All Future Consoles Should Have A Handheld Mode

The Nintendo Switch is a game changer. It has literally changed the game. Being able to play something on my TV, undock it, then continue playing in bed or on a train or wherever—it's so simple, so elegant, so brilliant. In fact, it's brilliant to the point where I now actively resent my PS5 and gaming PC, because when I'm playing a game on them I'm stuck there. Yeah, the PlayStation has remote play and there are similar options for PC, but it's not the same. That feeling of taking the hardware with you elevates the Switch beyond mere streaming. I firmly believe this is the future of console gaming. Not graphics, AI, physics, or any of that, but flexibility.

The concept of a console seamlessly switching between handheld and TV modes is so revolutionary, and so freeing, that I feel like it has to be a base feature in all future consoles. I want to be able to dock and undock the next Xbox or PlayStation in the same way, able to play proper full-fat games wherever and whenever I like. I feel like not having this feature would be like going back to memory cards or wired controllers. A disappointing step backwards. Nintendo has shown me just how powerful this freedom is, and now that I've tasted it, I can't go back to static machines that have to sit permanently under a television or connected to a monitor.

I was doubtful about the Switch at first. The first one I bought was a Lite, because I never thought I'd ever want to play it on a TV. Then I recently upgraded to the Switch OLED—which is sensational, by the way—and I quickly realised the error of my ways. I'm playing the superb Switch version of Alien: Isolation at the moment, and being able to undock the console and continue playing a 'proper' game like this—if I feel like reclining in bed, my partner wants to watch something on TV, or I have to hop on a train—is an incredible feeling. Even 5 years ago, the idea of playing something as big and dense as The Witcher 3 on a handheld would have sounded far-fetched.

But it's not just fancy triple-A games that make the Switch great—it's also perfect for clearing your backlog. Having indies, remasters, remakes, or long, text-heavy games like RPGs and visual novels on a portable device is a godsend. On a traditional console or a gaming PC, where you have to find time to sit on the couch or at your desk, a pile of shame can seem insurmountable. But when you can grab your Switch and have a quick blast on something, wherever you happen to be, you can make a serious dent in it—with the added luxury of being able to hook it back up to the TV if you want the big screen experience. This should be a new standard for consoles.

Granted, this means the Switch is not nearly as powerful as other consoles on the market. Playing a game as beautiful as Breath of the Wild through a layer of 1080p fuzz on a 4K display isn't ideal. But I'm sure the boffins at Sony can find a way to squeeze a PS6 into a handheld. They have to. Think of how liberating it would be playing the next Spider-Man game on your TV, then sliding it out of the dock, tossing it in a bag, then using a boring train journey or a long haul flight to mop up sidequests and collectibles. That would excite me more than how many polygons or ray-traced reflections the next wave of consoles can fill the screen with. I'm all-in on portability.

This is why I'm going to pre-order a Steam Deck, despite it currently being sold out and the next wave of hardware not arriving till October. Valve's new handheld is an incredible thing, able to run graphically intensive PC games with a level of visual fidelity the Switch could only dream of—as well as Steam's vast library of indies and other offbeat games. The imminent arrival of a dock makes it an even more enticing proposition, bringing the agile functionality of the Switch to PC gaming. Valve gets it, and I hope Sony and Microsoft follow suit. Being locked in one place while playing a game is medieval. It's time to free ourselves from these shackles.

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