With the fated Nintendo Switch Famine of 2020 finally sailing behind us, Switch sales can resume without interruption. They’re selling better than bottled water at a drought-ridden Coachella festival. January of 2021 shows us that Nintendo Switch sales are still outpacing the next-gen market by putting PS5 sales figures to shame!
So, since y’all are still buying, I wanted to prepare a buyer’s guide.
Anyone familiar with me or my blog knows that I hold the Nintendo Switch on a pedestal. I consider it to be one of the biggest marvels of the modern world. I collect little hairs from its fan and weave them together into a little shrine I keep in my closet.
Okay… that last line was a bluff.
However, I’m not alone! When I was gathering the information for this post, about 25% of the people interviewed made it a point to mention this was the best Nintendo console they’ve owned without any prompt.
We love our little gaming tablets. They’re incredible.
The Nintendo Switch is by far the most impressive handheld console of all time. It’s leagues ahead of its predecessor, the 3DS. It brings the convenience of flipping between docked TV gaming and handheld together with profound effortlessness. It’s honestly a dream come true.
However… as insane as technology is, I don’t see it slowing down. The Terminator-fueled apocalypse starring Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t within sight yet…
Meanwhile, the Nintendo Switch is approaching half a decade in age. Consumer complaints are beginning to pile up.
[Yes, I had to Google the spelling of Arnold’s last name. No, I’m not proud of it.]
So let’s compile the complaints into graphs. Let’s prepare a Nintendo Switch buyer’s guide. One that’s a bit more cohesive than generic YouTube influencer hearsay or a three-paragraph-long IGN headliner. After all, picking up a new console and all of its gadgets is a big investment!
I want you to walk away prepared and satisfied. So: here’s everything you need to know before buying a Nintendo Switch.
I couldn’t be more satisfied by our sample demographic! We’ve got a solid range of participants from ages 13-37.
I’ve got the feedback of an angsty teen who checked all the no boxes to spite his uncle for neglecting to buy him a next-gen console. I’ve got the feedback of a newlywed wife who’s never experienced gaming in her life. I’ve got the feedback of a Mr. Fix-it-all dad with a Ph.D. in bringing the family together for an evening dense with laughter.
We got a little slice of everything, baby!
Don’t worry. They work swimmingly in handheld. If you’re planning to play this thing a lot: I can’t recommend a secondary controller enough.
Joy-Cons are small. I mean, they’re dinky. They don’t feel particularly good to hold, and if your hands are the size of boxing gloves, you’re bound to cramp your thumbs playing for too long.
More importantly, these tiny things were packed to the brim with hardware features. As a result, some of their core functions tend to fail.
The Bluetooth connectivity is relatively weak. They disconnect often. Not every 10 seconds or anything extreme like that… but enough that you’ll notice while playing docked.
The analog sticks are small and touchy. Most first-person shooters mitigate this by incorporating motion controls. Futurology at it’s finest!
But that still doesn’t remedy everything. Joy-Cons are the Nintendo Switch’s red-headed step-child. Here comes a monster:
The sensors beneath the joysticks are notoriously cheap. Joy-Con drift is pretty common. Your character will move with a mind of his/her own once the first dust particle breaks through the analog stick’s exterior. You’ll miss platforms and plummet to a fiery grave. You’ll drop tetris blocks in the wrong row. You’ll use wrong items in the heat of battle. It’s not pleasant.
The unfortunate truth is: Once a Joy-Con begins to drift, it will continue to drift. If you’re a tinkerer, the repairs are cheap and relatively simple. Although “fixable” doesn’t necessarily stack up in the market of the 21st century.
We need durability.
Nintendo has a licensed Pro Controller with an ergonomic feel equivalent to an Xbox One controller. The battery life rivals the lifespan of Betty White. It vibrates and it gyros. There isn’t anything cutting-edge about it, but the thing works. These puppies still go for $69.99 unfortunately.
If budget is an issue, the 8-BitDo SN30Pro is a modernized Super Nintendo controller – complete with bumpers, dual analog sticks, and an extra spongy D-pad. The SN30Pro is wireless and rechargeable. 8-BitDo also sustains a pretty solid battery life, but Nintendo’s Pro controller edges it out.
The SN30Pro may be well-made, but it’s still secondary-market. You’ll need to unleash your inner-techie to fire it up. You’ll also require a computer with a USB drive to update the firmware on their official website before using it. To top it off, it has a funky method of firing up.
Power A has a wireless Gamecube controller that I’ve tried out. Honestly, I like it… except that it’s still filling landfills and emptying my wallet with dead batteries. The button mapping on a GameCube controller is reversed from standard controllers, so that can stir up a bit of confusion rooted deep within your unconscious muscle memory.
If you don’t mind wires stretching out across the living room, there are plenty of other options as well. There’s even a wired Pro Controller available for half the price of the standard version.
The Nintendo Switch runs on an old Nvidia Tegra X1 chip. It handles the same towing capacity as a PS3 or Xbox 360. That’s a ton of power for a handheld!
Still, with games like The Witcher 3 and Bioshock jumping into the fray, we’re starting to really put the device to the test.
We’re seeing more consumer complaints about bad ports. Y’know, the blatant cash grabs. 3rd party developers hoping to make a quick buck funding production for their hot AAA titles like Cyberpunk 2077. Oof.
First-party and Second-party Nintendo titles are designed for Switch hardware. They run great. Any ports that have been outsourced to Panic Button are pretty trustworthy. That means you can pull the trigger on The Witcher 3, or even Doom Eternal if you’d like.
Ubisoft and Activision have also gained my trust.
Long story short: If you don’t want to get burned, do your research.
Minecraft may be a household hit. Lying comfortably in your bed while slaying Endermen might be your pipe dream. The port is looking pretty rough. The frames dip low enough to make you feel like you’ve got glaucoma. Servers crash. Loading screens crash. I can’t say I recommend it to anyone.
Mojang is working pretty hard on a patch. Hopefully, by the time you read this, I’ll be woefully mistaken. We’ll see.
It’s worth noting that our participants all referenced a single regretful game purchase. Games that aren’t particularly popular on the console: Ark: Survival Evolved, Lego City Undercover, At Sundown: Shots in the Dark, and WWE 2k18. Nobody claimed a heap of bad titles in their library.
Still, if you’re a member of the PC master-race claiming extreme sensitivity to Low-FPS and frame dips, I need to warn you that dips in framerate aren’t uncommon. We also typically cap out at 30 frames-per-second.
The New Nintendo Switch features an internal battery that lasts 4.5 to 9 hours. That’s a pretty ample revision to anyone who doesn’t already own the console. The original 2017 model lasts roughly 2.5-6.5 hours before running a battery dry.
You won’t have to shell out any extra cash for the revised Switch. It carries the same price tag as the original.
With the new internal battery came a bright crimson box to tell apart the new models.
Of course, If you’re buying your Switch used, you may not have a box for reference. There’s been a change to the serial number. Older models use the format: HAC-001. Newer models are nearly identical, but they feature an extra bracket of numbers. They’ll feature an altered format: HAC-001-01.
The default storage size for a Nintendo Switch is 32MB. That isn’t much.
The vast majority of Nintendo Switch games run in 6MB or less. Still, you’ll want a storage boost as quickly as possible!
Luckily, instead of using outdated Memory Cards or finicky external hard drives, the Switch is designed to utilize micro SD cards just like any old camera or cell phone. These are getting cheaper and more impressive by the year – and can be found just about anywhere.
Sandisk is the most reputable company on the market when it comes to SD cards. They’ll feature the fastest loading times and the lowest probability of corruption. You can also dodge the “Nintendo” branded SD cards since they don’t offer anything special compared to a nice juicy Sandisk that can store upwards of a TB of data.
Your games save files are stored in the console itself, so you’re also welcome to upgrade your SD card any time you’d like.
A large sum of gamers own a landlocked console and a handheld. This is part of the reason Nintendo sales are currently crushing Sony and Microsoft. You aren’t necessarily choosing between Coke or Pepsi. Buying a Switch is more like adding Orange Juice to the shopping cart.
Now that we have a handheld that can handle full-blown console titles, a bit of a micro-market emerged. A large sum of consumers proved a willingness to double-dip on a game purchase for the added convenience of handheld capability.
The result is often a stagnated Switch release (Yes. I’m looking at you Activision.) We’re also paying higher prices for the same titles in lower resolution.
Nintendo games don’t diminish in value. Breath of the Wild is now 5 years old and still runs a sticker price of $59.99.
You can pick up a used copy for less if physical games are still your jam. Don’t expect anything major.
There are also pretty “big” sales in July and throughout the holidays. March 10th is now advertised as “Mario Day” and you can catch a few Mario games with a price cut during that week.
Don’t go holding your breath out in the wild, though. The sales often run about a 30% discount and there’s no telling which games Nintendo will decide to showcase.
3rd party developers jotted this down in their notebooks.
A game that costs $5-10 on steam often features triple the price on the Switch. Among Us may be free on your cell phone, but it costs five bucks on the Switch. You’ve been warned.
The good news is that 3rd party titles will go on sale. Sometimes they’re tough to spot since the Nintendo eShop doesn’t seem to have an algorithm for sorting out shovelware or other nonsense titles. Couple that with a limited 12-tile view and you get something like this:
Good news! We have a resource! Deku Deals tracks eShop bargains, informs you of their end dates, tracks permanent price drops, and informs you when a game has reached its lowest price ever. It even notifies you when a game you’re interested in goes on sale – if you’re invested enough to make an account.
You may be able to fiddle around on your cell phone outside, but the Nintendo Switch struggles. Nintendo couldn’t afford to jump up to the MSRP-tier that cell phones have standardized. Actually… Thank heavens Nintendo doesn’t use their hardware to lock you into contracts! The world can do without more AT&T clones!
Fun Fact: An iPhone 11 has more power than a Nintendo Switch. Still, no matter how you rig it, gaming on mobile is a pretty uncomfortable experience. Believe me, it isn’t worth dropping $800 for!
Cell phone manufacturers physically bond their glass to their screens. This process narrows the gap between the two and makes outdoor glare practically non-existent.
Laptops, on the other hand, market “Glossy Screen High-Res” budget cuts by leaving the gap intact.
Remember, a $299 price tag keeps the hardware accessible. Nintendo made a big sacrifice to leave that gap, exactly like you would see on a laptop.
If you expect to play outdoors or under bright lights, consider picking up a matte screen protector!
I geared this survey question a little differently. If I simply ask someone if they want the “X” feature, they’d have to be lying (or insane) to reject it.
This was the question that baited people to dive in and say, “The Nintendo Switch is the BEST console I’ve ever owned”
Anyway, I think it’s important you know that our online capabilities are limited. If you’re itching for a co-operative experience, it’ll most likely have to be within the confines of your home. Couch Co-Op is better, and the switch handles couch Co-Op very well. You can lug the thing around like a briefcase on your way to people’s houses and hook it up to their TV in an instant!
I understand that not everybody can share that experience. So, I’m letting you know now that the state of Nintendo servers is not ideal. This can dampen your experience with great games handcrafted with love (like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate) if you don’t have anyone to play with.
New servers are coming! Trust me, it’s a blessing. The current servers are old enough to pick up a driver’s license. Nintendo’s been using them for 10 of those years.
Also, if you plan to use Bluetooth headphones, you’ll need to purchase a special dongle to make it compatible. I hear this gripe pop up on Reddit from time to time.
I know it’s minuscule, maybe even a bit petty. The survey respondents didn’t care enough to stir an uproar. I think the underlying annoyance is that the Nintendo Switch comes with the hardware to make it possible. All we need is a firmware patch!
…And we get radio silence. Amidst the heat of innovation stirring at Nintendo Headquarters in Japan: VR headsets crafted from cardboard, Mario Kart characters that can be driven around the house remotely featuring augmented reality appearing on-screen.
We can’t hook up our Skullcandy headphones in a noisy room. You’ll need a $30 adapter to achieve that.
I can’t stress enough how great it feels to blast 80 hours of Fire Emblem: Three Houses on-the-go!
The console is a celebration. A renaissance of all the smash hits throughout the history of gaming. I can play an updated version of Okami, Street Fighter, Borderlands, and Mario 64 all in a solitary console. One that’s small enough to fit in my glove-box.
I can store hundreds of games inside a piece of hardware thinner than a spiral-bound notebook. I don’t need to hunt for cartridges if I choose to stay digital.
Because we don’t always have the time to sit down and make an event of gaming.
Sometimes we’re just looking for a way to pass the time while we wait patiently in the car waiting to pick up a loved one.
Sometimes we’re stuck in bed feeling sick and want to focus on something other than the pain.
Sometimes we’re wanting to dodge the frustration of sitting in a crowded DMV lobby – filled to the brim with jaded and disgruntled employees.
If you feel like you’ve outgrown gaming, the Nintendo Switch is your elixir. If you feel like you need a new hobby, the Nintendo Switch can fill that void. If your parents can’t afford a PS5, I promise this thing will keep you entertained.
The cherry on the top? Now you know everything you need to know before purchasing a Nintendo Switch. You can show up to the retail shop prepared. You’ll knock out the whole process in a single, swift strike.
That’s less time spent jumping through hurdles and more time spent doing the thing that you love.
You don’t have to be a kid to have fun… and fun is what Nintendo does best. Take care, and thank you for reading! Don’t be afraid to drop a follow on social media for updates on similar posts!