(Originally published in 2017)
I told myself I wasn't going to write about the Switch launch, having spent an entire month writing about Nintendo launches, but this one was just too different to be left alone. From the moment preorders went live, it's been one strange journey after another. I finally have my Switch, but it was an odd road getting here.
A date I won't soon forget
The night of the fabled Switch presentation, there was a lot going through my mind. (You can hear all those things on the Stone Age Gamer Podcast "Switchening" episodes.) No matter how mad or confused I was about 1-2 Switch though, there was a brand new Nintendo console on the horizon, and I needed to have one on launch day. So as soon as the presentation ended, I staked out several websites waiting for online preorders to go live.
I didn't want to go with Wal-Mart or GameStop because as companies, they're different degrees of evil that I'm not fond of nor do I have any desire to give them my money, and Amazon was out straight away because I wanted to go somewhere and physically pick up the unit on launch day. The last thing I wanted to deal with was being at the mercy of the USPS while the rest of the world got to experience Nintendo's latest console.
I started with Target, but nothing was showing up on their website, so I switched over to Best Buy. Trouble was, they wanted the full purchase price up front. Not having an abundance of dollars, I decided to wait and see what Target would do. But I was already up way too late and I had to be up early for work the next day. I decided to attempt to convince myself to sleep and try again in the morning. When the sun came up, Target was taking preorders, albeit with no ship-to-store option and also for the full purchase price up front. Best Buy offered in-store pickup, but by this time, their preorders were sold out, Assuming I’d be able to change the shipping option later, I placed my preorder with Target.
After about a week, ship-to-store for my Target preorder was still not an option and the ship-to-home option meant I wouldn't have my system until a few days after launch. I started looking for other options for preordering the Switch, and much to my chagrin, the only one available was Wal-Mart. To make matters worse, you had to physically go to the store to do it. After some careful consideration, I decided that getting my Switch on Day One outranked my distaste for the Big W, though I still held out hope my Target preorder would come through and I could cancel this one.
When I went to Wal-Mart to place my preorder, it was a mess. It took no fewer than four different employees and managers to figure out how to ring up a preorder in their system (and I still have my doubts as to whether it was done correctly). It went in the system like a layaway, which seemed odd to me, but I trusted them. I had a receipt that allowed me to get a Switch on launch day, no matter what. So that was better than nothing.
I know we\'re not there in the story yet, but this is my current game setup. The Switch is such a nicer looking piece of tech than the Wii U.
The sting of shopping at Wal Mart was made worse because I was only in this crazy preorder predicament because my local game store, Level Up Entertainment, had been unable to take preorders on the Switch. I had traded in a bunch of games there a while back in the hopes of eventually using said store credit to pay off what was then known as the NX. The problem there was that they are a small business, and their distributor had no idea how many Switch units they would be able to get for them. As a result, Level Up wasn't able to take any preorders on the unit. In fact, they didn't even find out exactly how many units they were getting until days before the launch, and even then, they didn't know how many games and accessories they would be able to stock. It really is a shame how difficult it is for small businesses to carry certain products. But that's an article for another time.
As launch day approached, Target’s customer service had given me a litany of different answers, none of which meant that I would be able to pick up my preorder in store on launch day. I missed out on Best Buy's second wave of preorders and Level Up still had no luck getting solid information from their distributor, so I resigned myself to following through on my Wal-Mart preorder. Since my nearest location is open 24 hours, I called to ask if they were going to do a midnight launch. My first call went as follows:
Me: Hi, I have a Nintendo Switch preordered at your store. When exactly is it going on sale?
Wal Mart: Uhh, hold on.
March 3rd. *Click.
Yeah, they just hung up on me. And when I called back immediately, nobody answered. Fun times. I called again the day before launch day and was able to get confirmation of a midnight launch, and while I wasn't exactly filled with confidence, I started putting together my plan. A little after 10, I decided to grab my 3DS and go get myself in line. Sure, my system was guaranteed, but I also really wanted a Pro Controller to go with it, and I had a feeling that was going to be potentially challenging since they were rumored to be in very limited supply.
From the moment I stepped into Wal-Mart, it was a grade-A clustercuss and no one, neither customers nor employees, had a clear idea what was going on. My first stop was the electronics department where I tried to find somebody to talk to about the Switch, but nobody I found had any idea what I was talking about. They sent me back to the pick-up counter in the back of the store, which also happened to be where I placed my preorder. There was a handwritten sign explaining that if I didn't have a preorder, I should go to the customer service counter at the front of the store. If I did have a preorder, I was to wait back here. So I sat down on the bench, whipped out my 3DS, and waited.
After about 5 minutes, a woman came out and started unpacking boxes of Switch consoles. She saw me sitting there and asked if I was there for one, and I explained I was. I had a preorder and I was doing what the sign said. She told me that they were selling them all up front and I had to get in line with everyone else, everyone else being the 20-30 people already standing in line. I asked if I could get a Pro Controller to go with my system, and surprise surprise, she had no idea what I was talking about (noticing a pattern here?), said everything was going to be up front, and they'd sort it out there. I walked to the customer service counter feeling less than confident that I was going to be leaving with what I came for.
This is Box Boy on 3DS. It's what I was playing while waiting for someone at Wal Mart to know what the heck was going on with the Switch launch.
As I took my place in line, it seemed that even though I was going to get my system, the Pro Controllers would likely be sold out by the time I made it to the front. This certainly didn't fill me with joy, but I've never had a positive Wal-Mart experience before, so why should I expect things to change now? After waiting in line for about 15 minutes, that same woman who sent me to the line approached me sent me back to the pick-up counter because that's where pre-orders were being sold, so I rushed back in hopes of being the first in line. I expected a flood of other folks to follow, but nobody did. I kept looking around, but it seemed that I was the only preorder customer they had. I was still nervous about getting a Pro Controller though, so I kept looking around to see if I could find an ever-elusive helpful Wal-Mart Employee.
I eventually came in contact with a very tired old man who clearly didn't want to be there. He hadn't worked in electronics for a few years and had no idea what any of this stuff was. He did tell me that he was glad he wasn't working up front though, since the store only had about 20 units to sell, and there was a whole lot more than 20 people waiting in line for a system. Eventually a family who I recognized from the line up front came to the back counter accompanied by an employee. They had a good spot in line, and they had asked an employee to bring them back to look at the games and accessories.
I took my chance to ask again about the Pro Controller, and boy am I glad I did. They brought up all the accessories they had and I took my pick, snagging a Pro Controller and a copy of Zelda for my very own. The customer asked what the Joy Con grip was, and the employees had no idea, so I started answering everyone's questions. The old guy in particular was very grateful to know even a little about what the heck he was selling, so that was fun. Then they boxed it all back up and took it up front.
About 20 minutes before midnight, two more people showed up with preorders, and got in line behind me. They were nice folks, and we chatted about how excited we were to get our systems. Then about 5 minutes before midnight, they started getting my transaction in order. When my fellow preorder customers saw my Pro Controller and Zelda, they asked about getting the same. Everything else had already been brought up front though, so these poor guys, who’d gone to the trouble of preordering, were SOL. They would have to get their system here and then wait in line back up front to see what was left. Nice job, Wal-Mart.
I felt bad, but at this point I just wanted to get the heck out of there and go play my Switch. But no, that wouldn't happen for another 20 minutes.
The old guy had absolutely no idea how to ring up a preorder. He pressed all sorts of buttons, scanned all the barcodes, and even took my money to pay off the rest of my purchase, but he couldn't figure out how to get the Switch out of their inventory, even with the help of another employee who eventually turned up. All the managers were busy dealing with whatever the hell was happening up front with the line. So they took one look at the other, increasingly-angry preorder customers, bagged up my Switch, gave me a receipt that said I paid the thing off, and said "just take it."
I grabbed my Switch, Zelda, Pro Controller, and 4 jars of Old El Paso taco sauce (for some reason, Wal-Mart is the only place that carries it near me, and it's freaking delicious), and got the heck out of there. I finally had it. It took a lot more effort than I wanted it to, but the Switch was mine.
My launch night haul.
I spent the next hour at home just fiddling with it. I'll go into more detail on my actual experience with the device on the podcast this week, but I'll say now that I was a very happy camper. I set up my account, downloaded the Snipperclips demo, picked an avatar, and sat content that, while things didn't go exactly as planned, it all worked out in the end.
I didn't dare turn on Zelda. I knew if I did I wouldn't be going to sleep that night. I had taken the following day off work to dedicate to playing the game, and that's exactly what I did.
This is just the stuff I know about so far!
So why do I love my Nintendo Switch? Honestly, it's because of the future. When I decided to write this post, I figured I had to make another 20-game collage and look at that, I did! Not only that, but that's a picture of 20 games coming out this year that I actually want to play. There are 20 games coming out before the end of this year on the Switch that I am seriously considering purchasing. That feels pretty good. And look at how crazy these screenshots are. A sizable chunk of them look like retro games, and the rest are crazy colorful.
I still don't think the system is going to be a success in the long-term (editor's note: HAHAHAHAHAHA, oh man, how wrong was I?), but for me personally, it's about as perfect as a system could be. I can take my new console anywhere, and almost every upcoming game I want on any platform is going to be available on it. Oh, and Zelda is amazing.
I still can't believe what an utter mess this whole preorder situation was, but at the end of the day, it was a fun story to tell. And now I'm done. Promise.
What's your Nintendo Switch story?