The Nintendo Switch is now finally out, and owing to an appealing central concept, a killer launch game, and some great marketing, Nintendo’s newest console is a hit. It’s more or less well deserved, too- the Switch is a well made piece of hardware that ranks as Nintendo’s most sophisticated yet. In our review of the hardware, we noted that it was slick and well made, and had a lot of potential- and that that’s about where things end.
You see, potential is all that the Switch currently has. Potential is good, but it can’t distract from very real issues that the system has right now. You see, like all consoles at launch, the Switch has issues right now. In fact, uncharacteristically for Nintendo, the issues seem to be more numerous right now than they are for other console launches. Whether or not these problems are being overblown, the fact of the matter is that they exist. And given the Switch’s lack of functionality, or even games outside of Zelda right now, these problems stick out that much more. Now don’t get us wrong, we love our Switch- we think it’s a cool system with some great potential for greatness. But we also think that Nintendo rushed it to launch to meet deadlines in a frankly beta and unacceptable state, and that has caused quite a few issues. Here are some of them.
I’m going to start with the most obvious one here- after removing Friend Codes with the Wii U, and investing in a full fledged account infrastructure, Nintendo has no excuse for reverting back to Friend Codes with the Switch. Yes, the Friend Codes work better now than they ever have before- but they’re still arbitrary and unnecessary, and it almost feels like Nintendo is making it a matter of pride to stick to them. Friend Codes have no place in a modern account and online network system- and if Nintendo is serious about charging users for online, then they need to go. Happily, Nintendo has indicated that it will be introducing and implementing proper account based Friends management via a later firmware update- but for now, it looks like we’re stuck exchanging 12 digit long numerical strings if we want to add people to our consoles.
The Nintendo 3DS had a very weird flaw- if you closed it, the bottom screen bezels, which were raised, would actually scratch the top screen over time. This was self defeating, and actually goes against the entire reason for having a clamshell design at all. Nintendo did fix this problem with later revisions of the system- but you’d think they would have learned to be more careful with future systems. Apparently not! As it turns out, the Nintendo Switch screen gets scratched if you take it in and out of the dock too often. This doesn’t happen to everybody- but it happens to enough people. And why does it happen? Because the construction of some docks is all screwed up. There is actually supposed to be rubber padding inside each dock to prevent the screen from being scratched- but some docks are so poorly manufactured that they are warped and distorted, causing the Switch screen to come in contact with the plastic and get scratched. This doesn’t happen with our systems- but you all be careful with yours!
POOR CONSTRUCTION OF THE DOCKS
Which brings us to the next point- not all docks are made equal. In general, construction of the docks, which are just oversized plastic shells with HDMI passthroughs, is fine. However, on quite a few systems, the construction is messed up, which is causing the aforementioned screen scratching issue. And yes, while we are fans of the instantaneous ‘switching’ from TV to portable mode that the dock enables and allows for, we need to be upfront here- the dock does not feel like a $90 product. It’s cool, but it’s not cool enough to cost a third of an entire new Switch.
Again, this is not a problem with all Nintendo Switch systems- but it is a problem with enough ones that it is widespread. Some users are reporting that the left Joycon on their Nintendo Switch intermittently disconnects with their system, which can, you know, cause issues when playing games. The problem seems to be because of some interference in the wireless radio on the left Joycon specifically- and while Nintendo has acknowledged this issue, its response, which, among other things, asks players to not be near aquariums, has been laughable. Now, players have found their own fixes, which include staying within a certain distance of the console- but for a console that sells itself on its versatility and its ‘play anywhere, however you want’ nature, this is a major, critical failure.
Once more, this is a problem not with all Switch systems, but quite a few of them- a lot of them seem to have dead pixels on their screens. Now, to be fair, dead pixels are often an occurrence on LCD screens- but only one or two isolated ones. Dead pixels generally seem to indicate lower quality of screen manufacturing- the prevalence of these dead in the Switch seems to indicate that Nintendo’s standards of manufacturing the system were simply too slipshod. For a company that has had legendary build quality in the past, this is honestly a major disappointment.
LACK OF FEATURES
This was something we exhaustively covered in our review of the Nintendo Switch- but right now, there is nothing to it. It has no capability other than playing games. While focus is good, for a modern $300 device, not even having the ability to consume media or browse the internet feels like a bit of a slap in the face. Nintendo has stated that these features may be added in on a later date- and they probably will be. But right now, unless you are using your Switch to play games (which, to be fair, you probably are), there’s not much else to actually do with it.
SOFTWARE ISSUES PREVENTING GAMES FROM BEING PLAYED
Of course, if the Switch also has issues playing games, then what good is it? This specific failure we are talking about seems to be very uncommon- it’s actually rare enough that a Google Search doesn’t net that many results. But there are some users who are reporting that their Switch simply refuses to load up games, giving them the error message, ‘The software was closed because an error occurred.’ Given that playing Breath of the Wild is currently the only worth that the Switch has, this is not actually an error that Nintendo can afford to have at all.
LACK OF MESSAGING
Let’s go back to our very first point for a minute- Friend Codes. They make it a pain in the butt to add new people, but let’s say you put up with that, and add your friends to your list. Then what? As it turns out, then nothing. You can maybe play some Fast RMX or Super Bomberman R with the folks on your friends list, but you better have some other way of contacting them- as of right now, the Switch doesn’t even have a messaging feature, making the Friends List a glorified hub for… hell, it’s actually not even a good hub for anything. It’s just there. Messaging is one of the features that we know is coming later- but again, why was the Switch launched without it in the first place?
LOCKED SAVE FILES
The Nintendo Switch does not let you transfer your save file from one system to another. If you buy a new system, you can log into your account with that and access your full digital purchase history, as well your friends list- but you’re going to have to start your games all over again. For now, your save files are locked to your console. No, there is no cloud backup for save files. No, you can’t even transfer them locally via SD card, which is something the Nintendo 3DS permitted. No, you can’t even back them up or manage them on your own system and SD card, which, again, was something the 3DS permitted. Doubtless this is an issue that will be resolved in the future- but exasperatedly so, we return to the refrain of Nintendo launching this system before it was ever actually ready.
Nintendo has learned from the Wii days, and every Joycon comes bundled with a Joycon strap. This is good, as it means that you won’t get too excited playing ARMS, and cause your Joycon to go arcing away from your flailing arms and into somebody’s head (or TV). Unfortunately, the Joycon straps, which slot into the Switch rails to be securely attached to them, are not very well thought out- you see, if you put them on upside down, then they won’t come off. Now, I know your objections- ‘well, of course that would happen if you put them on upside down!’ And you’re very right, that would happen. But you know what? Most products very specifically make it impossible (or at least hard) to make such a mistake. The Joycon straps do not. There is no resistance, or indeed, any indication, that you are putting the strap on the wrong way. It slides on as smoothly the wrong way as it does the right way- the difference is only felt when it comes to actually removing the damn thing. Good luck with that!