The new hybrid video-game console from Nintendo is out now, and it’s off to a strong start: The Switch is already Nintendo’s fastest-selling game console.
Like so many things lately, its success comes as a surprise to experts in the field – the $299 console isn’t very competitive on paper, and it wasn’t a guaranteed success in concept.
- It’s underpowered compared with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, both of which cost the same (or less, depending on the model). It has a paltry game library compared with the competition. Because of its lack of horsepower, major games released on multiple platforms (think: “Assassin’s Creed,” “Call of Duty,” “Grand Theft Auto,” etc.) won’t ever come to the Switch.
But actually using the Switch is a surprising delight. I’ve had the Switch for three weeks, and it has quickly become a part of my daily life. This is why.
1. The Nintendo Switch is remarkably fast, which is more important than you’d think.
Sleep Mode turns the Switch into a game console that’s quickly accessible.
A major reason people are inclined to play games on their phones is ease of use. A phone is already in your pocket, and you’re likely to get into and out of a game quickly. The Switch takes this concept to heart with Sleep Mode, which enables the console to operate like, say, a laptop or a tablet.
Rather than turning the console all the way off, you can simply enter Sleep Mode: a low-power mode that enables the console to be quickly accessed once again, comparable to reopening a laptop screen. No restarting the game – you’re back exactly where you left off.
In this respect, the Switch feels delightfully modern. Though comparable functions exist on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the Switch pulls it off much faster.
Even if you do have to shut down a game or the console itself, it restarts tremendously quickly.
I’ve been taking a ton of screenshots on the Switch, mostly for work, and getting them off the Switch requires removing the microSD card I have inserted. And every time I remove the microSD card, I have to power the Switch all the way down. Bummer!
Thankfully, restarting the Switch – even from a cold boot, as it’s known – is remarkably quick. I just tested: It takes roughly 10 seconds from all the way off to the main menu. I’d bet any amount of money that it’s faster than the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Downloads are similarly fast and seamless, as they should be in 2017.
Much of what I’ve praised about the Switch’s speed so far has to do with how quickly you can go from zero to in-game. Another delightful aspect is how it handles downloads.
As seen above, multiple downloads can roll at the same time. And if you need to update a game, the Switch can do so while the game is running. This stuff may sound pretty standard to you – it is 2017, after all – but it’s far from standard on a game console. That I could casually update “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” while playing the game is a basic quality-of-life feature that makes using the Switch a delight.
2. The Switch easily, quickly fit into my life.
- Ben Gilbert / Business Insider
The gimmick of the Switch is simple: You can play it at home on a TV, or you can play it out in the world, wherever you want. When you’re home, you slap the tablet-like console into the Switch dock. Just like that, the game is on the TV. When you’re ready to leave, you pick it up and continue playing.
That gimmick, unbelievably, works. It’s fast, and it’s seamless.
Here’s an example from my very exciting life:
On Sunday evening, I played a few hours of “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” before dinner. I used the Switch Pro controller to play the game from my couch on my TV. Around 7 p.m., I paused the game and put the console into Sleep Mode (the equivalent of closing a laptop or turning off a tablet screen – “off,” but not all the way). I ate dinner with my wife while watching season two of “The Great British Baking Show” and fell asleep a few hours later.
On Monday morning, I woke up, showered, and got ready for work. When it was time to leave my apartment, I grabbed my MacBook and Nintendo Switch and threw them in my bag. While waiting for the F train, I took the Switch out of my bag and did some in-game errands I wanted to take care of (got that sweet black dye job on my armor).
The train arrived, and I tapped the power button on the top of the Switch, putting it into sleep mode again as I found a seat in the car. The subway left the station, and I started playing “Breath of the Wild” once more. A few moblin fights and one shrine later, I was at the 14th Street stop on the F train and, thus, near Business Insider’s main office in Manhattan’s Flatiron District.
I put the Switch to sleep once more and put it back in my bag. Seamless!
3. “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” is one of the best games I’ve played in years.
If you’re one of the 13 million Wii U owners out there, go ahead and skip right over this. You can play “Breath of the Wild” on your Wii U.
For the rest of us, “Breath of the Wild” is reason enough to buy a Switch. It’s an incredibly impressive game, at once subverting expectations of what a “Zelda” game is supposed to be and questioning the expectations of the entire video-game medium.
To call it a delight is to undersell how good “Breath of the Wild” is – it’s a game that demands conversation with other players. Did you see this? Have you been here yet? What’s this about? “Breath of the Wild” is the purest distillation of the “Zelda” series, enabling you to explore to your heart’s content. And being able to play it nonstop, whether I’m waiting for the subway or lounging on my couch at home, is wonderful.
I’m hard-pressed to suggest anyone drop nearly $400 to play a single game (between the $299 Switch and the $60 game), but this is one of those rare treats that everyone should play as soon as possible.
4. Being an in-game photographer is easier than ever.
- Ben Gilbert/Business Insider
Taking glorious screenshots is easier than ever with the Switch, thanks to the console’s built-in screenshot button. The button works instantly, capturing whatever you’re looking at on the screen, whether you’re using the Switch as a home console or a handheld.
I’m partial to it because the nature of my job is constantly taking and uploading photos for articles. It’s nice to be able to easily capture images of games and the operating system and then take them off easily using the microSD card. But it’s just as easy to share those screenshots on social media directly from the Switch, which is great for people who aren’t necessarily in the business of writing about video games.
More importantly, the speed at which the screenshot function works empowers tons of in-game photography. I feel obligated to capture tons of screenshots simply because I can so easily.
It’s more than just screenshots — the Switch enables you to turn an image into something silly and shareable.
- Ben Gilbert/Business Insider
Basic image-editing software on the Switch allows you to crop screenshots, as well as overlay text (like I’ve done above).
It’s silly and basic, but it’s incredibly accessible. Think Snapchat-level accessibility. Take a shot, draw something silly on it, and share away. It’s a little touch, but a meaningful one – a smart extension of existing functionality on the Switch.
5. And finally, crucially, the Switch is affordable at $299.
- Alyson Shontell / Business Insider
The Nintendo Switch, brand-new, costs the same as the years-old Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Even if you buy it with a game – and you definitely should buy it with a copy of “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” let’s not kid ourselves – you’re likely paying less than $400, including tax.
That’s a lot of money, no doubt, but it’s a surprisingly reasonable price for a new video game console in 2017. Consider this: The original Super Nintendo cost $199 at launch in 1991. That would be about $350 today.