Gaming

Japanese gamers buy the new video game Nintendo Switch games console by Nintendo Co. during the first day of sales worldwide in Tokyo, Japan on March 03, 2017. Photo by Richard Atrero de Guzman/Anadolu Agency/ Getty Images Israel)

10 things you need to know about the Nintendo Switch

With a little something for everyone, the Switch could be Nintendo's next big hit


Three Switch owners, Ben Mathews, Erica Lemons, and Ian Greer, gave Geektime down-low on the newest console/handheld/tabletop gaming device: The Nintendo Switch.

Here are the 10 things you need to know before you buy.

1. It’s somehow both familiar to and different from anything you’ve ever seen

The Nintendo Switch keeps some recent Nintendo features we’re already familiar with, like Miis, for instance, but it loses the free game bundle (like Wii Sports) that we might have hoped to come included.

In comparison to other handhelds, Erica Lemons says it’s “lighter than a 3DS XL, but the weight is more centered because there’s not a top screen.”

There’s also a paid subscription service, similar to the Playstation Network or Xbox Live, but it’s currently free until the fall while Nintendo works out the kinks.

That being said, it is very much unlike other gaming consoles, namely in its variability and the characteristics of the console necessary to help facilitate that gaming flexibility. Speaking of those Switch-specific attributes…

2. It’s got some cool features

Taking a screenshot is as easy as a click, and you can even edit and add text to your cool video game pics later. (We can see the memes coming now.) The Switch also has options like brightness settings and airplane mode on the handheld screen, which means you can customize your experience and possibly extend your portable gaming time.

Mobile multiplayer on one device is finally simple and convenient with the Switch. Just snap off the left and right Joy-Con and you’ve got easy-to-use (albeit quite small) portable controllers to play with a friend on the go.

Ian Greer explains that, in regards to the controls themselves, “the motion controls seem more responsive than Wii and Wii U,” and when it comes to switching between playing on the go and gaming in your living room at home, “changing from docked to portable is seamless and easy and very convenient.”

Mario out celebrating the launch of Switch in New York City Photo Credit: Michael Loccisano/ Getty Images Israel for Nintendo of America

3. The specs are pretty good — for the most part

When in handheld or tabletop mode, the Nintendo Switch runs in 720p. That’s not something to write home about, but it’s better than other comparable handheld screens like the Wii U, 3DS XL, or Playstation Vita.

When you put the Switch in its port, it changes over to 1080p, however, which means it can really show its stuff on your TV at home. The 6.2-inch portable screen may seem small out of the box to some (it might not be much bigger than your newest smartphone), but for a handheld, it gets the job done and feels more than adequate once it’s in your hands.

That being said, it has very little memory (only 32 GB of storage, really down to 26GB after the OS goes on it), and those tiny controllers and only a few short hours of battery life aren’t for everyone, which leads me into my next point.

4. You will need lots of stuff

Ben Matthews warns that though the console itself is reasonably priced, the hardware can be a bit expensive, and there’s a lot you might want.

The first thing most Switch owners are going to buy will be a memory card to beef up their storage space, which can be a little costly on top of the $300 already paid for the console itself. Additionally, unless you have small hands, the Joy-Con controllers can seem downright puny when separated from the screen. It’ll cost you $70 bucks for a Pro Controller if a more traditional gaming style is your cup of tea. The Joy-Con grip is included if a simpler and less robust version of a traditional controller works for you, but if you want to also charge your controllers while you play, you’ll need the Joy-Con Charging Grip, and that’s another $30.

Finally, Greer warned potential Switch owners that it’s not “Nintendo indestructible.” He explained that the Switch is “very fragile and scratch prone.” Much like how buying a smartphone often means buying a smartphone case, Greer says that for the Switch, “screen protectors are a must” as even the dock can scratch the screen.

5. It’s got games

The Switch has been out less than a week, but the eShop is already growing. (That’s right, the console is not just a device for playing Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.) There are currently nine games available on the American eShop but 3 more can be accessed in the Japanese eShop.

The My Nintendo rewards system is in play here as well, so you can redeem Gold Points for games on your Switch. It can be expected that more games will come rolling in as the Switch proves its popularity and developers want to get in on that (hopefully) ever-growing customer base. The next point only makes sense, then.

6. It’s got potential

With a new system, there is a lot of potential for a new wave of game developers. Matthews explains that indy games are already being curated for the system and points out that Nintendo isn’t just having shovelware ported over but is instead being selective with what goes in the eShop (at least for now), which leads to a better gaming experience for Switch owners overall (even if it means fewer games in the beginning).

The potential for touchscreen games that weren’t possible on home consoles and the fact that indy games may fill in the gaps third-party game creators aren’t yet fulfilling makes Matthews see the future of the Switch as one full of new and innovative gaming options. Of course we can probably expect those big third-party developers to make their way to the Switch as well, just as soon as they see the console’s success and growing customer base.

7. You can play with your friends – and make new ones while you’re at it

You can add up to 300 friends on the Switch, and yes, you have to share a code to do so, but don’t grumble too much about that yet. Lemons says “I think I’m up to about 90-something friends right now. It’s a lot easier to add friends because only one person needs to input a friend code now.”

You can also add people you’ve interacted with on various other games, such as Super Mario Run or Miitomo, if you link them to your Switch console. Nintendo has also streamlined the process for adding people who are physically near you with a local search and even strangers you’ve just played against thanks to being able to search a list of people you’ve played with recently. Nintendo has even stated that “we are planning it so that friends from social networking services will be listed as candidates, too.” That makes adding friends on the Switch easier than ever!

The Nintendo Switch console Angerer/ Getty Images Israel)

8. It’s a gaming device for everyone

Old-fashioned gamers can play on their living room couch with the Pro Controller for that standard gaming feel. The Joy-Con controllers can be used like Wiimotes for those who preferred the more active nature of Wii games. The handheld and tabletop options of the console mean even gamers on the go can keep playing their favorite titles when they don’t have time to sit in front of the TV at home.

This system is clearly created to draw in long-time gamers and old Nintendo fanboys and girls, but it’s also meant to draw in a new crowd as well. The Switch’s versatility means that nearly anyone can find a way to play that suits them. If something’s been holding you back from gaming, the Switch likely has an answer to it, making gaming more accessible to more people than ever. It’s not all sunshine and roses, though. After all…

9. It’s not perfect

Nintendo is breaking new ground with their Switch, and as with all things avant-garde, there are some growing pains to take into account.

The Joy-Con controllers are said to sometimes experience connection and syncing issues. The kickstand used for the Swtich’s tabletop mode is flimsy and isn’t adjustable, meaning you’re stuck with an angle that might not work on your kitchen table and an airplane tray table, or wherever else you might want to prop up the console.

A simple search online shows post after post of Switch users giving tips and building makeshift fixes for these and other first-generation console problems. Another bit of confusion is that users are also struggling a bit with what to call the thing.

Lemons explains that “the box refers to the screen as a console,” but she admits that she doesn’t know what people will really call it yet. She refers to it as her “Shiekah Slate,” and adds that “Breath of the Wild fans should find that funny.”

In the end, though, there’s one big take-away from the release of the Nintendo Switch.

10. It’s cool

Aside from the ability to game anywhere, the Switch is cool because, as Greer explains, “it’s finally the perfect marriage between console and portable.”

It realizes what we wanted (but did not ultimately receive) with the Wii U: a device playable in your living room that can become portable and travel with you when someone else needs the TV or you have somewhere else to be. Greer adds that the Nintendo Switch “does this without making major sacrifices to gameplay, control, and fidelity.” It’s got something for handheld gamers and console gamers alike.

All in all, it has reworked ideas we’ve seen time and time again, innovated new features we’ve never seen before, and has the potential to keep surprising us as new content is released.

Photo courtesy: WikiMedia Commons

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