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After months of anticipation, the Nintendo Switch — a new game console to replace the Nintendo Wii U — has shipped to stores around the world.
It looks great. The Switch has a fantastic new gaming dynamic as a sort of cross between mobile gaming and a traditional console. This much is clear, and it’s exciting.
But is it enough? Are the Nintendo Switch’s other features (or lack thereof) about to cause its undoing? Could we be witnessing massive discounts in time for Christmas, in order to shift old stock? No games console has a perfect launch, but could the Nintendo Switch actually fail because of these factors?
1. Backwards Compatibility Is Non-Existent (So Far)
This is a big problem. Both the Nintendo Wii U and Nintendo Wii offered compatibility with titles from the immediately preceding consoles. You can play the vast majority of Wii titles on the Wii U, and GameCube titles on the Wii. It’s even possibly to play GameCube titles on the Wii U with a bit of hacking!
But the Nintendo Switch doesn’t have this. It isn’t built in at launch, and Nintendo says there are no plans to introduce backwards compatibility at a later date. Considering this is a new console with an embarrassingly small collection of big-name launch titles, this missing feature seems a massive oversight.
Considering the size and cost of certain games (such as the Lego Dimensions series), it seems foolish to introduce a new console that has no support for games that many, particularly the vital family market, would want to take across.
2. Storage Capacity Is Embarrassing
Dragon Quest Heroes I and II is an upcoming Japan-only title for the Nintendo Switch, and it’s 32 GB in size. Meanwhile, the internal storage of the Nintendo Switch is… 32 GB. Do you see the problem here? Because apparently, Nintendo doesn’t.
Quite simply, the Nintendo Switch has a default storage size that is too small for any real use beyond a couple of titles, at best. Physical cartridges don’t require installation to the system memory, but the portable nature of the Switch means users will tend towards digital downloads.
Nintendo’s previous home consoles weren’t exactly brilliant in this area, but then again, they weren’t portable. Storage on the Wii U Basic Set was just 8 GB, but on the Deluxe Set, it was 32 GB, just like the Switch. The Wii U released five years ago — the Nintendo Switch should have at least 64 GB by default.
Anyone buying a Nintendo Switch is going to have to buy some additional storage by the end of the first month. While microSD cards are compatible, we recommend the more robust microSDXC variant. The Nintendo Switch supports sizes up to 2 TB, although this capacity isn’t currently available.
3. Joy-Con Issues
Two Joy-Con controllers ship with the Nintendo Switch, making portable play and two-player gaming possible right out of the box. These compact game controllers snap onto the console for handheld play and cleverly slide off the side of the Switch for use separately as Wiimote-style motion control wands. They can also attach to a new controller frame, known as the Joy-Con Grip — but unfortunately, this doesn’t charge the controllers.
But the issues with the Joy-Con go beyond this. Syncing with the main console is prone to random disconnection, leaving gamers unable to complete games without inadvertent death or disaster of some other form. Meanwhile, the signal between the left controller and the Switch (when the controllers aren’t attached in handheld mode) appears weaker than the right device.
Although a patch was released on launch day to deal with this, it appears to have been in vain.
4. Wireless Audio Hasn’t Been Thought Through
Want to take your Nintendo Switch out and about (presumably with a portable power supply, as the upper 6.5 hours of battery life is unlikely to reach) and play with headphones attached? You can!
The problem is, you can’t do the same with wireless headphones. In an age where the drive on portable hardware is away from headphone jacks in favor of Bluetooth, Nintendo has gone in the other direction. Fancy the idea of relaxing on the sofa, your Nintendo Switch docked, playing games through your big-screen HDTV with your wireless headphones while your family is busy doing something else?
Well, it’s not going to happen. The Switch supports cabled headphones only. Oh, and there’s no voice chat at the moment, regardless.
5. Expensive Accessories
Keeping your Joy-Con charged shouldn’t be a problem, as they’re supposed to have a longer lifespan than the console’s battery. As long as you keep them charged when not in use, you should be fine.
But if this is a problem for you, the Joy-Con Charging Grip — onto which the two controllers are mounted to create a traditional game controller — is available for around $30.
A charging dock for the Joy-Con can be picked up for the same price, while a new Joy-Con pair will cost around $80. Then there are carry cases, replacement adapters, and the $70 Pro Controller to worry about. And don’t forget the screen protector!
It’s not cheap to accessorize the Nintendo Switch. Throw in the cost of games ($60 a pop) on top of the $300 console, and you’ve got a very expensive launch, attractive only to hardcore gamers.
6. It Doesn’t Do Anything Without Games
This is perhaps the most baffling problem of them all.
Think of a PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or a Nintendo Wii U, and they all have something in common: you can still do something when there are no games loaded up. Given the Switch has a limited launch selection by modern standards, it might seem useful to use the device for watching Netflix, or browsing the web.
No such options are available. The Switch doesn’t have a web browser. No media streaming apps are available. In an age when Netflix and YouTube come preinstalled on TVs and phones, there’s no option to install either on your Switch.
Again, this comes as a sharp contrast to its predecessor, the Wii U. Hopefully some apps will be along a few weeks after launch, but nothing has been confirmed. In the meantime, you can’t even admire your game scores and achievements, as Nintendo hasn’t yet included anything along these lines.
In short, when you buy a Nintendo Switch, make sure you have plenty of launch titles.
7. It’s Unfinished: You Are the Beta Testers
The list of Switch problems is long: dodgy controllers, poor battery life, low storage, no video-on-demand apps, zero backwards compatibility or Virtual Console. Then there’s the lack of achievements and integrated voice chat. These are just a few of the issues surrounding the Nintendo Switch, a device that simply was not ready for release.
Even the dock, a vital component for playing your Nintendo Switch on a big-screen TV, has a nasty design flaw that can lead to the console’s display being scratched if a screen protector hasn’t been applied. Then there are the dead pixels. Oh, and a plastic kickstand for portable group play.
In short, the buyers who have spent the best part of $1,000 for the console and some games have been co-opted as beta testers. It’s amateurish, and unbecoming of a company of Nintendo’s status. At least the cartridges are coated with a nasty repellent to keep kids from eating them.
Will the Switch Be a Hit?
In all seriousness, the Nintendo Switch has had a successful launch, having outsold the Wii U in Japan, the U.S., and Europe.
So it’s not DOA, but there’s a crash team on call. Right now, it’s the hardcore gamers buying it — and no console was ever declared a success on the basis of a niche market.
Can Nintendo turn it around, push out the updates (and DS-style hardware revisions) and make this a device that families will fall over themselves for, like the uber successful Nintendo Wii? Or will the Switch languish in the homes of hardcore gamers only, lacking the tools and reach of more successful consoles?
Time will tell, but what do you think? Tell us your thoughts on the Switch in the comments.
Image Credits: Master1305/Shutterstock