Phil Harrison knows what things look like from both sides of the field. For a long time Harrison worked as a professional PlayStation fanboy as the SCE Worldwide Studios boss, and then in 2012 he went rogue and worked over at Microsoft as corporate Vice President. Phil Harrison spent years analyzing trends, market strategies, and hardware development during some of the gaming industry's most formative generations. In a recent interview at Gamelab (via VentureBeat), Harrison has some pretty interesting opinions about the state of the industry, and he had nothing by nice things to say about Nintendo.
GamesBeat: From the sidelines, where do you see the big three here and how well they're doing?
Harrison: Nintendo has surprised me in a good way. They've put some excitement back in, or at least added a dynamic to the console equation that wasn't there previously. From my focus group of a household with younger children, Switch is definitely the console that gets used. Mainly because of the content types. Surprisingly, the TV-to-mobile use case works way more effectively than I expected. Maybe I should give Nintendo more credit. I really enjoy that.
GamesBeat: That seems to be what they tried to do with the Wii U, but it didn't take. It may have been too early. The tethered tablet may have been a real problem.
Harrison: The tablet mode on Wii U just wasn't powerful enough. It was rendered as a single frame from the console sent wirelessly from the console to the device. The Switch combined both modes into one and just switched the power state. When you're tethered you get access to more wattage on the CPU and GPU. Maybe that technology didn't exist when they were developing the Wii U. I suspect not. A great idea is about timing as much as it is about technology. The game pipeline they have coming through looks pretty strong, with the greatest hits from Nintendo coming down the pipe in the next 12 months. That puts them in a strong decision.
Harrison has obviously been very keen to take note of the enormous up-swing that handheld and mobile gaming is enjoying right now. Further on in the interview, he states with no shortage of confidence that mobile games are where most of the money is to be made right now, especially for indie developers.
At any rate, the Nintendo Switch is uniquely positioned to appeal to Western gamers as a home console that you can play on the big screen and to Easter gamers as a portable handheld that you can play in short spurts on a commute or around the house. This, coupled with Nintendo's world-class library of can't-miss IPs has made for an extremely lucrative initial run for the Switch, and things are only heating up.