The Nintendo Switch‘s (hardware) painful launch?

After months of hype for both the console and its first strong card (Zelda: Breath of the Wild); the Nintendo Switch launched to great success, exceeding the Wii sales during its first week (and, of course, outranking the WiiU in the process). Naturally, people from YouTubers to regular, enthusiastic folks prepared their cameras for what was probably the unboxing of the year.

But for a suspiciously high number of them, things got… a darker turn:

We learn a lot of stuff from that video, and the most important is, not a single error happens just once. This is critical since it proves none of the glitches and hardware failures are a one-in-a-million thing, but real issues you could experience tomorrow.

Grouping them, we can say the most common Switch malfunctions, and design flaws include:

  • Freezing, accompanied by a very distinct beeping sound. This one is speculated to be a problem with the Switch’s video processing power (GPU). On a similar note, blue screens of death. Our condolences on that one.
  • The card reader not working; so no detecting any games. Probably the worst one; since there’s likely no fix yet aside from sending the console back to the store (not Nintendo itself!).
  • Glitched screen. This is a moot point since it’s hard to tell how much is it the manufacturer’s fault or people mistreating the console, but occasions like it being glitched during a demo display are hard not to trust.
  • Inserting the JoyCon Strap the wrong way or side is entirely possible and results in a stuck strap. Your mileage may vary on this one, but before chalking it up to people’s ineptitude, consider how easy it is to happen: the straps are identical, and the real detail guiding you it’s the cord, since the “+” (plus) and “-“ (minus) legends are easy to miss if you are anything other than careful.

And finally, more than a malfunction, a design flaw that almost everyone with the console agrees on: the dock is a cheap piece of plastic that risk scratching the system’s screen every time you, well, dock it. This has been the number one complaint, and considering the dock has been pulled out of the official store; Nintendo clearly acknowledges this one.

The freezing and blue screens we don’t have enough info to comment on; but for the time being, there are measures you can take to avoid some of the problems:

  • Be extra careful when inserting the cartridges and taking the console around (this is no GameBoy).
  • Take a couple of seconds before you slot in the straps, and keep a screwdriver handy – trying to get them out with your bare hands can end up badly).
  • Use protection for your screen while inserting it on the dock; like covering it with a piece of cloth, or lightly modding the dock (recommended, its a very simple process). This we hope is just a temporary measure, and Nintendo is currently overhauling the dock, but even if that’s the case, we can’t guess how much time that’ll take before a solution reaches the public.

While the malfunctions that can result from system’s mistreatment will always be a gray area, it’ll be interesting to see how Nintendo deals with the objectively terrible dock. Will they design an entirely new thing? Disassembling it shows some pretty simple components so we guess that wouldn’t be too laborious.

Will they offer refunds/changing you current dock for a new one/ etc.? That’s a more pressing question since there are no real antecedents of Nintendo pulling console’s hardware off stores due to design flaws (rather than manufacturer’s ones).

The JoyCon problem is also rather easy to solve by rearranging the slots on the straps themselves, so you can’t insert them wrong at all, and it does look like something that’ll happen all too often, especially among the children Nintendo is targeting with its family console.

All in all, if you aren’t too psyched about Zelda, you might consider holding a bit longer on getting a Switch while the dock deal gets sorted out, and maybe other hardware changes or software patches release. For the majority that has had no problems, though, remember to be extra wary of these issues – they all can appear over time, namely the JoyCon and dock ones.

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