If you’re looking to buy a Nintendo Switch for a loved one this Christmas, I applaud your decision. In less than two years the Switch has become a well-rounded system stacked with some of the best exclusives in the industry as well as a giant library of third-party and indie games that more than fill in the gaps between major Nintendo releases. On top of that, it retains all of the charms it had at launch: the focus on local multiplayer, the magic of playing on the go, the ability to play Mario Kart at bars, etc. I take it on flights and play with whoever is sitting next to me: I haven’t had anyone say no yet.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some caveats here, however. First off, something I talked about around Black Friday: the Switch is an accessory-hungry device, and you can expect to spend a lot more than just the initial asking price on hardware alone. At the very least you’re probably going to want to upgrade the anemic onboard memory, and that doesn’t come free. Other things, like extra Joy-Cons for four-player multiplayer or a pro controller, could get this thing up to cost of an Xbox One X in a hurry. More importantly, however, is something a bit more Christmas-specific: you are going to want to open this thing before Christmas morning and get it set up.
While the Nintendo Switch, as a machine designed to played on subways and airplanes, is not quite so reliant on internet connectivity as the Xbox One or PS4, it’s still a fairly major part of the experience. Christmas morning, however, can be pretty dicey when it comes to online gaming. It’s a moment where there are literally millions of people opening up boxes and setting consoles within the span of a few hours, slamming systems that aren’t designed for anywhere near that level of traffic and frequently causing problems. It’s a problem even more much-more established services like Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and Steam. Nintendo, by contrast, has never been all that great at the online experience.
I’m not saying that Nintendo’s eShop and other online services will definitely go down on Christmas, but you might as well prepare for that eventuality.
So when you get the Switch you’re planning on giving to someone else, start by opening it up. Connect it to your wi-fi and update all the software it asks you too: there will likely be one larger system-level update as well as an update for the controllers. Then, set up a Nintendo account: account creation is one of those services most likely to go down on Christmas–no system is designed for that many new accounts at once. If you’re planning on signing up for Nintendo Online, do that too.
If your gifts involve physical games, you might still want to install and update them ahead of time. If your gifts involve digital games, definitely go ahead and download those ahead of time. Again, it’s not that I’m saying any of these systems will definitely go down on Christmas day. It’s that they might, and you’ll look quite crafty if you’ve managed to get out ahead of things.