I have a PlayStation 4 Pro and an Xbox One S attached to my oversized 65-inch 4K television. I haven’t touched either of them since I got my Nintendo Switch.
At this point, it seems silly to enumerate all of the reasons why the Switch is great. It’s not just that it’s the best way to play the biggest game of the year, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it’s that it’s designed to play it anywhere and everywhere. Although the Switch is admittedly nowhere near as powerful as other gaming consoles, it is by far the best portable gaming console you can get.
I didn’t realize how much portability mattered to me until I had the Switch. Before, I would reserve my gaming for marathon weekend sessions, securing permission to hog the TV for hours on end and hoping that the grunts and gunfire endemic to most video games wouldn’t annoy anybody else in the house.
I fully expected to play the Switch on my TV, but I almost never plug it into the dock. Instead, it floats around the house — next to my favorite chair, on my nightstand, and even on the couch right in front of that gigantic TV. It means we can watch some TV and, if it’s a show that doesn’t really require that much of my attention, I can play Nintendo at the same time.
The real reason the Switch’s portability matters to me is that I travel a ton, and I suck at actually working on a plane. I’m also terrible at loading up TV shows to watch when I’m trapped in a mediocre hotel room for a week at a stretch. (Streaming something from Netflix or Amazon is not often a viable option on hotel Wi-Fi.) The Switch is perfect for me. If I start a game, I don’t have to abandon it for a week or two at a time because I’m away from home.
Oh, and the same charger I use for my laptop and my phone — one with a USB-C port — also works with my Switch. Good on you, Nintendo. That’s one less thing for me to worry about forgetting.
I even like the physical design of it. Instead of going for something that feels glossy and fancy, the Switch is kind of chunky and bland. It has a basic durability that’s forgiving: you can knock the thing around, toss it in your bag, and not worry that you’re going to mar some precious piece of tech. (You should probably get a screen protector, though.)
The Switch reduces (if not eliminates) the technological friction between wanting to play a game and playing the darn game. I’ve had the moment Nintendo is hoping for: discovering somebody else has a Switch and playing four-person local Mario Kart late at night.
My favorite moment, though, was when I handed the Switch over to my nephew and we both sat on the couch and I showed him how to play Zelda. The rest of the family was around — watching TV, reading, whatever — but we didn’t interrupt what they were doing. When he gets one (and after I gave him that first hit, it really is a matter of when), it’s going to be his. It will feel more personal than a box under the communal TV. It’s not easy to make personal technology feel actually personal, but the Switch pulls it off.
There are probably dozens of things Nintendo is getting wrong with the Switch. It has, unsurprisingly, utterly botched the full online experience with games like Splatoon 2. There have been hardware issues with the controllers — which, let’s be honest, are not that great on their own for stuff like Mario Kart. The kickstand is a joke. And despite some positive rumblings from the indie community, I’m not holding my breath for a wide array of third-party games.
Despite those problems, the Switch is special because it feels like a complete thought. It’s not often you get something in tech that feels like it’s in a brand-new category. And when you do, the first iteration is usually so hard to use and so frustrating that only a gearhead could love it. The Switch is a bundle of obvious and not-so-obvious ideas, and taken together they create an entirely different kind of thing compared to a traditional console or tablet. Of all the tech released so far in 2017, the Switch is easily my favorite thing.