At CES 2021, Lenovo showed off a prototype PC gaming console called the LaVie Mini that could fold down into a handheld device. With docking and controller accessories, the device is designed to replicate the look and feel of the Nintendo Switch, but backed by the power of a gaming laptop. It’s a dream that several companies, including Alienware, have chased for aeons and there’s a reason why the concept is so popular. The simple answer is convenience, but the longer explanation relates directly to the entertainment value backing PC gaming and the popularity of the Nintendo Switch.
The Switch has been a major success for Nintendo, becoming one of the fastest and best-selling modern consoles on the market at launch. For brief periods in 2020, the Nintendo Switch was sold out in every local retailer as people flocked for some mid-pandemic boredom relief. But its popularity isn’t only down to the pandemic. There’s still a major appetite for handheld consoles, with players looking for more convenience and portability in their gaming.
Handheld consoles have a particular benefit for the time poor because they can be used anywhere. On the bus, during a lunch break or even in those tiny moments of downtime.
During the pandemic, portability became a major factor in my own enjoyment of video games because I could play them anyway — and not just in the home I was spending all my work and leisure time in.
The other benefit the Switch had in the pandemic was being able to boot up and start games instantly. The moment you turn off the Switch, your game is suspended and you can resume it the instant the console boots up. Those short few moments are precious, and it makes the console far more accessible.
The Nintendo Switch is a freeing console. And it opens up gaming to everyone.
The only major complaint players have is the lack of power backing the console. While some older AAA games like The Witcher III and Doom Eternal run smoothly on Switch, higher-end titles are still just out of reach. It’s an incredible console, but it lacks a higher-powered GPU for playing newer, graphics-intensive AAA adventures.
Rumours point to a ‘Pro’ model of the Switch being released to rectify that issue, but having a PC alternative would be a brilliant second option.
The LaVie Mini concept does look fairly bulky, but the concept has major potential in the gaming realm.
For existing PC owners, it would mean a console that has the portability and ease of use of the Switch paired with the library of Steam, Epic, Origin and other game providers.
One of the overlooked benefits of PC gaming is the cheapness of purchasing games on PC compared to ports on Nintendo Switch. Older games are often discounted to the $5 and $10 mark in Steam sales, and many gamers have an entire backlog of games they’ve hoarded during these sales.
With so many great games continuously releasing (not to mention the robust entertainment potential of PCs) it can be easy to get distracted and forget just how many games are piling up. Game hoarding is a common activity in PC gaming circles, and many games will never get the chance to shine that they deserve.
A hybrid Switch-style PC gaming device has the power to change that.
Ease of use is a major, overlooked feature of PC gaming. When you’ve spent all day behind a laptop, the last thing in the world you want is to spend another few hours crouched of a slightly different, better screen.
Having an alternative device in the form of a handheld PC console would mean getting to sit down on the couch with it, or curling up in bed. It’d mean the chance to work through your back library with the same portability, freedom and simplicity of the Nintendo Switch.
The future where a hybrid PC console is a mainstream technology feels several years away, but that doesn’t mean the idea is going away anytime soon. Its potential is too good to ignore.
We haven’t heard much about the Alienware ‘Switch Killer’ concept since it hit the stage at CES 2020 and the LaVie Mini has only been realised in concept only, but the continued interest in these devices prove there’s a market for portable PC gaming. It’s clear there’s a long way to go before it becomes a viable option, but the appetite is there.
It’s only a matter of time before it becomes a reality — and that day will be a welcome one for PC gamers everywhere.