Video Games

Happy 1st Birthday Nintendo Switch!

A year ago today, Nintendo’s newest baby was born, and what a first year it has been! I got this system at launch and let me tell you, I don’t regret my decision one bit. I love it. I was immediately blown away by the new Joy-Con controllers; these things are incredible, and I love the ability to use it as a handheld. Nintendo has always been my go-to for fun and relaxation, and that is definitely still the case. While I do have a few complaints, which we’ll get to later on, overall I am absolutely head-over-heels for this latest Nintendo gem. 

The​ Switch was officially announced in January 2017, to mixed reception. While plenty were enthused – pre-orders were closed the day after the announcement, and in some cases the day of – there were still a lot of gamers feeling the sting of the Wii-U let-down. To anyone who wants to argue, I can assure you, the Wii-U was no cash cow: in the last 5 years, approximately 13.6 million of the systems have been sold. Compare that to the 84.6 million we saw from the Wii in its first 5 years and I think we can all agree the numbers speak for themselves. However, the Switch is certainly making a name for itself, with an astounding 14.9 million sold since March 3rd of last year. That’s nearly 15 million consoles, folks; over 4 times the first years of both the Wii and Wii-U! I’d say Nintendo is back and better than ever! For those who endlessly like to compare Nintendo to… well just about any other console you can, these sales numbers outpace the PS4 during its first year, and more than double those of the Xbox One in its first year, so stuff it! 

Now, for us gamers, sales numbers really don’t matter as much. Those are figures for the companies to concern themselves with; we care about the system itself. There were a LOT of initial concerns about the Switch. Will the controllers be comfortable? Will there be enough memory? What about game selection and battery-life for portable play? Honestly, I shared many of these concerns myself. I wasn’t overly happy that the Switch had decided to revert us back to what is basically an itty-bitty cartridge, taking away our hopes of backwards compatibility. I thought the Joy-Con controllers were just this side of laughably small. Not to mention the memory. 32GB? Puh-lease. But, I’m more than willing to – grudgingly – admit when I’m wrong. 

Let’s start with the negative in regards to the Joy-Con controllers. There was an issue at launch with the left Joy-Con losing connection with the system. I fell prey to this issue myself and had to watch helplessly as Link would leap from a cliff to his death, right in the middle of my game session. While understandably aggravating, the problem was fixed and the Joy-Con replaced, followed by an update that seems to have alleviated the issue completely. Nobody likes launch bugs, but they seem to be an unavoidable part of gaming these days. 

The first time I used the Joy-Cons I loved them. It takes a bit of getting used to, just like anything new, but the feedback and ease of use on these babies is amazing! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: VR! If Nintendo isn’t working towards a VR setup, or at the very least AR, I’ll be shocked. They’ve already got the best VR-capable controller on the market, and that is no exaggeration. The amount of interactivity you get with these controllers is like nothing we’ve ever seen. The haptic feedback or “HD Rumble” is miles ahead of anything we’d had previously. YOU CAN FEEL WATER BEING POURED INTO YOUR HAND!!! Not to mention the right Joy-Con has a built in sensor that can identify shapes and distance so well you can use it to play Rock Paper Scissors. Who needs a Kinect? I will admit, the Joy-Con by themselves are a little on the small side. If you’re going to be using them for co-op as individual controllers – for up to 8 people on the same system, by the way – simply attaching the included wrist-straps takes care of that issue. I could spend all day just talking about these beautiful little pieces of technology and their versatility, but I think you get the point; the Joy-Cons rock. 

Moving right along to memory, I was appalled when they announced this system was only coming with 32GB. Is this a joke? Is the Switch supposed to be a console on which you play only one game at a time? What nonsense could have led to this decision? Well, once again, I was proven wrong. Memory has yet to be an issue as far as my Switch is concerned. Granted, I do not hold to downloading my games often. I do have maybe 3 or 4 downloaded onto the system currently and have had no issue running out of memory with these or the other 10 or so titles I have in physical form. Will this bliss last forever? Of course not, but to go the first year and 14+ titles without having to upgrade my memory, I’ll take that as a win. At the very least, it’s not the major issue many thought it would be. 

The battery life on the​ Switch is fairly impressive. I can easily spend 2-3 hours playing Breath of the Wild on this system in handheld mode without needing to charge. That is nothing to turn your nose up at, considering the power taken to run such a game and the massive screen it’s on, which measures just over 6 inches. Just to give you a comparison, the Nintendo 3DS XL – screen size just under 5 inches – has an almost identical battery life, give or take 30 minutes. The best part is, if you’re running low on juice and happen to be near your dock, you can slide that puppy right in and continue where you left off while you recharge! This is, personally, my favorite aspect of this console. I can sit and play whatever Switch game I choose, leaving the TV free for a few hours for other gaming or watching needs. It’s like the idea Nintendo had with the Wii-U tablet, only much, much better. 

I think the last big issue a lot of people had with the Switch was the amount of games at launch. The Switch was fairly out-matched by its older brothers when it comes to launch titles; the Wii was announced with around 22, and the Wii-U just a couple more than that. We saw the Switch released with something around 10 titles, and many people were unimpressed. Despite the small number, it sure doesn’t seem to have slowed the Switch down at all, sales being pretty outstanding despite the lack of game selection from the jump; but it was a valid concern nonetheless. I think the quality of launch titles helped immensely in this case. ​Breath of the Wild won a massive smattering of awards and broke several of Nintendo’s sales records. I don’t think I’ve spoken to a single person who doesn’t love this game and I absolutely believe many people bought a Switch just to play it. I will admit, I think Breath of the Wild carried this system a bit. While ​1-2 Switch is a fun game and expertly shows the functionality of the Joy-Con controllers, I can’t say I believe it was a driving force in deciding whether or not to purchase this system; the same could be said of the other few titles we saw at launch. However, I do believe the titles we were promised during the launch window played a role. A new, open-world Mario and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe? ​Skyrim on the go?  ​Splatoon 2? All definite factors in this system’s success. 

Overall, I think the Switch has had a truly amazing first year and I can’t wait to see what’s next. Nintendo knocked it out of the park with this one. All my doubts were laid to rest and all my reservations were put aside, or put on the next Switch title. I love that I can be playing Stardew Valley on the big screen in the living room one minute, then pick it up and continue struggling to catch a fish while lounging in the bedroom the next. This system sets the bar in versatility. If you still had any misgivings about the Switch, I hope I’ve helped enlighten you. Nintendo won back many customers in 2017, myself included, and I think we can anticipate a lot more of the ingenuity and forward-thinking Nintendo is knowns for as we move towards the Switch’s 2nd Birthday! 

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