Like other technologies, gaming systems make for tricky holiday gifts — in most cases, it’s not enough to buy the hardware itself, as there are usually accessories and other supplementary products to consider.
With less time on the market than competing consoles, Nintendo’s Switch system may have ins and outs unfamiliar to many buyers. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or someone else, this guide contains key information you should know before buying a Nintendo Switch this holiday season.
Controllers: What’s in the box
Every Nintendo Switch comes with two versatile gadgets called Joy-Con, and yes, the word is the same both singular and plural.
To control the Switch in its handheld mode, you must attach the Joy-Con to both the left and right of the unit. However, if you want to use the Switch in tabletop or TV mode, you have a variety of control options.
For example, you can turn a single Joy-Con horizontally to use it as an independent, miniature controller. Because using a single Joy-Con limits the number of control inputs, though, this control method is best suited for casual, party games like “Overcooked” and “Super Mario Party.”
If you want to use two Joy-Con simultaneously in tabletop or TV mode, you can either hold one in each hand vertically or attach them to the included Joy-Con Grip, which combines the Joy-Con into one, more standard controller.
Also, the Joy-Con have motion capabilities similar to those of a Wii Remote and Wii Nunchuck. Many games, like “ARMS” and “Mario Tennis Aces” take advantage of these capabilities.
Controllers: What’s not included
Batteries for the Joy-Con do not come with the Switch, but that’s because they don’t need any. You can simply charge the Joy-Con by attaching them to a Switch that’s powered on or in Sleep Mode.
Even though all Nintendo Switch games are fully playable with the Joy-Con, some users may find a Pro Controller useful.
Obviously, this additional purchase allows for another person to join in on multiplayer fun, but it also has other benefits.
For those who prefer extended play sessions, the Pro Controller serves as an input even more traditional than the Joy-Con attached to the Joy-Con Grip. Having a wider button layout makes easier on the hands.
Users who intend to play fast paced shooters such as “DOOM” and “Splatoon 2” may find a Pro Controller advantageous because of its analog sticks, which are less rigid than those of the Joy-Con.
Storage: you’ll probably need more
Even for those who don’t plan to buy games digitally, the Switch’s 32 gigabytes of internal storage will likely not be enough, as the physical versions of some games, like “NBA 2K19” and “Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus,” require downloads for much of their data.
Fortunately, you can easily add more storage to the Switch by inserting a Micro SD card into it. According to Nintendo, Micro SD cards with a transfer speed of 60 through 95 megabytes per second are ideal.
Users who intend to mainly buy games physically will likely want a Micro SD card with at least 128 gigabytes, while those who intend to mainly buy games digitally will likely want one with at least 256 gigabytes.
Headsets: A warning before going wireless
Because the Switch comes with a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack, most wired headphones are compatible with the device. However, the Switch is not as flexible when it comes to wireless ones.
To connect Bluetooth headphones to the Switch, you need to use a third-party Bluetooth adapter, as the system doesn’t officially support the wireless technology. For optimal results, you should research online how well an adapter works with the Switch before deciding whether to buy it.
Although the Switch officially supports wireless USB headphones, not all of them are compatible, and Nintendo doesn’t specify which ones aren’t. Before buying any for the system, then, you should look up online which ones will work.
Conveniently for those who own Sony’s Gold or Platinum Wireless Headsets for the PlayStation 4, these wireless USB headphones are compatible with the Switch also.
Headsets: No microphone, probably no big deal
Very few Nintendo Switch games support voice chat through the system itself. In most games with voice chat, you can only speak with other players through the Nintendo Switch Online mobile application. When choosing headsets for the Switch, then, you most likely don’t need to consider the inclusion of a microphone.
However, because the massively popular “Fortnite” allows for voice chat through the system, certain users may appreciate a microphone headset.
Online usage: There’s a subscription
Most Switch games with online features require users to pay for the Nintendo Switch Online service to access them.
Because a multitude of the Switch’s biggest titles like “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” and “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” have heavy online components, many may consider a subscription to the service essential.
Individual Nintendo Account holders can subscribe to the service for $3.99 per month, $7.99 every three months or $19.99 per year, while up to eight account holders can join a Family Membership plan, which costs $34.99 per year.
In addition to online play, Nintendo Switch Online allows users to upload their save data to the cloud. From the cloud, users can download this data to a new or mended Switch if necessary.
Smaller benefits of Nintendo Switch Online include complimentary access to a growing library of Nintendo Entertainment System games and eligibility for “special offers.”
Online usage: A wired connection caveat
When using the Switch’s online features in TV mode, some may prefer a wired internet connection over a wireless one. To connect an Ethernet cable to the Switch, you need to attach a USB LAN adapter to its docking station, as the console lacks an Ethernet port of its own.
Users who own the Wii LAN Adapter or any LAN Adapter officially licensed for previous Nintendo systems can fortunately apply those products to the Switch also.