We’ve now hit the one month mark on the Nintendo Switch launch, which hit retail worldwide on March 3rd. Demand is still pretty high right now, which is good for Nintendo as a company but difficult for consumers who still can’t find one in stores. I follow a local Nintendo group though and they report 2-3 restocks a week at retailers like Best Buy and Walmart, and although they tend to sell out quickly when they hit shelves, that’s more promising than the NES Classic situation – which as of this writing was never fully resolved. I’ve got friends in New York who are STILL looking for one.
Anyway with a full month gone now I’ve had my own Switch for almost the same length of time, which has given me a little more perspective compared to my initial impression of the system. Some of the things I had concerns about have been addressed or improved, some other concerns I never had have arisen, and from personal experience one thing everybody seems to complain about has never happened to me once. It’s now time to run it all down and give the updated perspective with more time to examine all aspects of the Nintendo Switch. Feel free to give us your feedback on your own experience too!
1.) I’d still call it small – but it’s not “portable” small.
The Nintendo 3DS (even the XL) is a handheld I can slip in the pocket of my jeans and take on the go easily. I wouldn’t even want to TRY that with the Switch. With the Joycon controllers docked there’s no way it would fit, and without them docked it’s still too long and too wide, although you could certainly put those Joycons in your pocket if you wanted. The Switch does live up to the billing of being both a portable and a handheld given how easy it is to dock and undock from your TV, meaning you can go anywhere in your home or apartment to play it, but OUTSIDE of your home you’re definitely going to want a Nintendo Switch carrying case. That’s not just because you’ll want to carry this expensive system safely – it’s because you’ll need to pack all of your accessories to go with it.
2.) Speaking of accessories you’re not “ret 2 go” out of the box.
Some people are going to quibble about this one. TECHNICALLY speaking the Switch comes with everything that you need – the console, the power supply, the HDMI cable, two Joycons, a grip to use when the Joycons aren’t docked, and even two wrist straps when you use the Joycons as stand alone controllers. That seems like enough and I’m willing to grant for a lot of people it will be. What are you going to do when you take this on the road though? If you don’t want to unplug your power supply from the dock in your home entertainment system, you’ll need a second one. If you plan to play it in places you might not be able to plug in (say on a plane) you’ll need an external battery pack. If you don’t find the Joycons or the grip comfortable in your hands you’ll need a Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. As previously mentioned you’ll want a carrying case, and you may also want a display stand if you plan to use it in tabletop mode when undocked – the built in kickstand just doesn’t cut it. A lot of gamers are going to end up investing a couple hundred dollars beyond what comes in the box. That’s the “hidden cost” of the Switch. You don’t HAVE to buy all of it, but you may NEED some of it.
3.) The eShop store issues have been MOSTLY resolved.
Going to the eShop on the Switch no longer feels like visiting a “going out of business” store where nothing is left on the shelves because people beat you there. Well over a dozen different games are now available in the North American store, and more if you set up a Japanese profile, and more are coming each and every week. With their focus on indie games this time the future looks very promising. You’re still going to want “AAA” titles like Breath of the Wild from time to time, but in the meantime in between times, games like The Binding of Isaac and World of Goo definitely fill in the gaps with enjoyable experiences that last more than a few minutes. In fact Isaac has almost 20 different endings and I freely admit I’m going to try to see them all.
4.) The Switch can cause some TV issues if you use a HDMI hub.
Some of us have television sets with a limited number of HDMI inputs, and to get around that we’ve bought HDMI hubs, extenders, three-way splitters and multi-taps to connect more HDMI devices to the set. Until the Nintendo Switch this was never an issue – my Roku, Chromecast and Wii U all seemed to get along with each other. For some reason though the Switch doesn’t play nice when it’s docked – it tends to “wake up” the hub and become the active device, kicking you off the Roku or the Chromecast while you’re watching a show. The only way I’ve found to solve this problem is to take it out of the dock and power it down completely. You can’t even put it in “sleep mode” because it still seems to send an infrared signal to my hub – which is probably my own fault since I bought one that comes with a remote control – but STILL it’s pretty obnoxious. A future system update may resolve this.
5.) Not everything you attach the Joycons to detaches easily.
Remember those wrist straps that I mentioned come in the box with the Switch? These are kind of a nightmare. Most of the things you slide your Joycons onto have enough of a surface to grab when you want to disengage them and pull them off. When they’re docked to the Switch console itself, no problem. When they’re docked to a grip, no problem. When they’re docked to the wrist straps, BIG PROBLEM especially if you have big hands. You’re going to slip the wrist grips onto the Joycons easily enough, but taking them off is such a pain in the FREAKING ass that you may silently contemplate buying a second pair of Joycons instead of ever doing it again. That’s an $80 investment, which tells you just how difficult it is, that you’d even BEGIN to contemplate doing it. Ouch. Thanks Nintendo.
On the whole I’m actually more satisfied with my Switch purchase than I was a month ago, but as with any new technology/console and being an early adopter, there are some bumps along the ride. My biggest takeaway at this point is that it’s not necessarily the “system for everyone” that the Nintendo Wii was back in the 2000’s. It’s the system for every GAMER, which is a smaller audience than the mass public at large, but still a huge enough audience that the system will still be very profitable and successful. Nintendo can thank their third party support in terms of game developers and accessory providers for helping them get over the hump with those same gamers.