It's easy enough for people who cover games for a living to dig into the latest systems and software—but with professional blinkers put to one side, just what does the Regular Joe, or Joanne, make of the products that the games media is continually publishing #content about?
We're always curious, within the media, as to the "outside" reception of things—which is why Steam and Metacritic user reviews, for example, can be crucial to appreciating a game (and its place in games culture) in the long run. So, a few days ago, I asked the good people of Twitter to tell me about their experiences with the Switch, now that Nintendo's new console has had a month an more to bed in (selling a better-than-expected 2.74 million units in March alone, boosting its makers' net profits), to find its place in any owner's gaming routine.
I love it, and using it mainly as a handheld has completely changed how I relate to gaming, how I find time for it in any given day. (Battery woes aside—woes that Nintendo, save for my report, apparently hasn't heard of anywhere else, despite one similar account below.) But what about those who don't engage with video games for the best part of every working day?
I received hundreds of responses, which was a bit overwhelming. But I selected a handful of responders—many thanks to everyone who sent me emails!—to tell me more about their experiences so far, and provide a real-world snapshot of where the Switch is in the public's gaming conscience.
Were you a day-one Switch owner? If so, what appealed to you about it? Or if not, why was that the case?
Stephen, 30, a delivery logistics specialist from California: I was a day one owner—I've never owned a console on day one before this, because I've never had enough money to early adopt before. I wanted the best version of Breath of the Wild, followed by the new Splatoon and Mario games.
Justin, 37, a cyber security consultant from Cincinnati: Day one. I was excited about the system, and even though I have a Wii U I knew I'd rather play Zelda on a system I could carry around with me. The hardware itself was the big selling point. As a dad, I don't get much time to play stuff, so being able to play in bed, or on my big TV and surround sound system, with the same device was appealing. Having a standby feature is also essential, if I'm playing and have to put the system down quickly to do something for my kids.
Jess, 30, a computer programmer from New York: I waited a little while, about a week, because I have a Wii U and didn't see the need for what the Switch offered as opposed to that. I changed my mind because the thought of having Breath of the Wild for at least part of an eight-hour flight home was too appealing. So, the portability of the console was its main selling point, for me.
Olivia, 25, a PhD student from Norwich, England: My boyfriend and I bought a Switch the day it came out on impulse, but it didn't arrive until the Monday. I probably would've waited for a few months for more games to come out, but the rapturous reviews of Breath of the Wild tipped us over the edge. I also liked the portability of the console, as I travel quite a bit—I'm in a long-distance relationship. So, I was an early adopter because of Zelda, but I likely would've gotten the console anyway for both software and hardware reasons.
Matthew, 38, a lecturer (in games studies) from Glasgow: I was day one. I ordered as soon as the pre-orders opened. It was over-priced, sure, but I'll pay a premium to be a part of the excitement of an upcoming Nintendo hardware launch. The games were the main appeal, particularly Zelda, although the hybrid hardware was intriguing. When the early impressions of Breath of the Wild started coming in, and folk were recalling the spirit of adventure that, for me, characterized the first Zelda game, I was sold.
"Zelda ruled my gaming life for a good week and a half, but I've barely touched the Switch since." — Stephen from California
Zoe, 23, a private security worker from Seattle: I bought it day two. I felt bad about spending the money, but I had it at the time. I didn't pre-order—I wanted to buy it in person, but couldn't on day one, because of work. I've never owned a console before this one, and to be honest, the hardware seemed bad—the small JoyCons and reportedly short battery life almost turned me off the system. That the only games in the first month were Breath of the Wild and a few PC indie titles was really disappointing—but I'm looking forward to some stuff coming out in the next few months, like ARMS and Splatoon 2. The last month has been pretty rough, though—the Switch is now sat next to my desk, getting dusty, waiting for more games and the Virtual Console.
Rosie, 22, a customer service operative and musician from Glasgow: I was a day-one owner. I picked it up early from an infamous Glasgow games shop that no longer receives games from Rockstar, because they'll be sold early. I was actually in a higher-paid job when I bought it, and I did so because I was very attracted to the hardware, having not owned a portable device for a few years. Despite owning a Wii U, I feared that system's version of Zelda would be compromised. So, impatiently, and worried about spoilers for that game, which I thought wouldn't be up to scratch on the Wii U, I went out and bought a Switch.
Martin, 32, a pupil support leader from Edinburgh: I was a day-one person—I even went to my local midnight opening. I do have a mild Nintendo obsession, going as far as naming my cat Yoshi, and was also one of the 15 people who bought a Wii U, so the prospect of seeing that hardware fully realized was what really appealed to me. Regarding games, a sequel to Splatoon is what's got me most excited. When I put in the pre-order, I wasn't so much thinking of it as a "unique" device; the thought that was prevalent was more that this would be a way to play Nintendo's new games. I did enjoy Zelda, and am really looking forward to Super Mario Odyssey; but there's also the prospect of the "unknowns", which will hopefully be revealed at E3.
Do you have a history of buying Nintendo consoles?
Stephen: I've owned every Nintendo console since the NES, and every "standard" handheld—which is to say, I don't own a Virtual Boy.
Justin: I have every Nintendo system except the Virtual Boy.
Jess: I've had every Nintendo home console except the SNES, and several of their handhelds, though I'm usually not an early adopter.
Olivia: I was really into the Game Boy when I was a kid, and I bought myself a DS when I was at university, but I've never been a big console gamer and have never invested in a home console before the Switch. So, I have some history with Nintendo handhelds, but not so much with home consoles.
Matthew: My first console was the NES and I've had all of the home consoles since. My first non-Nintendo console was the PlayStation 3, and while I've stuck with Sony ever since—I've a Vita and PS4—I'll always be a Nintendo fan at heart.
Rosie: I went through a long drought after the first console I played and owned was a beat-up old SNES, only coming back to Nintendo in 2006 when I got a DS Lite. I believe I've owned every console they've released since then.
Martin: My hobby is collecting Nintendo consoles, so there is actually a Virtual Boy in our house.
How has the Switch fitted into your previous gaming habits? Are you using it more as a handheld, or playing it docked, on the TV?
Stephen: Zelda ruled my gaming life for a good week and a half, but I've barely touched the Switch since, aside from the Splatoon 2 testfire. I play mostly docked—I find the JoyCons too small even when attached to enjoy the Switch's handheld mode much.
Justin: I mostly use my PC, nowadays—and I've still been using it when my time's not been spent playing Zelda. I'd say I'm about a 50-50 split between handheld use, and playing it docked.
Jess: I still use my PS4 almost daily, and my PC probably once per week. I use the Switch with both the TV and as a handheld, but slightly more in the latter mode.
Olivia: I share my Switch with my boyfriend, so I'm still playing a lot of games on my laptop. But I've definitely used the Switch a lot more than I ever have, for example, my boyfriend's PS4. I tend to use it more as a handheld, although my boyfriend and I will put in on the big screen to work through Zelda puzzles together. When we don't want to spoil things for each other, we'll play it handheld.
Matthew: I'm fairly time poor, with work, study and a six-year-old daughter to contend with, so I've been settling down to fewer and fewer triple-A games on the PS3 or PS4. In recent years, I've found myself playing more on my Vita than anything else, even if it's just ten minutes before bed—but the Switch has entirely commandeered that slot now. The fact that we can play it on the TV when we want is a big plus, though, and I say "we" because I play Zelda with my kid and it's fantastic. If we only have ten minutes while the dinner is in the oven, we play it in handheld form—and the screen is a good enough size for my daughter to watch over my shoulder as I play, or vice versa. Or, if we have a bit more time, at the weekend, say, then we fire up the TV. The only downside is that my daughter was away for a few days with her mum over Easter, and she instructed me that I was not allowed to tackle any Divine Beasts or shrines in her absence!
"My absolute favorite thing about the console is the little two-tone tweet noises that play when you select your profile, first ascending then descending. Marvelous." — Rosie from Glasgow
Rosie: I've ended up playing a lot more of the Switch than I expected, but I do think that's largely down to Zelda being so good. A lot of games I end up finding quite dull, or not wanting to revisit them after playing them a few times, and that's been true of Snake Pass. Having said that, Zelda being so good on a platform like the Switch is ideal, because I've been playing in bed and while out and about a lot, which is lovely. It's a wonderful game to play in the sun. I'll say that, much in the same way I'm reluctant to pull out a tablet to watch a video, I don't like playing the Switch on a bus, where I'm being jostled somewhat. This is a personal thing, but I don't like burying my face in a visual thing in crowded situations where I need to be aware of the space I'm taking up.
Martin: My time is currently being swept up with Persona 5, but the Switch has fully edged out my Xbox One however—I'm rarely, if ever, turning that on. It has also seemed to usurp my 3DS—I haven't had it on in a while, and am not in any rush to go back to it. While I was completing Zelda, I was pretty much exclusively playing the Switch on the TV mode. However, now I am currently playing the smaller downloadable titles, like Fast Racing RMX and Shovel Knight, almost solely on handheld mode.
After a month, and a bit, with the Switch, what are your favorite aspects about it, and your least favorite things? Have you suffered from any of the reported problems, like screen scratching, and JoyCon connectivity issues?
Stephen: Despite them being too small for me, the JoyCons and how they work are really cool. That, and the concept of having all my handheld and traditional console Nintendo games in one place. I don't like the left JoyCon's d-pad being turned into a mirror of the right's face buttons for "NES-style" use; their size, again; and the really bad eShop storefront. Even though we have another friend code system, we can't message or interact with friends in any way, so what's the point? I've not suffered any of the common complaints yet, though.
Justin: The portability is amazing—just being able to go from the TV in the basement and up to bed, by taking it out of the dock. Zelda and Snipperclips are genuinely great exclusives. On the negative side, I did have to get my left JoyCon repaired by Nintendo, so that was a week without Zelda. The lack of games available at launch is disappointing, too.
Jess: The handheld performance is amazing—there's no stuttering or screen tear, and the loading times are quick. The games I have played have looked beautiful, and Breath of the Wild really is a truly excellent flagship game, with few flaws. I have experienced both JoyCon connectivity and battery issues. I need an unobstructed line of sight from console to JoyCon to stay connected when I'm more than three or four feet away—much more gives me input lag and even total disconnection. The left JoyCon is definitely more finicky than the right, when it comes to connection and battery. In handheld mode, the battery drains relatively fast, even when the console is off, and drains slowly even while charging during use. No scratch issues, though.
"It'd be a sad day if Nintendo consoles were consigned to history by market forces, and the only Nintendo games we got were the likes of Super Mario Run." — Matthew from Glasgow
Olivia: I really like the portability of it. Not just the fact that it's handheld, but that the entire console can be easily moved. The JoyCons are also pretty versatile. When I play on the TV, I attach the JoyCons to the Grip, but my boyfriend just holds them individually. The battery isn't great—it only lasts about two or three hours when playing handheld. We very briefly had a left JoyCon connectivity problem, but that seems to be sorted out.
Matthew: It might be my age beginning to show, but the novelty of having a "full-fat" Zelda game I can play anywhere is still an unexpected joy. That it's arguably the best Zelda in 20 years, with apologies to Ocarina of Time fans, seals the deal. As a Nintendo fan, I'm pleased that the Switch appears to be doing better at retail, so far, than the Wii U. It'd be a sad day if Nintendo consoles were consigned to history by market forces, and the only Nintendo games we got were the likes of Super Mario Run. I've experienced none of the reported issues—battery life isn't great, sure, but we've an alarming number of USB-C chargers around the house, so it's not been an issue. I also keep it in flight mode most of the time, to extend battery life. That said, I have found its internet connectivity a little flaky. And if the dock did scratch the screen, that would be entirely unacceptable.
Rosie: My absolute favorite thing about the console is the little two-tone tweet noises that play when you select your profile, first ascending then descending. Marvelous. My least favorite thing about the console is the fact that I can't be playing Persona 5 on it right now. I haven't experienced any of the reported problems with the Switch.
Martin: I do think the immediacy of the Switch itself is still a little marvel. I've also set it up for games of 1-2 Switch and Jackbox 3, and the portability of it was impressive for myself and others who had not seen it before. It'd be great if the battery lasted longer, but I have not had a JoyCon issue, or a screen scratch yet. But I've tried to be mega-careful with docking and undocking it.
Overall, are you happy with your decision to pick up a Switch?
Stephen: Overall I'm mostly happy, and looking forward to Splatoon 2, but I do have some lingering doubts and worries. The last couple of years of the Wii U were not exactly inspiring of confidence in Nintendo's ability to manage a system, especially if the sales aren't great.
Justin: Definitely! I'm really looking forward to ARMS, Thumper, and Ultra Street Fighter II, now.
Jess: I want to get digital access to older games, and it'd be good to see an updated Pokémon game for the console. But I am pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy the Switch despite its flaws, so yes I'd say I am happy.
Olivia: Yes. My main problems are with the battery, and I'd really like some substantial game announcements soon—I'd love to see Pokémon Sun and Moon ported to it, or possibly a new, third entry in this Pokémon generation. It won't happen, but I'm disappointed that Persona 5 won't be on the Switch. But I do like the system a lot, and Breath of the Wild has been amazing.
"I am seriously hoping Nintendo has some surprises lined up for E3." — Martin from Edinburgh
Matthew: Even if it turned out to be little more than an expensive Zelda machine, I'd probably be happy with the Switch. But I'm conscious that that's not necessarily the attitude of the wider game-playing—or game-buying—audience, so we'll see how it fares. I think it's a pretty compelling option, though, especially for folk who skipped the Wii U and have the likes of Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon 2 to look forward to. A new F-Zero would be great to see, and a new Star Fox that actually captures the spirit of the original. And just imagine how perfect something like Knights of the Old Republic would be on the console—I'd love to play that on the go, on a decent-sized screen.
Rosie: I'm happy that I have a Switch, but extremely worried about how I'm going to feel in the eight months or so this year in which Zelda has exhausted all its pleasures, but nothing else I want is out. And what'll happen next year. And the next. I would describe my state of being, relating to the Switch, as Enormously Anxious. The Switch has a very sparse line up—I'd love to be able to play something like Dark Souls on it, or Destiny, or The Witness. The Witness would be perfect on Switch! More than anything though, I need Smash Bros. I don't care at all if it's just a port of Smash Bros. Wii U—I need to be able to take my Switch around and play Smash with people on the go. There is nothing that I crave more than Smash on my Switch. I'm anxious, because none of these are things that I can accurately predict happening.
Martin: I'm happy, although the drought of physical games is starting to feel a bit real. I am seriously hoping Nintendo has some surprises lined up for E3. I'd really like to see Luigi's Mansion 3 be confirmed. I've played the arcade version of Mansion, and one of the most satisfying feelings is the "shunk, shunk" feel as the hoover accessory sucks up coins. I imagine that will be well replicated through the HD Rumble of the Switch.