Tech by VICE

How I Got a Nintendo Switch, Lockdown's Most Coveted Item

Here's how I easily managed to get one / a love letter to my boi.

by Ryan Bassil
23 April 2020, 8:00am

Photo: Ryan Bassil

Since the COVID-19 lockdown began on 23rd March, I’ve been nursing an obsession for the Nintendo Switch. Beside bread flour, weed and a cohabiting partner, the must-have games console is *the* incredibly sold out lockdown item du jour, with pre-sale orders at over double the £280 RRP popping up on eBay and Amazon. It’s been like a S/S Supreme drop but for Animal Crossing fans.

Getting my hands on one became a manic passion project. Why? Because is it a) human nature to want what thou cannot have, like in the Bible, and b) the Nintendo Switch is possibly the greatest gaming suite to exist currently on Planet Earth, with a roster of gaming big bois (Mario, Fortnite, Pokemon, Super Smash Bros) that can be played handheld in bed, or widescreen on the TV, with cute VR-like "joy con" controllers mimicking your movement to the screen.

But the biggest sell, and perhaps the reason the Nintendo Switch is sold out across the globe, is the premise it can take you to another, better world. Where bright and fluffy kingdoms are protected by amiable plumber bros and everyone participates in a fun’n’frenzy go-kart tournament when it’s all over, Mario style. Unless Disney made a console (pls don’t!), there’s nothing like Nintendo’s cross-title universe. It’s fucking sick.

Anyway, I bought one at 4 AM last week and it arrived on the weekend. I’ll get to how in a minute.

Switch in garden
The author, gaming in the sun

OK, BUT WHY IS THE NINTENDO SWITCH SO HARD TO FIND?

Nintendo has history here: they’ve sold around 730 million consoles over the years, across their range of units. The Switch isn't for serious gamers who usually carpal tunnel their way through RPG games. It’s successful because it’s hella accessible – the mega-intuitive game mechanics mean you can literally pick up and play.

The same avocado generation age group who remember banging Ash Ketchum through the Elite Four as a rite of passage in the 2000s find comfort in games like Pokemon Shield and Sword. Same goes for fans of Zelda and Yoshi, who both have original games on the Switch, or anyone who owned a Gameboy Advance or spent summer holidays playing four player Mario Kart as a pre-teen. You can download old Playstation games like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro from the Nintendo store too, for peak nostalgia.

But the Switch doesn’t just appeal to mid-to-late 20-year-olds like myself looking to return to a halcyon day of youth. Nintendo’s universe has been around for decades (the first Mario game dropped in 1985, nearly 40 big nostalgia years ago), meaning older gamers get the same nostalgia trip when picking up a Nintendo title. Case in point: my nan knows that “cute little Mario fellow”, but nothing about blockbuster Xbox and Playstation titles like Call of Duty and GTA.

With life locked down for the foreseeable future, it’s easy to imagine casual gamers and non-gamers of all ages looking to the Switch as a form of playful respite or something to shut the children up – but it was in short supply even BC (before corona). Despite being released over two years ago, there was a dearth of Switch at the beginning of 2020 due to UK stock selling out over Christmas. Pre-orders for a special Animal Crossing edition sold out in February too, and the console celebrated its best week of sales in Japan at the end of March.

switch with friends
The author, gaming with friends

OK, SO HOW DID YOU GET ONE?

To achieve what you want in life you have to be extremely dedicated OR sign up to an app that does the work for you. I did the latter. Stock Informer is a UK website that checks available online stock for bits the British public want right now, like Lay-Z Spa Hot Tubs (yes) and hand sanitiser, as well as the Switch. You get an alert when new stock arrives – either by email, phone if you’re using the app, or a loud alarm on your laptop if you keep their website open on your browser – and try snap it up before it goes.

Before using Stock Informer, I’d been surfing the world wide web and forlornly looking at Amazon listings for the Animal Crossing edition (£649.99), hoping that the price would go down if I stared at the screen long enough. I searched eBay every morning, listings sorted from price low to high, then listings only via buy it now, then newly added listings. I got into Gumtree in a way not seen since university. I checked Amazon in Italy, Germany and France. But it was all fruitless. No one was selling a Switch for less or even at RRP. Snakes.

It was the middle of the night when I received the notification from Stock Informer that Currys had got a new Switch batch in. It was the third time I’d received a similar notification from Stock Informer. Despite logging on within minutes, I missed out the other times because there was such limited stock available – plus people are using instant buy bots. This time though, it was 4 AM, and no one was up. I pressed buy, and the order went through. Some kind of angel must have blessed me. My boy arrived the next day.

switch in bed
The author, gaming in bed

SO WHAT IS IT LIKE AND HOW CAN I GET A SWITCH?

People say it’s important to spend lockdown learning a new skill or doing a podcast – but nah, fuck that. I’m helping Mario save Princess Peach in Super Mario Odyssey. Then I’m navigating Luigi through a haunted mansion. And in between I’m playing round after round of Fortnite. It’s the most fun I’ve had looking at a screen in years, which is helpful considering we use them 24/7 now.

Nintendo will be upping production this quarter to get new stock on shelves quicker, per a 20th April report in Nikkei Asian Review. In the meantime, you can try to get one using the Stock Informer trick. Just hold the hope, and whatever you do, don’t buy from Gumtree – someone I know was scammed.

@ryanbassil

Tagged:
nintendo
Nintendo Switch
Coronavirus
COVID-19