That blurring actually began long, long before the Switch. One could reasonably say it started with the handheld Game & Watch, where Nintendo tried replicating the arcade experience in handheld form, and the Game Boy carved a separate niche for handheld games.
Then came the NES era, when Nintendo Japan released the Wide Boy adapter. It unfortunately never came West.
In the SNES era, though, Nintendo released the Super Game Boy peripheral, which did exactly what the name says: it let you play Game Boy games, and some Game Boy Color games, on your Super Nintendo.
That meant, well, that you could play Game Boy games on your TV. They were blown up to whatever size your screen was, and you could choose several different color palettes and background frames to make the space between the game border and the edge of your screen more interesting.
Fancy it might not have been — the JP-only Super Game Boy 2 had more bells and whistles technically — but looking back, you can see it was a step towards the philosophy that led to the Switch.
The Nintendo 64’s peripheral was for dev-use only, so then we skip ahead to the Game Boy Player. It’s basically a gussied-up version of the Super Game Boy that lets you play Game Boy Advance games on your big screen, and then the console divide widened again after the DS and Wii came on the scene.
It’s not surprising. Both offered their own unique gimmicks that increased sales and solidified Nintendo’s two main audience segments. Why experiment from there and risk alienating either segment when both are so happy to give you money?
Apparently, it’s because Nintendo just couldn’t stay away from the idea of blending console and handheld experiences. We all know the Wii U wasn’t quite what it could have been, thanks to some iffy marketing, lack of third-party support, and, frankly, somewhat confusing main feature.
Still, it was basically the Switch 0.5, offering players the chance to play their console-quality games on a portable device without losing much in quality except some pixels.
With the 3DS basically on Palpatine-levels of life support at this point and the VIta well and truly buried, it’s safe to say Nintendo’s first innovations with the Wide Boy and Super Game Boy paid off big time in creating something completely unprecedented in the games industry.
It’s even more interesting considering Nintendo basically created the handheld gaming market to begin with. Nintendo giveth handheld gaming and Nintendo sort of taketh it away, I guess.