The Nintendo Switch Isn't Perfect, But I'm Okay With That

Image: YouTube

Early Nintendo pioneer Gunpei Yokoi once described his design philosophy as "lateral thinking with withered technology".

Terminology that sort of explains everything really. Truly this is Nintendo in a single phrase. And in the light of the Switch's release (in light of what the Switch is) it's a phrase that's more relevant than ever.

Because there's a temptation — particularly when writing/reviewing/posting on a technology focused website — to be dismissive of Nintendo products. To break Nintendo's consoles down to their component parts and brutalise them.

Yes, the Switch is a cheap tablet with controllers attached. Yes it's underpowered. Yes, it's probably overpriced. These are all valid criticisms that are difficult to argue against.

That's the "withered technology" part of the equation.

But then: the "lateral thinking" side of the equation. As fans of technology we tend to fetishise the cutting edge: processing power, sheer grunt. We tend to undervalue the design — the purpose of gadgets, the manner in which we're being asked to use them.

The Switch is a Nintendo product in every sense of the word. It uses "withered technology", it bends that limited technology and creates something ever-so-slightly new. Just a little to the left (or right) of what's come before. Sure we have tablets. Sure we have handhelds. Sure we have game consoles. But the Switch is a device that somehow moves fluidly between those definitions and I love it for that.

Image: Nintendo

I play my Switch on the bus. I play my Switch on the train. I sit next to my wife and I play my Switch while she watches Downton Abbey. I peak from my headphones, shake my head at Mary Crawley, and continue on. When I have the house to myself I seamlessly chuck the Switch onto my main TV and continue playing. Technically the Switch doesn't do anything a number of other devices couldn't already do — but the convenience of it is undeniable. The Switch is more than just a collection of parts — it's a product explicitly designed to fit gaming into the dark crevices of increasingly busy lifestyles.

'Design' is the key word. For Nintendo it's always been the key word. Nintendo has made some terrible design decisions over the last couple of decades, make no mistake, but their devices always appear crafted to do something. Something specific. Usually Nintendo tends to lose its way when that intent is obscured or confusing (see: the GameCube, the Wii U).

The Switch is not perfect (battery life, joy-con disconnection issues) but it's very much a designed product created to fit specifically into our lives. It's designed for busy lives and, as someone with two young children, that is very much appreciated.


And then there's the games. Mobile gaming has transformed over the last decade in a spectacular fashion, and evolved new ways to play which were previously unimaginable. Some of my favourite video games ever made were released on mobile devices, but there's something different about playing on a device designed specifically for video games. Despite featuring more than enough technical grunt, we're yet to see a game like Zelda or Horizon: Zero Dawn successfully launch on a mobile phone or tablet. That's fine, but it means the Switch fills a genuine unserved niche.

I absolutely adore the fact that I can play Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the move. I'm counting down the days till I can do the same with Super Mario Odyssey. When it comes to its flagship video games, the software and hardware is designed hand-in-hand. That's part of what you're signing up for when you buy a Nintendo console — the as-yet unbroken promise that Nintendo will deliver high quality software for the consoles it produces. Software you won't be able to play elsewhere. Even the GameCube had Wind Waker and Metroid Prime. Even the Wii U had Splatoon and Mario Kart 8.

There's a healthy dose of nostalgia involved in this process. I'm self-aware enough to recognise that buying (and enjoying) Nintendo products is a cycle I've been indulging in since I was 10 years old. It's routine enough to feel like a habit, but it's a habit I'm confortable with, a habit that feels justified.

Despite the fact that Nintendo consoles now feel supplementary (I'd never recommend any Nintendo device as a primary games device) I'd still describe their products as essential. I've never regretted buying a Nintendo product, and I doubt I'll regret buying the Nintendo Switch.

Withered technology. Lateral thinking. A whole lot of very good video games. It's not perfect, but when it comes to Nintendo I'm okay with that. I always have been.


Comments

    Only issue I've really had so far is that it's not designed well for larger hands. I really hope they release a joycon xl later on, cause otherwise I'll be stuck having to buy the pro controller as the joycons end up giving me pain in my hands.

    Maybe some more games and ability to transfer saves.

      I bought the pro controller. So much better than the joycons.

      Don't get me wrong I can use he joycons fine but the pro controller just feels at home in your hands.

      You'd buy the Joycon XL but not the Pro controller? I bought one day one with no regrets, it's a great controller.

      The pro controller is basically the best thing ever. The only time I'll ever be using my joycons is when I absolutely have to for whatever reason, there's just no comparison.

    The role Nintendo's stuff has had in the 'tech-focused' sphere is always going to be one of derision and disregard.

    This is the normal.

    Games writing and the birth of a style of 'culture' writing (everything from academia on games to something like Good Game through to stuff like PAX and Mark's introspective writing above) is now not a new thing, but when it was it was revelatory. Spell check is failing me there.

    Games could be more than appliances like vacuums with attributable scores equaling their inherent value, they could make people feel things.

    However, the 'lol Nintendo' shtick is an remnant of that era - there will always be a 'console war' and it's always going to be perpetuated the most by those who tell you there isn't/shouldn't be one.

    Nintendo/its gear is always going to be the eternal under-dog or barnacle on the whale that is Gaming in general, and a lot of people continue to make a lot of money by keeping it that way.

      Microsoft and Sony fight over the prime cuts of meat, while Nintendo seems to go more for the offcuts and offal. You can make some pretty tasty dishes from offal, but some people will forever go on about it being offal.

        actually, nintendo take the big risks and the others play it safe. For a small company, they have to be lauded for their innovation.

        Now they just need to fire their decision makers cos they make some real dumb ones.

          That's what I'm saying. Nintendo makes some interesting dishes, not just the steak dinners that the others tend to serve up.

    All I know is we took the Switch on the road over the weekend. The kids sat in the back cooking meals in Breath of the Wild so I could have enough food to help me get the Master Sword when we got home.

    When we got home I dropped it in the cradle and the Kids watched me play on the TV.

    You can't do that with anything else.

      I can play Persona 4 Golden on my Vita while travelling, save to the cloud, come home and continue on the PSTV. Kind of similar?

        Super similar. But you had to buy 2 systems to do that,

        Plus did you have to buy the game twice? and how games can you do it with?

          Works on about 380 games. You don't need to buy the game twice. If you buy digital you can just download a copy of the game onto the PSTV's memory card and you only have to do the cloud save transfer. Physical games you can just switch the game cartridge over to the PSTV. It's not quite as immediate as Switch, I'll grant, but I guess you get two systems that can be used independently of each other if desired, which is a plus. Price-wise and including memory cards you'd be looking at the PSTV / Vita combo coming to around $300-$400 depending on what memory card options you want.

          Yeah but those two systems, plus the game cost less than the Switch by itself..

      You can't use food to get the Master Sword, has to be through heart containers.

        Yes I know, 13 to be exact. They don't know that, they just know that Link didn't have enough power to get the Master Sword out the first time.

          Oh sorry i thought you didn't know and didn't want to disappoint you or the kids!

          I guess they'll learn haha.

            I've got the sword. Now the want him to have the Hylian Shield.
            Stealth mission to Hyrule Castle required.

    The cost of Nintendo hardware has never really annoyed me (maybe for the WiiU).

    It’s the bullshit pricing on the games, particularly the older titles and VC games, and the generally idiotic, anti-consumer way they conduct business (friend codes, region locking ect).

    People give them a pass because they’re not seen as “corporate white guys” the same way as Microsoft (in particular) are and because their games are always so joyous to play…. But they’re inept assholes who don’t deserve the loyalty of their fans.

    That said, up until the WiiU they always release at least 2 must-own, best of a generation, quality titles that made their systems worth it.

    (For the record, I’m buying a Switch just for Zelda as soon as I have some cash to spare).

      A lot of people seem to have a love-hate relationship with Nintendo. I only have a 3DS XL and a 2DS, with just over a dozen games, but I really resent buying Nintendo games because it's so hard to find them on sale and the value proposition (for me) of buying a four-year-old game for full price is somewhat lacklustre.

        I think a big part of it is that they get so few good games that they just keep them the same price until you buy them.
        I find that if I don’t buy Nintendo games at launch then I never buy them, which is the huge difference between a Nintendo system and the better value machines.
        For example last year I didn’t buy Quantum Break of Gears of War 4 on the Xbone, although both games looked good. It’s now March the next year and the two games are $49 and $35 on the Xbox Live store respectively…. So now I’ll buy them and probably get a lot of enjoyment from them.
        I remember Excite Truck (I think that’s what it was called) being a well-received launch game for the Wii. I always thought I might grab a copy after I’d played the AAA titles I bought the machine for, but about 3 years after launch it was still impossible to get a copy for less than $50 so it never happened. Over the course of a consoles lifespan the end result is I have a Nintendo system with 5 AAA games and nothing else.

        You gotta get them at launch. It's the only time that they're on sale. Sometimes the digital games are on sale, but unforutnately, nintendo games are kinda like Toyota cars. People will pay more for them, even if they're second hand.

    You'd never see this article if it was a Playstation or Xbox that was riddled with issues and had an awful launch catalog.

    Nintendo don't attempt to keep up with the latest technology because it's impossible. The PS4 and Xbone are already underpowered compared to a PC with the latest and greatest. The Switch will be around for years... trying to keep up with tech is fruitless. Unless they plan on a Switch "Pro" or whatever, which is very unlikely.
    It's startling that people still don't seem to understand just where Nintendo fits within the gaming world. Everyone argues what to get - Sony/Microsoft/PC ... whereas Nintendo doesn't "compete" with them, they don't try and go one on one. Let the fanboys and girls argue and pick one of the above-mentioned ... Nintendo is, for the most part, the secondary console that fanboys and girls of either will also pick up... how many people have an Xbox AND a PS4 Vs. How many people own a Nintendo (console or handheld) AND either the PS4 / Xbone.
    It's really that simple. Yet for some reason people still seem to think it's Nintendo Vs Xbox Vs PS Vs PC lol
    Even I, a massive Nintendo fan, own a PS4... but tbh i mostly use it as a Blu-ray player. My Nintendo consoles get so much more use.
    And to those that complain about the price of the software - just remember u pay for quality. Xbox and PS have "fad" games... they are popular for a few weeks and then die off and no one cares (No Man's Sky, Doom, the latest CoD/Battlefield, FIFA, all just examples). They end up in the bargain bin within months. Nintendo games have longevity far beyond games of that ilk. Going out and picking up Mario 3D World or Splatoon now, how many years after their release, and it's still just as fun... it hasn't been superceded by "Splatoon 2017". It's running on (supposedly) "inferior" technology yet it's not constantly replaced by something prettier, something with a couple of little extras tact on.
    Anyway just my response to some of the comments that are on here (which are commonplace anytime Nintendo is mentioned admittedly).

      I lvoe nintendo, but they do some stupid stuff. I also dislike how "cool" it is to hate on Nintendo. I just feel they get a lot of crap other consoles don't have.
      I have an xbone and I'm borrowing my Cousin's PS4. I also have a PC I play games on, so I play everything.
      Still, wish they would drop the price on their games. It sucks.

    I want one. First time a Nintendo has swept me up in the hype since the original DS.

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