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HD Report | June 28, 2017

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Has The Nintendo Switch Killed Handheld Gaming?

Has The Nintendo Switch Killed Handheld Gaming?
Matthew Byrd

Don’t look now, but the Nintendo Switch is rapidly becoming a must-have console.

While some thought that the Nintendo Switch might be successful, the general consensus was that Nintendo was going to probably have to rely on their dedicated fanbase for immediate sales.

Instead, the Nintendo Switch is generating the kind of buzz a Nintendo console hasn’t generated since the Wii. Why the turnaround? Well, part of it has to do with the success of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but most Switch fans will tell you that the console’s portable functionality is more valuable than they ever would have thought it could be.

It’s gotten to a point where some Switch owners say that it’s impossible to go back to gaming on your phone once you own a Switch. Being able to play console-quality games anywhere you want apparently ruins you for the alternatives.

So does that mean that the Nintendo Switch spells doom for the handheld gaming industry?

If you’re thinking to yourself, “What handheld gaming industry?” then you’ve just stumbled on the point. With Sony effectively out of the market, the only two mobile gaming hardware powerhouses are the Nintendo 3DS/2DS and your smartphone/tablet.

Before the release of the Switch, some analysts speculated that Nintendo would eventually have to discontinue their handheld gaming line. They argued that there was no way that a piece of mobile hardware dedicated to mobile gaming could ever surpass the app market. Nintendo’s recent entry into app development seemed to have supported that theory.

Nintendo 3DS fans argued that Nintendo will continue to produce handheld hardware so long as there is a group of gamers that will never accept mobile gaming and have come to rely on the high-quality mobile games that Nintendo’s handhelds provide.

The Switch throws a bit of a wrench into that theory. Now that Nintendo’s console offers handheld functionality, and the company is still producing mobile apps, it’s possible they see their handheld line as a liability that cuts into the profitability of both those product lines.

This puts Nintendo in an awkward position. The 3DS line is still selling incredibly well according to Nintendo’s latest earning reports. While there’s no real reason for Nintendo to simply kill off the 3DS while it’s still selling well, they, quite ironically, do hold the fate of traditional handheld gaming in their hands.

If the Nintendo Switch is on track to rival the PlayStation 4’s sales by the time that Nintendo is ready to release a new handheld device, there is no way that they will do so. At best, they are going to release a version of the Switch that only functions as a portable console. If, however, they notice that there are enough 3DS owners who aren’t buying a Switch to justify the production of a mobile device, then they will likely manufacture one.

The truth of the matter is that it’s highly unlikely Nintendo will be able to justify releasing a non-Switch handheld device in the next few years. That’s just a testament to how much of a game changer the console is.

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