Nintendo has spent the last three decades redefining console gaming, and the company that brought us the NES, the Wii, and many others is back at it again with a new system, the Switch. The Nintendo Switch offers console-caliber gaming with a twist: At any point, you can disconnect the main device from its dock and take it on the go as a portable system. With a tablet-style form factor, complete with touchscreen, and modular controllers known as Joy-Cons, the Switch offers the sort of innovative take on gaming that’s defined Nintendo’s best creations.
While the basic concept of the system only takes a minute or two to wrap your head around once you see it in action, the Switch does have a few less obvious benefits and quirks prospective buyers may want to be aware of before they make the purchase. Here are five of the biggest things to keep in mind before you pick up your own Switch.
The Switch doesn’t come with any games
Unlike the mega-popular Wii, which included Wii Sports a pack-in game, the Switch doesn’t include any free game along with your console purchase. You can download free demos of a few games from the online store, called the eShop, once you get the system connected to the internet, but if you want a full experience, you’ll need to buy a game to go with your system. Among the launch games, you can’t go wrong with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a massive title that’s quickly become one of the best-reviewed games of all time, earning near-perfect scores from critics everywhere.
The Switch supports multiple accounts
Nintendo’s previous handhelds have only offered the ability to use one account per system, while its home consoles have allowed for multiple profiles. Given the Switch’s hybrid nature, it was initially unclear which approach Nintendo would take. Now, though, we know that the Switch allows up to eight different users on one System. If you have multiple gamers in your household, everyone can have their own account for save data and online play. In fact, thanks to the Switch’s new region-free capabilities, you can even set up an account for a different country to purchase and download games from the eShop that haven’t been released in the United States yet.
If you want more storage space, you’ll need to pick up an memory card
The Switch includes 32GB of onboard storage for your games and save files, which is a decent amount for those who plan on purchasing physical copies of most games. If, however, you plan to buy any downloadable games off of the eShop, you’ll probably want to pick up more memory for the system, as big games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild can be tens of gigabytes, individually. The Switch supports a type of memory card known as microSDXC cards. Any brand of that type of card should be compatible, and any size as well. Nintendo has said that the Switch will support microSDXC cards of up to 2TB in space, which is larger than any cards currently available to buy.
Playing online with the Switch is free, but only for a limited time
Nintendo has developed a new online service for the Switch that, like Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, will unify the online experience across all of its games, with friends lists, voice chat, and all the features gamers have come to expect. While the service will be free at the start, the company has said that it will introduce a subscription fee later this year. The cost is expected to be far lower than on other consoles, however. There’s also one added quirk: Many features will be consolidated in a single smartphone app, allowing you to keep track of your friends on the go and voice chat easily through the app no matter what configuration the Switch is in. Of course, that also means you’ll need a smartphone handy to take advantage of the full set of online features.
There’s no way to transfer your saves between different consoles… yet
At the moment, the Switch has no option for moving your save data to a different console or a microSDXC card. By default, saves go straight onto the internal storage, and once they’re set there’s no way to move them, at least not yet. Nintendo is widely expected to remedy this issue in the future, but if you plan on picking up more than one Switch or think you might try out new games at a friend’s house before grabbing your own copy, you should be aware that all saves are locked to a single console for the time being.