The Nintendo Switch: My Thoughts

My first blog post about the Nintendo Switch was brimming with optimism. It ended with the line "it's nice to be a consumer and have one of my wishes fulfilled". That wish was simply a console that wasn't wedded to the one location, welded to my television, to the point where I couldn't play it without also blockading the television and by extension the room. I either wanted games that were system agnostic, ones that my progress would be playable on my phone, or... well, the Nintendo Switch.

It takes the simple approach of a main console that works on your telly and then can be taken away and turned into a portable games console. And it does both of these without compromise. The "docked" mode when it's playing on the TV is superb, pushing full HD graphics without even blinking an eyelid. Then the portable mode - the screen's large and bright, and the controllers feel weighty and strong in my hands.

But it's the switch between the two that had me applauding - like the old mantra of Apple, it just works. You undock it and it's ready to go. Slip it back into the dock and it's there, immediately. It means that when I go to bed - I can take the whole console with me. Like last night, for example, I am playing Colin and Mike at Rocket League on the TV but have to start getting ready for bed. While I wait for Con, I play it in the kitchen, then grab a few extra matches whilst in bed as I wind down. It's a superb use case.

That being said, the console does have a lot of limitations. For example, I bought both Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Super Mario Odyssey on cartridge like an old school player, and then promptly forgot that was the case and have left Mario Kart behind when travelling. That's a bit frustrating, but the other option - downloading them all - makes me a bit uneasy when the storage on the side.

There are a few other quirks. The friend system is as bad as it was when I owned a Nintendo DS back in 2006, which is just unreal. Entering what is basically a phone number to add friends seems simple, but then the utter lack of messaging and communication options is a bit rubbish. Maybe that will come in time. But the menu system is quite nice, if a bit simplistic, and in truth feels like it needs a bit of a kick up the rear. The lack of video streaming too is a use case I wish it had, and maybe one day it will as well, but for now it's a bit of a missed chance.

There is one other major thing - the system isn't as powerful as the Xbox and PlayStation. As someone who hasn't had a games console in almost six years this disparity is not that noticeable - I've never played an Xbox One and only fleetingly on a PS4, but the thing that is noticeable is the struggle it has when trying to play the powerful titles. It makes cuts on certain things when playing the games right at the peak of the machines power, limiting the games that can run on the thing. With the sales so high though (10 million in 10 months is a record) I imagine that most developers are now busting their gut to make games for all consoles, unlike the Wii which was left behind.

All of that being said, they are minor to me. Maybe not for everyone, but the consensus is that the limitations are far outweighed by the portability and power of the set up. Connie and I, for example, played hours of Mario Kart at my parents... on the portable screen, with each of us using on half of the detachable controllers. Connie turned to me and said "this is brilliant", and she was right. What is also brilliant - taking the dock with my when I'm travelling for work, and plugging it into the hotel's big TVs, and having my full games console on hand anywhere I end up. It's just brilliant, and another reason why the Switch has fitted into my lifestyle so well.

There is one final thing too - every one I've shown it to wants one. Not just says "oh, that's really cool", which they do say, but "Oh, I need to get one". Two people have actually bought one after playing it with me, and maybe don't love it as much as me, but can really believe that it's the future. Yes, there will always be room for 4k 100fps powerhouse machines, but the Switch made me realise that games are great, they are fun, and for the first time they are portable.

I really doubt this will turn into another Wii - lamentable regret. This might turn into another Dreamcast - outright undying love.