, I have yet to see a game that leverages that. In comparison, the Nintendo Switch encourages social play right out of the box – since it's technically packaged with two Joy-Cons. Buy another pair, then you'll have a total of four controllers to play with friends.

And that's what I love best about the Switch, versus mobile gaming with either a smartphone or tablet. There's a social aspect to it on a local basis, wherein you play games together for a common goal. True, there are some mobile games that offer multi-play online, but not locally to the same degree we get from the Switch. Mobile manufacturers will really need to take grasp of the Switch's success and implement new innovations that'll take mobile gaming to that next level.

While there's no standard to abide by, unlike the Switch, it would be nice at the very least to first emulate the Joy-Cons for mobile – while also getting developers on board to offer local play. It'd be nice, in fact, if I were able to start a game while on a flight, and later on, have my neighbor next to me get in on the action as well. It's a nice first start for sure! However, there's still more needed to really make mobile gaming just as compelling as what I find with the Switch.

Nintendo has been branching out beyond its consoles, entering new territory on mobile with games like Super Mario Run and Pokemon Go, proving that Nintendo's beloved characters are huge draws – even on mobile. The possibilities are endless, if and only if more emphasis is given to mobile gaming from hardware manufacturers and gaming developers. The latter especially, seeing that I've played through my fair share or poorly executed ports of classic Nintendo franchises like Mario Kart. Have you tried playing Beach Buggy Racing? That's a perfect example of a terrible emulation of Mario Kart!

For now, though, most of my gaming will still be done on the Nintendo Switch. Considering how Nintendo is redefining console gaming in the process, it'll be interesting to see what other additions will be added to the Switch's arsenal to further enhance its gaming experience. As for mobile gaming, it's not going away entirely either, but it's still largely going to be for those times when I want to kill time. I wouldn't invest any additional time beyond that.

How do you feel about mobile gaming? What kind of changes or additions would you like to see? I'm curious to know, so let me know in the comments below



31. Chris_ABN

Posts: 203; Member since: May 16, 2018

To me gaming on a smartphone is a horrible experience compared to console gaming. While I can't lie I do game on my S9 Plus with the PlayStation 4 remote and a console emulator. Games on the Google play store I will never play because I just don't find them fun. Mobile gaming

30. mixedfish

Posts: 1574; Member since: Nov 17, 2013

As long as the mobile market expects to pay 99c or nothing for gaming apps, then mobile gaming will forever be dead in the water or based on cheap gameplay. Game development costs a lot, and not paying devs decent money means they are forced to put in micro transactions. Micro-transactions is instant death for gameplay because it's a self-fulling prophecy in design to never give the player what they want without paying.

29. LordDavon

Posts: 188; Member since: Sep 19, 2011

We have 3 Switch consoles in the house. My wife and youngest daughter each have one, as well as I do. I really love it. I also have an Xbox One behind my TV in the bedroom, and a PS4 Pro in my office. My PS4 is my console of choice, but I have to be in my office to play it. I picked up a Gaems 19" portable kit to make it portable, but it is really bulky and cumbersome. My Switch is my go-to console for when I am out of my office, and many of the games are too great to pass up. Besides the Zelda and Mario games, which are both 10s in my book, the Switch is an Indie Gamer dream. I've got Gamevice controllers for both my iPad Pro 10.5 and my Galaxy S8 Plus, but both feel like I'm trying to turn them into something they aren't designed for. The Switch is gaming, right out of the gate.

28. Luuthian

Posts: 332; Member since: Sep 09, 2011

Couldn't agree with the article more. The main issue here though is that the cellphone market is completely fractured. No standardized hardware exists for controllers or attachments. The only company that has an ecosystem that would allow for competition is Apple and they seem to have zero interest in working with third parties to standardize a controller or making a gaming controller/platform of their own. Honestly it's a huge shame seeing as Apple has the funds and the market for it. iOS games are a *massive* chunk of their profit. Apple simply lacks the will, not the means

27. BlazeHN

Posts: 10; Member since: Jan 27, 2014

Nah, RPG is still too gimmicky, all those "gaming phones" still just powerful phones with gaming gimmicks. The only real gaming phone was the Xperia Play, sadly it was released with outdated hardware and mobile gaming industry was just developing for that time. At this date with mobile gaming being so huge and with important ports like Fortnite being directly in phones the market is just begging for a real gaming phone with INTEGRATED PHYSICAL CONTROLS, something that slides like the old Xperia Play would be amazing, I just wonder who will be the first to catch the opportunity. Also, a Nintendo Smartphone would be a dream come true... With powerful hardware and very good phone design for everyday use + physical integrated controls and AAA full Nintendo Games, I would buy something like that day 1 and gladly pay $40-60 per game, haha.

20. bucky

Posts: 3797; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

The switch has full games and refrains from a pay to win template. With all the power smartphones have now, we still get the watered down side scrolling, auto moving gimped versions. I’ve only played a hand full of games that actually felt like console grade.

16. KingSam

Posts: 1551; Member since: Mar 13, 2016

I'll wait for switch 2. Right now a gaming pc is my focus. As soon as I see some good sales.

19. whatev

Posts: 2459; Member since: Oct 28, 2015

Well the switch already has many AAA games and it’s also getting some AAA announced at the E3 this year, the amazing thing is you can play those games on the go, some people tend to overlook that fact and underestimate that feature which makes it awesome, you have to experience it to understand this point, I’m loving my switch so far

22. SamsungNewbie

Posts: 143; Member since: Jul 06, 2013

Get both! That's what I did and I'm very happy with them =) Can't play the newest Zelda on a PC and it was worth the Switch purchase alone.

26. japkoslav

Posts: 1553; Member since: Feb 19, 2017

You actually can get it on PC, 4K even ... you know emulators. I own dsi xl, 3ds xl and new 3ds xl, but Switch? I am most likely skipping 1.gen, mostly 30fps and not consistent fps is not good enough for me as a mostly PC player and Nintendo games player. I do not mind to wait for better more durable, more powerful, more mature hardware.

15. perry1234

Posts: 655; Member since: Aug 14, 2012

I hate the freemium model of most games. Please just take my money upfront and don’t make getting guns/cars/upgrades ridiculously difficult.

23. Odeira

Posts: 300; Member since: Jun 29, 2012

EVERY game maker should just follow the Epic Games model. Everyone's on the exact same playing field, but those who will pay will get purely cosmetic add-ons that, to quote Fortnite, "offer no competitive advantage". Compare the Epic Games model to Rockstar and GTA 5 Online. They try to nickel and dime you at every opportunity.

32. perry1234

Posts: 655; Member since: Aug 14, 2012

Agreed! Didn’t expect it from a big studio like Rockstar though ...

11. Nine1Sickness

Posts: 896; Member since: Jan 30, 2011

How much did Nintendo pay you guys to write this article? The Switch is DOA.

14. c.m.s

Posts: 239; Member since: Dec 10, 2017

Get your fact straight. Nintendo is doing great with the Switch. I enjoy mine very much, its a great little machine. For me, just Zelda alone is worth the money it cost, its a masterpiece IMHO. I have a PS4 Pro, a Switch and an iPhone X as my gaming platforms. The Switch and iPhone get all the time I have for gaming though. I bring the Switch for longer trips (and use it at home) while the phone is my go to unit when commuting to work.

18. whatev

Posts: 2459; Member since: Oct 28, 2015

The switch is the best selling console in history in its first year in the US, wyd

21. SamsungNewbie

Posts: 143; Member since: Jul 06, 2013

It's a great console, I really enjoy mine. It almost has as many good games as Android and much more than iOS. I'd recommend one.

10. TechSceptic

Posts: 1156; Member since: Feb 05, 2018

The switch is definitely better for games, as smartphones were never good for games. The only thing smartphones are good for are simply games that don't try to overcomplicate things, as touch controls on a small screen don't work well with complicated games. That's why games like Fortnite and PubG are just dumb to play on a phone.

24. davthom123

Posts: 121; Member since: Mar 02, 2015

There are gamepads and gamepad support for mobile games.

8. Foxgabanna unregistered


6. davthom123

Posts: 121; Member since: Mar 02, 2015

Smartphones have the power(both in processing power and battery life depending on the smartphone one has),switch has the games its as simple as that.current games like pubg,fortnite,ark give hope for the future but those are online games and I doubt many single player games are going to make the jump from consoles to mobile (I should point that there are quite a few good a and aa budget games on mobile but no triple a ones unless u consider ports of old games AAA).don't know why Sony killed the xperia play when it looks like it should have mixed it with their portable console and maid an xperia play vita or something.

3. nikhil23

Posts: 507; Member since: Dec 07, 2016

So we're comparing consoles with mobiles huh ? I bet mobiles are beating the s**t out of switch when it comes to making calls or mobile photography.

5. rouyal

Posts: 1603; Member since: Jan 05, 2018

No one is trying to make calls or photography with the Switch, but people are trying to game with phones.

12. errnope

Posts: 43; Member since: May 23, 2018

Exactly. Which is just adding weight to the post you're quoting. People are also not trying to walk around with a phone that has two controllers tacked onto it and will never fit in their pocket. That's the reason why it beats phones for gaming. It is a gaming device. A phone is not that. It is a general purpose device that can play games. Of course it will always be beaten by a purpose built device.

9. nodes

Posts: 1165; Member since: Mar 06, 2014

basically they are the same device for gaming though. smartphone nowadays have better display, and SoC powerful enough for way better quality games. but then you need to wait in real-time or.... you know you can spend your gems.. it's the devs fault if mobile/smartphone gaming is s**tty.

2. worldpeace

Posts: 3135; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

And then, ROG phone say "Hi".

7. vincelongman

Posts: 5836; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

I'm hoping the next ROG phone has the SD1000 If there's a good Switch emulator by then I'd be very tempted to get it

17. japkoslav

Posts: 1553; Member since: Feb 19, 2017

And than ROG phone said "we have android games" and all Nintendo owners laughed their ass off.

25. whatev

Posts: 2459; Member since: Oct 28, 2015

Your comment is so delusional, I’m-

1. rouyal

Posts: 1603; Member since: Jan 05, 2018

Huh. With a title like that, I was expecting a revenue or userbase comparison. So it’s just an opinion piece from the author who bought the switch? Phone games never interested me, though. I’m old school (was 6 when the NES came out and got it for Xmas), so I need physical controls and mobile games feel shallow. My problem with the current systems are their dependence on internet and huge game updates and patches, which is why I think the 360 will be my last console. If I can’t take a brand new console and game out of the box and play it without making an online account and download 20gigs of data, then I have no use for it, and feel I don’t truly own a copy of the game. I DO wish I had the switch. Odyssey and Zelda has me halfway to my wallet, when Metroid comes out, I might not be able to resist.

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