Each “generation” of video game consoles has a theme.
With the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), it was the promise of arcade-quality graphics and gameplay at home. With the Nintendo 64 / PlayStation 1 generation, it was the promise of 3D gaming.
Part of why a game like “Super Mario 64” is such a big deal was because it set standards for how 3D gaming works — standards that are still employed today:
That concept of themes still exists today with the current generation of consoles: the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Wii U. The theme this time? Being the centrepiece of your living room.
This is why the Xbox One has an HDMI-in port — so you can pump your cable box through the Xbox itself rather than turning it off. This is also why the PlayStation 4 and Wii U have dozens of streaming video apps, the ability to browse the internet, and much more. The Wii U even had a concept called “TVii,” which was meant to “revolutionise” how you watched television (the service was shuttered in 2015).
It’s also why — in the case of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One — a low-power mode was included that enabled the consoles to be started far more quickly than in the past.
The concept is simple: Turn off the PS4 or Xbox One in “low-power mode,” and the next time you turn it on everything is exactly as it was. The game you were playing? It’s still running, and you can hop right back in where you left off. Convenient! At least that was the reaction when this stuff was announced in 2013.
More than just convenient, it’s become an expectation. For most modern electronics — stuff like computers, tablets, and phones — the concept of shutting down completely is the exception.
And that’s why Nintendo’s new console, the Switch, is such a revelation. It’s incredibly speedy, and its version of “low-power mode” is near-identical to that of a tablet or a laptop.
Unlike the PS4 or Xbox One, you press a button on the Nintendo Switch and it turns on — instantly.
This cannot be overstated: On the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, turning on the console — even in low-power mode/quick start mode — takes far longer than it should. Rather than turning on instantly, ready for action, they plod along and slowly load. They feel old, and muddy, and — frankly — not as good as modern electronics should.
On the contrary, the Switch feels like modern technology.
It turns on quickly, it goes back to sleep quickly, and jumping from games to the home menu is instant. It feels like using an iPhone, albeit much larger and less premium.
Most importantly, the speed at which it operates respects your time. It seemingly acknowledges that you may only have a few moments to play a game, and encourages that kind of use.
And when you’re using the console at home, the Switch operates more like an Apple TV or a Roku than a traditional game console. It literally takes longer for my television to switch HDMI inputs than for the Switch to turn on.
It makes the other two game consoles sitting in my entertainment center feel like dinosaurs in this respect. It makes my TV feel old (which, in fairness, my TV is old). And while there are plenty of things about the Switch that it’s lacking — Netflix and Hulu, for example, or cloud saves, or major game franchises like “Call of Duty” — it completely nails one of the most important aspects of operation: It’s fast and easy to use, regardless of where you are. And that’s huge.