The Nintendo Switch OLED may not tick all of the boxes gamers caught up in the rumour mill may have been expecting. There’s no sign of 4K, or that improved Nvidia processor that was purportedly going to power the thing.
However, this is no iterative upgrade. The presence of a much-improved, larger 7-inch display, complete with a better stand, superior audio and a built-in ethernet port remain major upgrades.
It got me thinking. What could leverage all of these improvements and provide a great experience whether gamers were playing portably or via the dock? The answer? Xbox Cloud Gaming via Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
Hear me, out. I know it’s unlikely, but talk about perfect bedfellows. I own a Switch right now. As do 85 million others. I can’t tell you how much more inclined I’d be to upgrade to a Switch OLED if Game Pass Cloud Gaming became part of the proposition.
The ability to access the likes of Forza Horizon 4, Hitman, Sea of Thieves, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and Halo: The Master Chief Collection on Nintendo’s portable would be game-changing in all senses of the word.
The display on the original Switch isn’t really conducive to proper enjoyment of these experiences. Pending review, of course, a larger, OLED panel is.
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For Switch owners, the benefits would be huge too. There’s no need to buy an additional controller, because it’s already attached to the console. Want to use an Xbox controller? A little Bluetooth adapter like the one from 8bitdo will enable that too. Sure, there’s no Wi-Fi 6 or 5G support on the Switch Pro, as my colleague Alistair Stevenson points out, but the presence of an Ethernet port means the best possible connection in the home will be accessible. By the same token, who really wants to play on their phones, worried about the battery conking out, something you really need for other things? If you’re on iPhone, accessing through the web browser isn’t ideal either.
For Nintendo, as well as being a potential path to upgrades, it could undoubtedly get people playing their Switch consoles more often. With that comes other bonuses; continued upkeep of Switch Online subscriptions, further purchases from the Nintendo eShop. GamePass would not dilute the Switch proposition, simply add to it. While the games are decidedly different in most cases, the audiences overlap. Many people love Mario Kart and Forza equally. If Nintendo could get a nice cut of that Game Pass revenue, surely it’s a win-win?
The benefits for Microsoft are obvious. It is already looking post-hardware with its Game Pass strategy. It wants you to access top games whether or not you can afford one of the top consoles. For Microsoft, which is leading the way in cloud gaming compared to the PS5, it’d be yes another vessel for a service that is truly starting to live up to the ‘Netflix of gaming’ title. Sony continues to flounder in that regard.
While unlikely, the prospect isn’t that ridiculous. There was a time, a few years back, when it seemed Nintendo and Microsoft were on the same page. They’d identified a common enemy in Sony and looked ready to team up.
Cross platform gameplay was in its infancy and Microsoft and Nintendo were making fun of Sony for pooping the party. Two years ago, Cuphead became the first game to support Xbox Live on the Switch. Reports followed claiming plans to bring Game Pass too were in play. Then, nothing.
A year ago, Microsoft’s Phil Spencer ended the speculation. Because rivals wouldn’t want the full Xbox experience on their platforms, it seemed like a non-starter, he said.
“The other competitive platforms really aren’t interested in having a full Xbox experience on their hardware,” he said last July. “In places where we have brought Xbox, like mobile phones like we’re doing now with Project xCloud with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, what we’ve done with PC with bringing our full Xbox experience there.”
Documents recently revealed during the Apple and Epic trial suggest Microsoft had gone to great lengths to convince Nintendo this was a match made in heaven, but those calls eventually fell on deaf ears (via gameindustrybiz).
Of course, Nintendo’s stubbornness is legendary and this is unlikely to change. However, gaming is changing, the landscape alters every day and the Switch OLED would undoubtedly be a great vessel for Xbox Game Pass. If it helps both companies keep the Sony wolf from the door, then maybe… just maybe it could happen. Stranger things have happened in gaming.