I don’t really believe in love at first sight – especially when it comes to inanimate objects. But when the Nintendo Switch was revealed, my attraction can only be described as instantaneous.
“From the moment we met you could see that I was filled with desire.” Those were the opening lyrics from White Denim’s catchy track that accompanied the Switch’s incredibly slick announcement trailer, and they couldn’t have been more fitting.
Nintendo’s trailer for its eight-generation console successfully hammered home the hybrid console concept with aplomb – unrealistic impromptu rooftop parties aside – and seemed to erase all the Wii U’s many mistakes.
Unlike the unwieldy Wii U, which to this day would probably still bamboozle the average consumer as to what it’s actually supposed to be, the Switch’s appeal was immediately obvious. This was a console that you could play on the TV, but one that could also be taken on the move, completely untethered by any restrictions. Amazing.
Better still, the console was also designed for local multiplayer from the outset. Detach the ingenious Switch Joy-Con controllers, and suddenly you’re battling it out on Mario Kart 8 Deluxe while waiting for a plane to France that has been inexplicably been delayed. One of you yells an expletive, the other responds in kind, and then you both look up to see a disapproving priest glaring at you with all the ‘holier than thou’ energy they can muster. Amazing.
Sadly, though, despite enjoying a glorious honeymoon period with the Switch that saw me sink an exorbitant amount of time into Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2, Super Mario Odyssey, Overcooked!, ARMS, and indie gems like Hollow Knight, my love for the system has waned considerably in recent years.
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment my feelings changed, but I’ve certainly become numb to the Switch’s initial appeal, most of which has been due to Nintendo’s own making. The Switch also now has to compete for my time and attention with the PS5 and Xbox Series X, both of which have a habit of exposing its flaws.
So, what’s stopping me from embracing my Switch again with open arms?
When you’re afraid to actually play a console in fear of breaking it, you know something’s gone wrong. I now see the Switch’s fragile Joy-Con as a ticking time bomb, ready to implode at any moment. The Joy-Con controllers’ frustrating reliability issues are well-known by now, and it means that every gaming session could result in my controllers developing the dreaded Joy-Con drift.
It’s shocking that Nintendo hasn’t addressed Joy-Con drift by now, and it means that the Switch’s little gamepads that brought me so much… well, joy, have never felt more fragile in my hands.
The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller isn’t much better, either. While it isn’t likely to break anytime soon, it comes with the worst D-Pad in Nintendo’s illustrious history, which makes games of Tetris Puyo Puyo a painful experience. Compare Nintendo’s pads to the delightful PS5 DualSense and ergonomic Xbox Series X controller, then, and it already feels like a big step down.
Outdated online services
I love playing with my friends, but sadly the Nintendo Switch is a lonely experience online. It’s as though Nintendo’s online system is somehow frozen in time, despite the fact the company has all the resources it needs to fix it.
It’s hard to believe, but even though the Switch launched in 2017, you’re still unable to message your friends, start party chats or do anything remotely social on Nintendo’s console other than share screenshots to the internet. It still uses friend codes for heaven’s sake.
Yes, Nintendo released an online companion app, but support for it has been non-existent. In fact, it’s recently lost some functionality, and whenever I’ve used it with friends, it’s been a noticeably poor alternative to services like Discord or even Skype.
I’m tired of having to jump through hoops just to play the odd game with friends on Switch, and now that it’s a paid service – cheap as it may be – consumers deserve more. To make matters worse, the Wii U had a more comprehensive online feature set with online video calls and Miiverse.
Nintendo’s first-party lineup has also started to leave me feeling rather uninspired. And that’s a big concern when you consider I only tend to buy Nintendo consoles for its exclusive IP.
I love Mario as much as the next person (probably more), but seeing the usual wave of sports games, half-baked compilations, and retro rehashes come back around for the umpteenth time with a full-fat price tag has started to irritate me.
The fact that I’ve played the majority of Switch’s biggest games years earlier before on Wii U hasn’t helped matters, which I regard as a bit of a slap in the face. But when Nintendo announced that Super Mario 3D All-Stars would be a timed-release? Well, it’s hard not to feel like the company isn’t just being greedy and capitalizing on fans’ nostalgia.
I’m still incredibly excited for Breath of the Wild 2, of course, but Nintendo needs to start taking more risks and create new IP as it did with Splatoon, ARMS, and Ring Fit Adventure. I’m not going to buy another remaster, remake, or re-release. (Drop some Mario Kart 8 Deluxe DLC, though, and we have a deal.)
One of the biggest problems with Nintendo’s console release cycle, and its decision not to go toe-to-toe with Sony and Microsoft anymore, is that its hardware tends to enjoy a couple of years where things feel “good enough” from a performance and visual perspective.
Compared to the PS4 and Xbox One, the Switch held up pretty favorably, offering something new and exciting that led to thousands of people begging for ‘Switch ports’. Now, though, compared to the PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and a half-decent PC build, the Switch feels sluggish, underpowered, and its games can look – to put it kindly – downright ugly.
While I would never expect Nintendo to put out a machine that’s capable of 4K/120Hz, returning to face resolutions that can drop as low as 540p and framerates that tend to hover precariously under the 30fps target, is jarring, to say the least. The Nintendo Switch OLED, as beautiful as its new seven-inch screen might be, won’t change that either.
With no Switch Pro on the horizon, it’s a situation that many players will have to stomach until the Nintendo Switch 2 arrives, and it’s something that’s hard to ignore every time I return to play on Nintendo’s system.
Game Pass smash
The final wedge that’s been driven between me and my Switch is also partly down to the competition, specifically Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. I used to love playing indies on the Switch, but it’s hard to pay the full asking price for the latest and greatest indie title when Microsoft’s subscription service has consistently delivered many of them for free, and often at launch.
There’s also the obvious benefit of indie games running and generally looking better on Xbox, especially when played on the TV. Throw in Xbox Cloud Gaming support and remote play, and Switch’s biggest appeal – portability – goes out the window.
Case in point: Octopath Traveler. While it’s not an indie game per se, thanks to a combination of TV play, Xbox Cloud Gaming, and Xbox remote play I managed to finish a game that took no less than 70 hours to do so. And thanks to Xbox Game Pass, it was free on day one, runs at 4K/60fps on Microsoft’s machine. Octopath Traveler is still $59.99 / £49.99 on the Nintendo Switch eShop.
Thankfully, there’s one thing that ensures I won’t turn my back on the Nintendo Switch for good, and that’s the possibility of Nintendo delivering another cracking title. I may be experiencing some serious Nintendo fatigue right now – and feeling pretty disillusioned with some of the company’s archaic decisions (please can we add an achievement system one day?) – but all of that could change if Metroid Dread, Pokémon Legends Arceus, or Breath of the Wild 2 deliver the types of unforgettable experiences that Nintendo is renowned for. (And yes, I’m aware that these aren’t new IP.)
I’ll still have to look past the hardware’s technical limitations and quality control issues with gritted teeth, then, but at least there’s still hope for me and my Switch yet.