My normal policy for buying consoles is that I buy a new console when the game that I clearly want to play next is only on that console. Which means that I buy all of them eventually (well, all of them except for the portable Sony consoles) but that it sometimes takes a few years: I bought an Xbox 360 when Mass Effect came out, I bought a PS3 when Journey came out, and I still haven’t bought a PS4, though that will change very soon! (Right now, the three games that I’m most interested in playing next are all for the PS4.)

So if you’d asked me at the start of the year when I was going to buy a Switch, I wouldn’t have known: maybe the end of 2017, maybe in 2018, maybe even after that? As the release date approached, though, it became clear that the newest Zelda was well worth playing, so I bumped up that estimate; but Mass Effect Andromeda was coming out first and the Switch was supply constrained, so I was happy enough to wait on buying a Switch.

Once the Switch was released, though, it sounded like Zelda was better than just well worth playing, that it really might be something special. And talking about it with coworkers got me more excited; so, a week or two after launch, we found a deal where we could order a not-unreasonable bundle through GameStop, and three of us ended up with Switches (plus Zelda and Mario Kart).

I’ve only had the console for a couple of months, I’ve only played (parts of) two games on it, but: it’s been almost two decades since I’ve been as impressed by a console as I am by the Switch.


Most non-Nintendo consoles these days aren’t even trying to impress you in the same way the Switch does: they’re doing the exact same thing that the Nintendo 64 or the original PlayStation did, just with better graphics. (And with online capabilities, online multiplayer in particular, but that’s not something that any one console can point at, and it’s coincided with local multiplayer being taken less seriously.) There have been occasional attempts to provide differentiators, e.g. the Kinect or an attempt to be a home media hub, but they never amount to anything, with the arguable exception of the DVD player / Blu-Ray player functionality in the PS2 / PS3.

Nintendo is different: the DS added a second screen, touch controls, and a microphone to a portable console; the Wii added motion controls, a direct pointing device, and a speaker in the controller; the 3DS added 3D visuals; the Wii U created a TV/tablet hybrid. And many of the ideas from those consoles were successful, but only partially: the DS’s second screen is probably most useful as a way to increase the screen real estate in a small form factor that you can put in your backpack without worrying about it getting hurt, its touch controls were good for the time but not something most games ended up being best with in practice, and its microphone never amounted to anything. Wii Sports was a revelation, but it turned out that there just weren’t that many games that used motion controls well, direct pointing also didn’t take off, and the controller speaker was a gimmick. The 3DS’s new addition had the least impact (even though the console was successful): people promptly turned it off, and Nintendo eventually released a version without the 3D support. And the Wii U was a flop from the beginning: Super Mario Maker is the only game I’ve heard of that really made a convincing use of the tablet, and while I haven’t played it myself, I’m not even sure that that game requires the tablet / TV hybrid, as opposed to just a tablet. (I have heard some people getting good use out of playing games in tablet mode rather than on the TV, though.)


Not the Switch, though: everything works. It’s a full-power (at least by Nintendo standards) console in a portable form-factor: so I can play one of the best and most beautiful games I’ve ever seen in bed or lying on the sofa away from the TV; if nobody is using the TV, I can play it there instead; I can play it sitting in a chair next to Liesl while she’s watching TV; and if the battery starts running low while I’m playing on the couch, I can switch to the TV and keep on playing. These are not theoretical examples: I have done all of these, and I split my playing time pretty evenly between handheld and TV modes.

Nintendo’s TV consoles have always been good at local multiplayer, and Miranda and I have had plenty of fun playing Mario Kart together at the TV. But I also throw it into my backpack every Friday and play Mario Kart at work; and the local multiplayer just works, with no configuration necessary. We have two or three consoles available; and if other people want to play, we just pull the controllers off the side so two people can use a single console, and the whole table ends up playing. It’s the most flexible way of assembling groups to play in the same room that I’ve ever seen; and, again, this isn’t a theoretical example, this is something I do every week.


When I watched the preview videos, I assumed that those scenarios were largely unrealistic; but, in fact, everything there not only works, it’s genuinely useful. Also, in the past I’ve been a little frustrated where I want access to both of Nintendo’s current consoles, but there weren’t quite enough games for one or the other for me to feel great about buying it; if it turns out that the Switch allows Nintendo to proceed with a single console line, that concern will vanish.

Just having all of Nintendo’s first party games would be a solid supply of games, and if it can get Nintendo’s first party games plus the third-party games that had been appearing on the DS series then it will an excellent console purely from the game supply point of view. But that combined with the console’s remarkable flexibility make the Switch really something special, at least if my first two months with it are any indication.

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