In the world of video game consoles, the last few months have brought no shortage of exciting developments. For example, Sony already announced their plans for the PS5, the successor to the wildly successful PS4 that came to market in 2013. Microsoft, not to be outdone, is already prepping the Xbox Series X in an attempt to wrest the console crown back from its rivals.
At the same time, rumors are already swirling that Nintendo is working on an upgrade for its current-generation Switch console. They seem to be banking on the devotion of their legions of fans and the unique features of the Switch to keep sales humming along. It's no secret, though, that even an upgraded Switch won't come with the same horsepower as the competition.
It's that last bit that makes the latest gaming news coming out of the just-ended CES so interesting. The industry event saw computing giant Dell show off a concept for an Intel-powered handheld gaming console known as "Concept UFO".
The Power of Platform
Dell's Concept UFO, if it ever comes to market, will enjoy some serious platform advantages over the Nintendo Switch. That's because it's really a portable Windows 10 computer, which means it can play any PC game its' hardware will support. The advantage there is almost impossible to overstate. At present, a survey of video game developers reveals that 66% of them are currently developing PC games, compared to 18% for the Switch. When you add the enormous library of PC games already on the market (including most of the AAA 3rd-party titles on the Switch), it's clear that Nintendo can't compete. Their problems don't stop there, though.
A Giant Performance Disparity
On top of the selection of games, the Concept UFO will also blow the Switch away in terms of raw gaming power. Although the specifications for the forthcoming Switch Pro aren't known, there's little chance whatever upgrade it gets will narrow the performance gap in any meaningful way. That's because the demonstration at CES revealed that the Concept UFO will boast a 10th-Generation Mobile Intel Core processor. That architecture is light-years ahead of the ARM Cortex A57 that powers the current Switch console, and Nintendo has a habit of designing with long-established chipsets in mind, precluding any chance of them turning to a comparable ARM chip for the Switch Pro. So once again, Nintendo has some work to do.
The Deciding Factors
Any way you look at it, a fully-realized Concept UFO device would be both more flexible and technically superior to the best Nintendo has to offer. That means that the decision for gamers is almost certain to come down to other factors. The first is the allegiance that Nintendo fans have for the company. Their fanbase has carried them through countless other periods when it seemed they were bound to fade into irrelevance and could do the same again.
The second is the price. Right now, a second-generation Switch costs around $300, but it's unlikely that the Concept UFO would ever be available for less than $500. In fact, the high-end specifications might push the price far higher than that – into the $1,000 to $1,200 range (it is a full-blown mobile PC, after all). If that happens, Nintendo might still come out on top because there's a much larger market for portable gaming at the Switch's price point. It remains to be seen how many people would be willing to spend upwards of three times as much for a similar, though admittedly superior, system.
The Bottom Line
Only time will tell how this latest console entrant will far when (or even if) it comes to market. It's important to remember that this isn't the first time that a company has tried to bring PC gaming to the handheld market. The Razer Edge Pro tablet tried the same thing and it failed to catch on a few short years ago. If Dell learns the obvious lessons from that attempt and comes to market with a system that beats the Switch on all fronts and doesn't charge a king's ransom for it, then all bets are off. In that case, I wouldn't want to be in Nintendo's shoes over the next few years.