We Need to Talk About Nintendo Switch Sharing

The Nintendo Switch is a wonder at this point. Applying Gunpei Yokoi's Lateral Thinking with Withered Technology, Nintendo took an ARM SoC that was already on the market and made it into the platform they needed – a cheap, semi-portable platform that was good enough and easy to port games to, and that right now fills the niche as the mainstream, Wii-like console for people who don't want mobile games and don't want to play the exclusives lottery with the Xbox or PlayStation consoles and can't afford to get both.

The OS, or in Nintendo's words "System Software" is a lot better in the Switch than in the Wii consoles. For the Wii U, much was made of an early slash of boot-up time to get it down to a half minute delay, and most of the user interface felt like swimming through corn starch. But some of the OS is still the weakest link of the Switch.

v11.0 is a great example of what's wrong. It introduces two features I've been waiting for since launch – the ability to send screen captures (images and video) to a phone or tablet, and to a computer over USB. Both of the implementations have striking flaws.

Sending to a phone does not involve using any of the Switch apps available. Instead, it involves a two-part QR code process: First, you scan a QR code to join an ad-hoc hosted Wi-Fi network. Then, when it detects that you have connected, it shows a second QR code, which is a link to a locally hosted web server which has a page with the media. This is brilliant and inspired – but it's brilliant and inspired in a 24-hour hackathon, look-what-we-can-do, proof-of-concept kind of way. It's what you do when you can't do anything else, to show that anything is possible. But it's a thoroughly horrible user experience. To make matters worse, you can only do this with up to 10 screenshots or 1 video at a time.

Sending to a computer via USB is less concerning, since it involves connecting a USB cable between the Switch and the computer and lets you have at the entire contents. The problem here is that you can't use a USB cable in the Switch Dock. You have to pull out the Switch and use the USB-C port on the Switch itself. If you could use the Dock's port, you could leave a cable in there and just connect it to your computer when you wanted to take a look. Now, it's more involved.

Both of these are advances over the state of the Switch from launch date to just over a week ago, where you were resigned to posting to Facebook or Twitter, or powering down the console and removing the micro-SD card (inserted behind the kickstand) respectively. And the Switch was launched under infamous hard deadlines, because of preannouncements about an "NX" console to be launched within that fiscal year. But these are features that could have been added much sooner, and could have been done much better.

The idea that comes to mind for phone/tablet sharing is to let you select as many items as possible, establish a local network connection or maybe even Bluetooth and send them over to a new department of one of the Switch apps. (There are a few variants on how to do this and what goes where, like maybe you can argue that the gallery should be streamed over to the app and the device user should handle picking and saving; but it's hard to choose a model that isn't significantly simpler, more efficient and less disruptive.) For USB connections, maybe design choices made during the construction of the Dock mean they really are prevented from making the connection directly to the Dock work, which means it's hard to patch after the hurried launch.

Either way, I hope the upcoming Switch refresh has spent more time thinking through these features. The Switch project wasn't rushed in all aspects, considering the intricate detail of its DRM, extending through the game cards. When it comes to basic features, responsiveness and loading times, though, Nintendo's habit of acting bumfuzzled has yet to wear off.

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