The Nintendo Switch is the perfect pandemic companion, and everyone seems to know it. They’re sold out everywhere, and price gougers are selling them for hundreds above retail on eBay and Amazon.
But there is a solution. Brennen Johnston, for example, decided to build a Switch from its component parts for his friend “to starve out online price gougers.”
Johnston posted the instructions and parts list on Imgur; the process of course is pretty time consuming, requiring one to source all of the parts that make up a Switch.
“After playing [ Animal Crossing New Horizons] and hyping it up to my friends, they decided they wanted a Switch,” he said on his Imgur post. “They called around to different retailers every day for a week with no luck finding anyone who had one in stock. No one knew when the next shipment would be. This led to an online search like Craigslist, OfferUp, and Ebay.”
“I did this build for many reasons,” Johnston told Motherboard in an email. “It is eco-friendly to recycle as much as possible, the experience gave me valuable knowledge for my career, and my friends are on a tight budget due to a layoff in their household. But a large part was because toilet paper hoarders got their karma by not receiving refunds. I just want to see console scalpers to get some of that justice.”
According to Johnston’s Imgur post, secondhand Nintendo Switches were going for “upwards of $450 to $600 in the Seattle area.”
“The key to a project like this is extreme patience,” Johnston said. “This took about a month and then some to bid on parts, find inexpensive sellers, and wait for ground shipping from China. In the end it was still worth it to me. This was a fun project to keep me busy during the quarantine while not breaking the bank.”
A Nintendo Switch’s software comes loaded onto its logic board, according to Johnston and Nintendo Switch hackers Motherboard has spoken to. Sourcing a good one was a tricky part of the process. “I reached out to the seller on Ebay to be sure it had those on it because I ran into that issue with three other logic boards that were listed ‘As-Is’ or ‘For Parts,’” Johnston said. “I was able to fix the hardware issues, but the software was damaged beyond my scope.”
The parts themselves could be found on eBay and Chinese supplier websites. Most parts are simply a Google away.
Typically, a logic board comes as a set with an LCD and battery that are properly calibrated together. Johnston purchased his separately, but didn’t have a problem with calibration. “I have had bad experiences with Ebay and batteries so I chose to order from a seller that was known to have a used Switch battery,” he said. “I didn't want to risk receiving a counterfeit one and ruining the whole project. I have run into problems with the digitizer not working but that could be due to a faulty/knock-off part I ordered, so for now it doesn't have touch screen capabilities. A replacement is on the way though.”
The only part of the project Johnston doesn’t detail in his Imgur post is the Joy-Cons, though pictures of the project show homebrew controllers. “I finished the joy-cons first before the Switch, ” Johnston said. “The process was different with them in that I sourced damaged joy-cons on craigslist and just repaired the faulty parts. One of them being a drifting joystick and the other being a bad battery, so it was less exciting of a process. Store bought joy-cons will work and have been working on this particular Switch.”
Johnston said the hardest part of the project was bringing it in under budget. “The only reason the build was even finished was because of a lucky logic board offer,” he said. “I certainly didn't do it only to save money. I love learning with hands on and improving hardware designs. This was a perfect opportunity to gain a ton of knowledge. If I do it again I will try to design and manufacture a better cooling heat-sink just for personal curiosity.”
The price of the parts came to $199, about $100 less than the suggested retail price for the basic Switch and significantly less than the asking price on Ebay.