The Nintendo Switch: 3 Years Later

The Switch is already 3 years old. Remember back in October of 2016, when it was just an idea? Pretty soon it’ll be old enough to go to preschool. And then before you know it, your Switch will want to go to rock concerts and it’ll believe it knows everything…

When the console launched, it was a nightmare to find one in stores. The most I could do was watch YouTube reviews of Breath of the Wild and search fruitlessly online. My wife and I attended a Zelda symphonic concert during launch month, and it was torture seeing people using their Switches during the event’s intermission. By July I finally got one in a bundle with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Breath of the Wild, and Splatoon 2.

I’m still surprised I completed as much Grad School work as I did that summer.

If it weren’t for this unique console, I wouldn’t be here writing this blog post. Or at the least, it would only be about 3DS games. Let’s celebrate Nintendo’s little-hybrid-that-could by reviewing the state of the console in 2020, and speculate on its future.

The Hardware

I still find the Switch’s seamless transition from handheld to docked (and back) a technological wonder. For the most part I’m very happy with how the hardware has functioned. I especially love that handheld screen and how well games adapt to it. Even games with a resolution downgrade still look good in handheld mode. Also, for me, I still find the original Switch’s battery life to be just fine. That being said, I can’t help but find some flaws with the system.

For one, the joycons are not as reliable as other Nintendo controllers. Out of my four joycons, I’ve had to fix analog stick drift on three of them. It’s convenient that in America they’ll fix them for free, and I could even do a painless DIY repair, but how many people just buy a new set of joycons and waste all of that money? On top of that, I’ve noticed that they can desync / delay with the docked Switch if other Bluetooth devices are nearby. My Wiimotes and GameCube controllers still work flawlessly, so I’m disappointed that the joycons aren’t quite the same quality.

Out of my four joycons, three of them have needed repairs with the analog sticks.

Finally, I wish the left joycon had a D-Pad. At first I thought I wouldn’t mind it, but the more I play in handheld mode, the more it bothers me. I appreciate that they tried to make left and right joycons similar so that the “share the joycon” feature would be easier, but I think anyone could easily adjust to the D-Pad joycon. It’s not so annoying that I want to buy a 3rd Party joycon, but it’s enough to notice.

The Switch’s Best 1st Party Exclusives (not counting ports and remakes). And Animal Crossing: New Horizons is just around the corner!

The Software

We’ve come a long way from the Switch just being a Zelda machine, huh? Nowadays there are several dozen Nintendo games to choose from, and almost every Nintendo franchise has an entry on the Switch. On top of that, many of these games are arguably the best in their genre – Super Mario Odyssey for 3D Platformers, Breath of the Wild for open world games, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for Fighting games, and Fire Emblem: Three Houses for Strategy RPGs. Once Animal Crossing comes out in a few weeks, the Switch will have at least (in my opinion) 10 must-have exclusives. One of those games is bound to click with someone, no matter their game preferences.

The 3rd Party support, however, is still very hit-or-miss. Japanese developers have jumped on board, bringing with them many RPGs, Action games, Horror games, and Fighting games. I’ve noticed, however, that many of these releases are older re-releases or retro collections. For someone like me, it’s great, because I finally get a chance to play them, but for others, that might be less exciting.

In addition, many Western developers are still dragging their feet with the Switch (outside of RPGs). It’s only now just picking up more momentum, but many popular Western franchises are still missing. If you’re a fan of RPGs and platformers, then the Switch’s library is enormous; if not, I can understand why you would still find it lacking.

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Not that I’m desperate or anything, but what diety to I have to sacrifice to in order to get Persona 5 on Switch? Asking for a friend.

Despite the Switch’s success, I still see people port-begging. I mean, I get it. The Switch needs every game that ever existed. However, we should be better than that by now. If a company doesn’t have the basic smarts to see the Switch’s install base and buying trends, then they deserve to miss out on the money they would’ve made. For example, I love the games Atlus makes, but their business decisions are absolute nonsense.

But we haven’t even touched the ocean of Indie games. They are perfect supplements to the bigger releases, especially when several of them are homages to Nintendo games. Some are so good, you could easily make another list of 10 must-have Indies that can compete with the AAA studios. To be honest, I’ve rather enjoyed having a quiet January and February, because it lets me work on my Indie backlog. Odds are that there are some indie game out there that will fill whatever void exists in the Switch’s library.

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At this point, the Switch’s UI is a child’s bedroom floor. Can we please clean things up a bit?

That being said, Nintendo still needs to update their UI / eShop to help customers manage this growing library. The main menu is in dire need of folders, or some other way to organize their games. The eShop is in a similar boat. I still think someone who bought a game should be able to, at the very least, leave a star rating on a game, or perhaps a Twitter-sized review. I look at Steam’s improvements over these past few years with its improved recommendations and realize how far behind the Switch’s eShop really is.

Screen Shot 2020-02-23 at 2.11.03 PM
On one hand, it’s nice to have online play in some form. But Nintendo’s options are so limited that I rarely actually use the feature. I really, really hope there’s more options for New Horizons.

I’m so very glad Nintendo made cloud saves available, and that data management for digital games is incredibly easy. If you run out of space, you can upgrade your microSD card and make a painless transfer in a matter of minutes. Wrangling the Vita’s memory cards makes me wonder if Sony actually wanted people to buy games digitally.

Speaking of cloud saves though… I know that Nintendo Switch Online doesn’t cost much, but I still don’t feel like I get my money’s worth out of it. The NES/SNES library is a fun addition, but if I could choose between a bad connection + SNES games and a good connection, I’d choose the good connection. I also still don’t understand why Nintendo wants us to chat with a smartphone, 3 years later.

But the connection quality isn’t actually my biggest complaint with the online. It’s the way the connection can’t set up the way I want it to. When I play online, I play with my wife and myself on one Switch and a different couple on the other – 2 people each on 2 systems. But out of all the Switch’s games, only Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, a Wii U port from 2014, allows me to play this way. All the other games force a different connection setup, and it’s beyond frustrating. Super Mario Maker 2 can’t do this. Super Mario Party can’t do this. Not even Super Smash Bros. Ultimate can do this. If Mario Kart 8 Deluxe could get it right, I know the others can as well. Get it together, Nintendo.

Now that that’s out of my system, let’s make some exciting speculations.

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The Future

According to Nintendo’s most recent financial report, the Switch has sold over 50 million units, which is now more than the SNES. The Switch is on its way to meeting (if not surpassing) the Wii in terms of sales. And unlike the Wii, people are actually buying way more than just casual games. With an install base that large, developers are going to be interested in the console for a while. And because developing for a less-powerful system will cost less money, publishers will still be willing to put in the investment.

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But because Third Party devs are more unpredictable, I’ll not worry about making any exact predictions on what will come over. As far as Nintendo games, though, I predict that after the Breath of the Wild sequel, we’ll get a sequel to Super Mario Odyssey. It makes complete sense. And at the very least we will get another Fire Emblem game, another Pokemon game (probably a remake), another Kirby game, and a new IP. With most Nintendo series on the Switch in some form now, I think there’s less mystery surrounding the system, and a new IP with new ideas would be just the thing to keep the Switch exciting and relevant when the next generation of consoles come out.

Speaking of which, I believe the Switch will be just fine in 2020 and beyond. The Switch has carved out a unique market, so it doesn’t have to worry about the PS5 or Xbox Series X. As long as Nintendo keeps releasing fantastic games and keeps garnering decent 3rd Party support, people will still buy the thing. Obviously it will get less AAA ports as the years go on, but because Nintendo won over the Indie audience, I can see the Switch still being supported by Indie devs well into 2025, maybe even 2027, when it turns 10 years old.

Here’s to 3 years, and maybe 7 more to come!

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