Sometimes in this job, you get a pitch that's just about perfect.
Case in point: the Venom Power Pack and Stand for the Nintendo Switch. It's basically a sizeable stand/battery pack for the Switch, which charges via USB-C and gives you an extra 10,000mAh of juice.
I was having a chat with a rep from their local distributors recently, which is the same crew that distributes SEGA, Atlus and some indie/AA games in Australia. We were already talking about Gamescom appointments, so they threw out an idea. If I was going to be flying 20+ hours to Europe and back, why not give this a go?
What a great idea that turned out to be.
The Venom pack retails for about $70 locally. That's roughly what you'd pay for a 10,000mAh mobile power charger, depending on brand. The kicker is that most mobile chargers won't always charge at the rate the Switch needs - and having to use the Switch in handheld while using the USB-C port isn't the greatest.
Fortunately, the Venom gets around that problem. It also provides a much better angle for viewing than the Switch's in-built stand, and there's a USB port if you want to charge your phone at the same time.
Two notches on the rear of the Venom let you lift up the top of the dock, letting you slide the Switch into place with JoyCons attached, if you so wish. There's various holes around the unit for cooling, the kickstand, a USB port, a USB-C port to charge the dock itself (you can use the adaptor for the Switch dock, if you've got it around) and the power button.
The dock is on by default, and will charge the Switch as soon as you drop it in. To turn it off, you just have to double tap the power button, which is nice and easy.
With the Switch's internal battery at 4,310mAh, you should - at the absolute worst - get two full extra charges out of your Switch. What that translates to in hours depends on the game though: something like Breath of the Wild will drain the Switch in about two and a half hours.
Nintendo has been quoted as saying the Switch could last up to six hours on a full charge, but I don't recall having ever squeezed more than four out of the console I have in the last 18 months.
I figured a mix of games would make for a good test, so I doubled down on Hollow Knight - I already own it on PC, but wanted to give the portable game a go - and picked up Manticore: Galaxy on Fire. Along with those, I had a playthrough of Mario Rabbids: Kingdom Battle that I was on the verge of finishing.
And I needed that variety to keep me going. The flight from Sydney to Dubai had a stopover in Bangkok, which was just under 10 hours by itself. The plane then sat on the tarmac and refuelled for two hours, with a crew change ahead of a six hour flight to Dubai. It was just under seven hours to get from Dubai to Dusseldorf, after which point trains and a ton of walking was involved, but by that stage I was expecting the Switch to be well and truly dead.
In terms of raw playtime, I got through about six hours with Hollow Knight, around three with Kingdom Rabbids and through the first hour of Manticore. I also tried to be sensible with how I used the dock: once it'd charged the Switch up to full, or close enough, I took the Switch out and played in handheld mode.
I also plugged the dock into the in-seat USB port, although given that you get 5W of juice out of those, the extra juice would be negligible at best. (There wasn't enough time to recharge the dock once I'd landed at Dubai, and I didn't have access to the in-seat power plug that some passengers get on the A380.)
It's a lot more juice than I was expecting - given the variance in games, I thought I might get about eight hours playtime total. But being able to push past ten means you would be able to keep yourself occupied on most of the long haul flights out of Sydney or Melbourne.
Got one of those Jetstar deals to Japan, for instance? Grab a Switch and the dock, and you're sorted. No need to pay extra for in-flight entertainment. Flying to Singapore? Too easy. Bangkok should be fine, as I found, and as long as there's no stopovers the dock should last a full flight to Taipei as well (nonstop flights from Melbourne and Sydney are just under 10 hours).
But while it's nice to have juice, it's worth pointing out some of the flaws here. The build quality of the Venom is a bit on the cheaper side. I've found that one of lock/unlock tabs is much stiffer than the other. It also took a few goes before the kickstands would easily and comfortably flip out.
The most practical issue is the hard plastic construction. It helps minimise the weight as much as possible - the battery adds enough heft as is - but with no rubberised texture on the feet, there's nothing to stop it from sliding around.
I quickly found a spot where it sat comfortably - being spread across the two folds of the in-seat tray table seemed to work quite well. It would be nice to not have to worry about that though: in general, especially in economy, you want to keep things as far away from the seat in front. You never know when the person in front is suddenly going to lurch their seat backwards, with no concern for your screens or tech. (I've had this happen a few times when using the laptop, for example.)
Fortunately, the Switch is small enough that you shouldn't have too many troubles. But a little rubber insert or stopper on the bottom of the feet would be nice.
But it's not a huge dealbreaker. You buy something like the Venom for one reason: power. And with a bit of savvy in how you use the Switch, you can get a hell of a lot of juice out of it. Being a 10,000mAh battery means it's not too heavy either - you can get larger packs, but then the weight becomes an issue if you ever want to play in handheld mode.
So I'm pleased and impressed in equal measure. Firstly, it's not often that I get a pitch that actually makes a lot of sense for my workflow, or my schedule. Secondly, the Venom did its job admirably and at a reasonable price point. That's hard to complain about, even with a couple of gripes about the build quality.
The author travelled to Gamescom 2018 as a guest of Nvidia, although the Venom Power Pack was provided separately through their Australian distributor.