The latest Nintendo games console initially arrived to almost universal praise. In an interview with Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime, is has been revealed that the Switch had a record-breaking launch weekend in the US shipping more units than any other Nintendo system in history.
Even now, there are continued stories of the console being sold out in major retailers such as Target, Gamestop, Best Buy and Amazon.
So, overwhelming success, right ?
Since launch, the first reports of issues have started propagating throughout social and news sites. A lot of these appear to be down to poor design decisions, quality control issues, or perhaps even a simple lack of testing / insight on Nintendo’s behalf.
- Dead Pixels on the all-important portable screen are “normal”, and not a defect according to Nintendo.
- The in-built kickstand is flimsy and has snapped on many machines. This is exacerbated by the fact you can place the machine into it’s docking station with the stand open and snap it off in normal use.
- Strange clicking noises coming from within the machine.
- Whistling fans.
- Flickering screen.
- Confusion about how you set it up on initial unboxing.
- Confusion about Nintendo ID, friends lists, Nicknames, Mii, etc.
- Poor WIFI strength, even in the same room as a router.
- USB-C charging connector is on the bottom of the Switch, meaning it cannot be charged whist on the kickstand.
- Strange audio artefacts.
- Controllers that stop working, lose sync or only work in certain positions.
- Users being able to scratch their screen by placing the unit in the docking station.
- Games locking up, crashing, glitching.
- Supplied hand grips can be installed on the wrong Joycon controllers and get stuck.
- Helpful errors such as “The software was closed because an error occurred”.
- On-board memory is only 32Gb. There is already one downloadable game (Dragon Quest Heroes) that is bigger than the entire storage available. So you need a microSDXC card, which is not included.
Not good for any consumer electronics launch. Definitely not good for a unit that costs £280 / $300. Even worse, and luckily for Nintendo, the initial buyers will likely be Nintendo fans, experienced gamers, people that are relatively well-off. These people will forgive a lot when it comes to the customer experience, allowing failure because it’s new and exciting.
But what happens when the Christmas retail swell happens and parents are buying it for their kids ? What happens when people have waited for the initial excitement to die down and the games catalogue to expand ? If the Nintendo Wii was anything to go by, it opened up a market to classically non-gamers as well. These people will not forgive the failures in the same way that the early adopters have.
In my own personal experience, having documented the unboxing experience, I noted several shortcomings that will really be amplified when the next wave of owners start buying the Switch.
1. There are only a couple of basic diagrams on the box and in the supplied manual to help you put everything together. There are no real signposts to guide a user as to the correct, and preferred method of setting it up. There is actually quite a lot of assumed knowledge in the way it is presented.
2. I did actually install the Joycon handgrips on the wrong controllers and ended up with them stuck for 10 minutes.
3. I had to investigate the menus to see if there was a software update. My intuition and experience said there was bound to be a “Day One” update, but it was hidden in the settings menu rather than front-and-center.
4. I can see how people can easily scratch the screen. Given that experienced, and careful users are managing to scratch it, imagine when a more “carefree” user or child gets hold of it.
5. It took me several attempts to get my existing Nintendo account setup on the new machine. In the end I had to use a combination of my iPhone and my PC to log in to Nintendo’s website and find out the relevant information.
So far I have not had any of the hardware issues that appear to be plaguing other users. So I believe I am lucky in that respect.
From a customer experience standpoint, Nintendo are incredibly far off the mark here. Yes, there are some helpful and friendly articles on the console’s news screen. Yes, there is information on their website. But the in-box material is next-to-useless, the hardware and OS design are less-than-optimal, and in reality the self-serve information is too-little-too-late.
But what is worse, what is unforgiveable, is that this is a games machine pitched at a very broad audience, pitched as the ultimate in convenience. Yet the company has allowed these multiple faux-pas to exist, all of which will amplify considerably as the buyers change from early adopter to more mainstream consumers. For a company that has been selling consoles to generations of gamers for over 30 years, you would think this kind of customer experience would be a science, an art, and would be absolutely nailed.