According to the President of Nintendo, Mr. Shuntaro Furukawa, the Nintendo Switch is only in the middle of its life-cycle as it reaches its sixth year on the market (quote courtesy of Nintendo Life:
Switch is just in the middle of its lifecycle and the momentum going into this year is good. The Switch is ready to break a pattern of our past consoles that saw momentum weakening in their sixth year on the market and grow further.Shuntaro Furukawa
When I saw the quote, I thought of my old computer – the computer that The New Leaf Journal started on. I built that computer in July 2011 with work and gaming in mind. It used a then-current-generation Intel i5 CPU, a solid video card, and 16 GB of RAM. Today, the computer has been revived with Bodhi Linux (a bit more effectively than my colleague’s 2007 MacBook) and it runs quite snappy. It occurred to me that if I purchased a real gaming video card for it (it had one until 2016), it would run most of my game library quite well (the games that run on Linux, at least).
For the purposes of ordinary computing and gaming, the leaps between generations of technology are less than they used to be. Take my computer for example. If my current computer caught fire and I was left with no choice but to use my 2011-build as my primary desktop, I would get by with almost no issue (especially if I upgraded from 16 GB RAM to at least 32). Could the same have been said in 2012 about that same computer if I had a 2002 build? Perhaps – but less likely so.
The Nintendo Switch is oft-criticized for its comparative lack of graphical and processing prowess compared to the previous two PlayStation and Xbox consoles. But it is all relative. I remember the first time that I saw a Sega Dreamcast in action in 1999. The difference between Dreamcast and its prior-generation rivals, Nintendo 64 and PlayStation, was dramatic – far more dramatic, in my view, than the difference between the PlayStation 5 and the PlayStation 3 (that is my subjective assessment, to be clear, not a scientific comparison).
Now let us come back to the idea that the Nintendo Switch could have a 10-year life-cycle. If we define “life-cycle” for a console as the period wherein a console is the company’s flagship system, the Switch 10 years would be without major precedent in the United States, Japan, and Europe (lest one makes a niche case for the Neo Geo. Whether or not things pan out in this way for the Switch, I think the sentiment is a good one.
We should encourage companies to produce game consoles, computers, phones, and software that can serve as flagship products for many years. Speaking for myself, I want repairable, quality products that will be worth using for several years. I do not want phones with non-replaceable batteries that will only be supported for two years (see my post on the Teracube 2e and its replaceable battery). In the area of game consoles, game technology has reached the point where we ought to encourage companies that provide unique experiences that stand the test of time, something that I think Nintendo has done quite well over the past two decades despite not having offered the most powerful console since the period between the release of the Nintendo 64 in 1996 and the Dreamcast in 1999. Moreover, it is always interesting to see what developers can squeeze out of a console as they perfect their knowledge of what it has to offer.
Before concluding, I will include a note about the universe of Linux-based operating systems for computers and other devices that breathe life into old hardware. Thanks to LineageOS and Ubuntu Touch, I am enjoying using two Nexus 7 2013 tablets. It is worth noting that my LineageOS tablet is no mere curiosity, but a feature of my mornings and evenings as an RSS reader and lite web browser. While there are limits to how far old devices can be stretched, especially phones and tablets, that electronics that would otherwise be long obsolete can be useful nearly a decade after their release thanks to the efforts of interested and talented communities is a good thing.
Who else is with me on encouraging durable tech that stands the test of time?