With exactly one full month on the market, Nintendo Switch has seen its fair share of ups and downs since launching on March 3rd. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild released on both Switch and Wii U to overwhelming acclaim, the console’s sales have kickstarted at a pace akin to that of the original Wii, and this all occurred with a relatively sparse launch lineup outside of Zelda. With Mario Kart, Arms, and Splatoon 2 on the way, Nintendo should be able to tentpole itself to the holidays and beyond, where Super Mario Odyssey awaits.
On the other hand, month one hasn’t been without its issues. Reports of scratched screens, bent consoles, Joy-Con problems, and the latest, actual melting have all surfaced over the course of 30 days, and though those affected may be in the minority, said incidents can’t be ignored either. Below are our pros and cons for Nintendo Switch’s first month, warped plastic and all.
Pro: Pre-holiday sales
After the lackluster sales of Wii U, Nintendo knew it was cornered. Switch being a sales flop would not just be unfortunate, but severely damaging; in that scenario Nintendo would be forced to reevaluate its entire approach to hardware and take stock for one final hurrah at making it work. Nobody wanted to think about this scenario, and truth be told, I doubt even Nintendo skeptics wish financial failure or collapse on the industry mainstay and House of Mario.
Knowing this, Nintendo took the 3DS approach and opted for a March launch, preempting the holiday season with an aggressive attempt at amassing sales before Christmas and Black Friday shoppers are anywhere in sight. It’s a strategy that doesn’t always pay off, but in this case it has, much to the very determined Tatsumi Kimishima’s delight I’m sure.
Pro: Testing grounds
In a related sense, launching in March has also allowed for something of a “test period” for Switch, one that is still underway. While some early adopters and critical onlookers don’t take well to being “unpaid beta testers,” there’s an obvious strategic advantage as long as the number of customers impacted by problems or hiccups is kept to a minimum (I’ll talk more about those later).
Outside of tangible issues, this applies to software and online services as well. Though quite barebones early on, we’re already seeing Switch software patches add minor tweaks and functionality after just a month on the market. Presumably by the holidays the system software and online services components of Switch will have reached their “final forms,” ready for the second large sales wave said time of year is certain to provide.
Con: Scratching, melting, bending
Of course, there’s a consumer downside for those affected, and it's that, well, any hardware hiccups or problems have to happen to somebody if they happen at all. You’ve likely heard the litany of sometimes one-off, sometimes quite prevalent issues by now, be it scratched screens, faulty Joy-Cons, or something foreshadowing actual incineration.
Of course, some of these reports are more substantiated than others, but regardless it’s never great to lose the goodwill of even a small percentage of customers affected by hardware niggles at a console’s launch. In the grand scheme this will likely fall under the “testing grounds” umbrella, but it doesn’t mean reported Switch issues are as simple as amusing user error like they were in the Wii era.
Con: Not many games outside of Zelda
Those playing Breath of the Wild to 80 hours and beyond likely won’t mind this, but for everyone else, there’s a clear lack of major software releases between March 3rd and the arrival of tentpole number one, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. In addition, Wii U owners who purchased all of the original Mario Kart 8 game's DLC may not feel so enthralled about buying the title again when, despite an added Battle mode with multiple game styles, much of the rest of the content is repeated from the prior incarnation.
If you happen to have missed out on certain titles like World of Goo and Little Inferno they’re available on the eShop, but for the gamer that has played everything and awaits new titles beyond Zelda, waiting has truly been their only option. It comes with the territory, but there’s little doubt a postponed hardware launch would have remedied this initial post-Hyrule drought.
Pro: Nobody will really remember this anyway
While some cons may seem glaring, most of them appear to have been acknowledged by Nintendo at the very least, if not addressed (the melting thing is new, so we’ll see what happens with that). Assuming nothing to the magnitude of Xbox 360’s famed “red ring of death” emerges, then it’s safe to say that this early phase of Switch’s life, outside of Zelda’s measurable impact on the medium, won’t likely matter or be remembered come holiday 2017 and beyond.
Of course, the momentum gained by an early release will be remembered, and so the story for Nintendo is really about reaching the holidays unscathed, maintaining momentum, and addressing existing or future issues in a respectable way. Do this, and the first handheld and home console hybrid will likely have a prosperous life ahead of it. That said, if mine does begin to melt or warp and is replaced, I’ll likely use the original for a Nintendo Switch yule log come winter.