Nintendo Switch doesn’t need apps to flourish

As you may or may not already know, the Nintendo Switch didn’t ship with support for popular video streaming apps, like Hulu or Netflix. And while it will get them “in time”, it might not be getting them soon.

Many people are upset, relating this sort of omission as the death knell of a home console in the modern era. I disagree with that sentiment.

In fact, not only do I believe that their absence isn’t a bad thing, I’ll go even further to say that I enjoy the Switch more because it doesn’t have those distractions. I’m enjoying time away from the apps that follow me everywhere I go.

Looking around my desk, I have four devices within reach that I can watch a movie or a television show on. And yet, my hands keep gravitating toward the device that doesn’t have them. Maybe it’s because the Switch is new and I can’t put down The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. However, I think there’s more to it.

To those who think that these apps are essential for a console to succeed by mainstream standards: you may be correct. But consoles existed (and flourished) long before the app craze struck on smartphones nearing a decade ago.

Now, they exist mostly to fill the holes between gaming or to add versatility to the console itself, and that’s totally fine. I obviously wouldn’t be protesting if the Switch had launched with them.

But that’s the thing: it didn’t, and I don’t think the Switch needs them at all.  

Screwed if you do, screwed if you don't

Is it possible to branch out as a unique console even if the now-regular slew of apps is supported? Surely. Look at Nintendo’s own Wii U. It juggled its GamePad tablet controller with the usual suspects, like Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and more.

But anyone who used these apps knew firsthand: they sucked. While it’s hard to know for sure why that was the case, it likely had to do with the fact that Nintendo’s console wasn’t as well-adopted as the Sony PS4 or the Microsoft Xbox One. And, as time went by, many of these apps weren’t maintained, nor were they updated with features that paying subscribers could get elsewhere.

So, it’s really no surprise to see that the Nintendo Switch’s eShop is barren at launch.

Though, for those who are considering this a failure, I’m casting my vote in the other box to say that this is an opportunity to split off, to avoid getting in line with the other consoles, mimicking their motions to support apps that you can use on almost every device out there.

Speaking about these omitted apps in an interview with The Washington Post, Reggie Fils-Aime stated, “In our view, these are not differentiators. What differentiates us is the way you play with the Nintendo Switch and what you can play. And that will continue to be our focus into the future as we continue driving this platform.”

I won’t be mad when Nintendo ultimately does add app support to the Switch. I’ll just hope that, when that time comes, it will have already blazed its own path as a gaming machine than that of just another multimedia middleman. 

Cameron Faulkner

Cameron is a writer at The Verge, focused on reviews, deals coverage, and news. He wrote for magazines and websites such as The Verge, TechRadar, Practical Photoshop, Polygon, Eater and Al Bawaba.