As far as I’m aware, no video game console has ever been launched simultaneously worldwide. Compared to its competitors, Nintendo is also certainly not a very large and robust company internationally, and then when you factor in all the various retailers and delivery companies operating out there, it’s hard to realistically see all units of the Nintendo Switch reach its intended hands on the day of launch. For you lucky lot who got yours on time (or in the case of my friend who followed up a dubious-sounding lead on eBay but managed to get his a couple days early, albeit in a pricey games and accessories bundle), enjoy your new beautiful console while I relay 48 hours of drama of trying to secure a Nintendo Switch on launch day.
I don’t think I’ve ever gone out of my way to buy a console on launch day, unless you count a new model, such as the New Nintendo 3DS XL, which I did buy with a special edition ofThe Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. There was of course the Dreamcast, which I went through pains importing the Japanese console, but given the long distance and such, it took a few weeks from its late November launch day to actually reach my house, literally just a couple days before Christmas. I don’t recall so much but I might have bought the GameCube at least around its launch, namely because I definitely did buy launch titlesSuper Monkey BallandLuigi’s Mansion. That said, the GameCube had already been out in other territories for a while, and had been long overdue for its European debut, the bargain price also would’ve been a huge incentive to buy on day one. But despite, the mixed reactions from its January reveal, I was all set to want a Switch in my hands to experience the newZeldatitle from day one. And so already sleep-deprived from the early-hours presentation, I waited until Amazon opened its preorders that morning.
That should’ve been the end of it. However, I had also stopped being a Prime member just a few weeks ago, which meant the privileges of guaranteed next-day delivery from their own logistics delivery at no extra cost was no longer an option. It was also a bit disconcerting to see the estimated delivery date would be the 4th March, despite the release date being the 3rd. Seeing the price of $299 translate to £279 already, I wasn’t really prepared to plump out even more just to guarantee a day-one delivery. So I looked around to see where else I should consider pre-ordering. You’d think Game would be a logical choice – but from my experience, the country’s primary video game high street retailer has a poor track record with delivering consoles and games on time, making bad headlines in the past with the PS4 launch, not to mention a few clusterfucks on some pre-orders I’ve had with them, even if they shouldn’t be blamed for having their truck shipment ofSplatoonand special amiibo stolen.
In the end,as preorders were going quickly, with a few of the big retailers Stateside already apparently out of their allocation within a matter of hours, I weighed up who would definitely have stock guaranteed for day one and came to the conclusion that surely Nintendo themselves can’t fuck this up? It was also a surprise that the Nintendo UK store seemed to be the only retailer selling Joy Con and pro controllers for £70 and £60 respectively, a fiver less than everywhere else. I didn’t want any extras but either way I took my chances with them with my Switch preorder, swiftly followed by cancelling the Amazon preorder.
However, I had preordered the bog-standard grey console, initially not so taken by the overly bright neon red and blue Joy Con. Of course, as you may have guessed frommy previous post, my attitude eventually changed and I did fancy the neon version. As did many others it turned out, since those versions were the first to run out of stock. Oh sure, preorder allocations did increase over time for other retailers to ensure the worldwide target of shifting 2 million units could be met. Nonetheless, most retailers only had the grey available. Then with just a month to go, I had a chance look at the Nintendo UK store to see that the link to preorder the neon model had suddenly returned, and I lit up. Was this my chance? But wouldn’t it be weird to have preordered the grey console only to cancel it and preorder the neon one from the same store? Would preordering late not also perhaps send me to the back of the queue as it were, scuppering my chances of getting it guaranteed for launch day? I weighed it up and ultimately thought the neon red and blue were too good to resist. And so it was I preordered a Switch for a third time.
All this time however these preorders were for just the console itself. The price of the games themselves was still rather contentious, especially £60 forBreath of the Wild, which seemed set to be the RRP for new games, a pretty sore deal considering the RRP for other current-gen consoles were more like £50, while Amazon had priced the Wii U version ofBreath of the Wildfor £40. Of course, most people will tell you that onlineretailersalways find a way to bring their prices down anything from £5 to 15 less, so I was confident the same could happen for Switch games. It didn’t exactly look that way initially, but first out the gate with a lower price was Argos of all places, withBreath of the Wildfor just £50. I figured, hell, why not and hit the preorder button. It was only then that I realised that 1) unlike other retailers who only charge your card at the time of delivery, Argos charge your card straight away, and 2) they apparently dispatch your order on the day of release, therefore if there’s no feasible way it would be in your hands on the day of release, so what’s even the point of pre-ordering?
As it turned out, many other online retailers had already been following suit to reduce Switch prices, and my most trusted online retailer Simply Games, with a good track record of actually shipping games to me even a few days before street date, even hadBreath of the Wild‘s Switch price down to £45, basically a 25% reduction of the RRP. I hesitated on this at first, thinking that my card had already been charged by Argos so with just under a week to go, I’d just leave it there. That however changed when I got a text from Argos telling me that, really, they would be posting the game to me on the 3rd March. Nope. No way do I want to have a Switch on launch day but with no game, or else forced to splash out on buying the digital copy. Fortunately, if the product hasn’t yet been dispatched, you can still contact Argos’ customer service live chat service to cancel an order, so I went ahead and did that to get my card refunded then promptly went to preorder at Simply Games. Once again, the retailer stayed in my good books, not only offering the lowest price, but it even reached me in the post one day early, a lovely yet oversized case for a tiny game card. Nice to look at but with no console yet.
But now back to the moment of truth. It was Thursday, the day before the official Switch launch. My friend had already managed to secure his the night before, while reports in Japan had some lucky people getting their units shipped early too. In any case, you’d expect to get some notification of delivery pretty soon, and while Nintendo UK had emailed a week before to let me know that they were going to be processing my delivery and charging payment soon, my order in my account was still stuck under ‘Processing’ while on my credit card account, the £279 price was still a ‘pending transaction’.
It was at this point that I took to Twitter to get a feel of other people’s experiences with Nintendo UK – to say that it was worrying would be an understatement. I’ve preordered certain things from Nintendo UK in the past, including some exclusive Amiibo, and without any hitches, which they even dispatched days earlier (though they usually keep the product in holding to ensure it’s only delivered on the release date). Of course a new game or Amiibo is quite another thing compared to new hardware, and many other people were taking to Twitter to wonder why Nintendo still hadn’t processed their Switch preorders. More alarmingly, those who did get a dispatch notice were informed that the estimated delivery date would actually be 7-8th March. You’ve got to be fucking with me.
I should say that before firing off hate at Nintendo, many other retailers werealsobotching things up. Both Game and Amazon made headlines for failing to get their orders delivered on time, many also not able to arrive until the following week, though no word was given on whether or not this was a logistical issue or whether or not some had been naughty and had simply sold out of their initial preorder allocation, meaning that they’d have to wait for another allocation to come in just to fulfil existing preorders. Even in the case of Simply Games, I could see on subsequent days that some customers were still waiting for their delivery ofBreath of the Wild, while my copy arrived a day early despite preordering so late.
So with the afternoon getting later and still no change in my delivery status, I went into full panic mode wondering just how likely it would be for me get a Switch on launch day. It was then that I discovered that ShopTo were still taking preorders for the Switch, albeit only the grey one. Not only that but they were guaranteeing DPD next day delivery if preorders were made by 4pm on that Thursday, i.e. guaranteed to arrive on launch day. I thought about how much I wanted the neon model over how much I wanted it in my hands on launch day, and in the end preordered a Switch for the 4th time. And yet because the order processing was already in such a late stage, it was also too late for me to cancel my neon Switch preorder from Nintendo UK. That’s right, I was going to be getting not one but two Nintendo Switch consoles for launch – i.e. the real 1-2 Switch!
It’s worth noting that even ShopTo faced problems on launch day, with reports that while DPD were doing their deliveries, there were cases that the retailer had not passed the shipment over to them in time. Evidently, it seemed they must’ve prioritised their last-minute preorders as on Friday morning just before lunchtime, my grey Switch had arrived – a bittersweet moment as what I really wanted was the neon Switch. Even though realistically next-day deliveries would probably need to be dispatched before 5pm the day before, Nintendo UK had emailed everyone to try to assure thatall consoles were being shipped asnext-day couriered deliveries. I crossed my fingers hoping for it to also arrive on the same day, but did it fuck.
To add to complications, it also turned out that despite getting my preorder ofBreath of the Wildrefunded at short notice from Argos, I received a phone call from them on the Thursday, when I was too busy anticipating a notification about my Switch delivery, to find out that they nonetheless posted the game out that day so that it would arrive on the release date of 3rd March, contradicting the previous message that they would only dispatch on the 3rd. The phone call was just asking me to return that copy to their returns department, which fortunately was a free post address. Despite that, I still made the right choice to go with Simply Games in the end, since this superfluous copy didn’t actually arrive until Saturday morning anyway.
And so on launch day, I found myself with a copy ofBreath of the Wildand a grey unit of the Switch I didn’t really want, which I figured I could either return back to ShopTo until I found out that they don’t cancel orders or in fact you can only return an item if it’s not been opened. But was I really going to have a Switch on launch day and not open it? Fortunately, the Switch’s neat shoebox-like packaging wasn’t packaged with annoying tape that would easily rip, which meant opening it up and then putting it back together without anyone the wiser was possible. My best bet would be to sell on the console as brand new for the same retail price to someone else who wanted it when no doubt other retailers were temporarily out of stock and other chancers were trying to hawk the console off on eBay or Gumtree at extortionate prices. All I had to do was wait for the neon Switch to arrive then swap the pieces over to the grey box – another ‘switch’ as it were. OK, so it meant I did briefly use the grey Joy Con in a 24-hour period, but I’m sure no one would notice.
That of course depended on the neon Switch arriving on time, because selling a brand new Switch for retail price in an otherwise secondhand marketplace only works when major retailers don’t have stock themselves. To my surprise, the dude who approached me first had the cheek to haggle me down to the price of £220, which all I can say was GTFO (not to his face, obviously). I just wanted to negate the cost of buying two Switches and wasn’t looking to profit from it, but screw it if I was going to make a loss. To my luck, not everything on Gumtree is potentially dodgy, and a local prospective buyer did turn up.
All the while, I was still waiting on the arrival of my neon Switch, which had failed to arrive the ‘next day’ as Nintendo UK had previously promised, their dispatch email actually estimating delivery as 7-8th March. So despite already having the joy ofBreath of the Wildliterally in my hands, Saturday was mostly filled with anxiety as I waited for my second unit to arrive with bated breath. I don’t know about you but even with couriers, I expect most post deliveries to be done by around noon so when there was still no word by the afternoon and the apparent Royal Mail tracking number Nintendo UK gave me was meaningless (according to many other people on Twitter, they received theirs from other couriers like Hermes). The worst case scenario would be that it really didn’t arrive until a week later, when perhaps other retailers would probably have stock back in (reports are that even Argos still have it available in stores to just buy in person in a few of their stores), in which case who’d want to buy one from Gumtree. Would I have to then sell it at a loss to the secondhand market, racketing up an already costly launch expenditure?
But at 5:30pm, when hope had all been lost, there came a knock on the front door. Not the frigging doorbell but a knock that I could well have missed. And lo and behold, a delivery man was at my door with a divine brown box – and in case you were wondering, he was from The Hut Group (so many goddamn delivery companies…) Just in the nick of time, for that short period, I was the owner of a grey and neon red/blue Nintendo Switch (as you can see from the photo above)
All’s well that ends well then, I suppose. However, the lesson here was that my last-minute panic buys, as ludicrous as they may seem, were in fact the right choices, since both my initial preorders of the console andBreath of the Wildultimatelyfailed to arrive on launch day. But at least Argos were able to refund my game order (which I duly posted back), and now that double balance of two Switches on my credit card balance can be negated by selling one off for cold hard cash. To my surprise, the buyer was so grateful I wasn’t ripping him off that he ended up giving me a unexpected generous tip on top of the £280 I had asked for (mind you, it’s very uncomfortable to be carrying that much wad of cash around these days). Let’s just hope he never realises that his grey Joy Con were used for about a day.
That’s however not quite the end of my money troubles for the launch weekend – after all, if you do your math, two Switches worth £280 each do not exceed a grand, so what was my overlong title getting at? You see, as well as buying a physical copy ofBreath of the Wild, I also took a splurge on the eshop on day one to download more launch titles. You can say what you like about the ‘sparse’ launch line-up, but I ended up buying way more than I expected, including adorable co-op puzzlerSnipperclips tore-buying the excellent retro-platformerShovel Knight: Treasure Trove and the very last-minute launch title touchscreen-only rhythm-actionVoez.
All in all, my final tally of launch games for the Switch came to seven, totalling up to just a little over £200. Believe me, I haven’t spent this much on games in a long while, and how would I even have time to be playing any of them when there’s one mammoth one likeZelda? But that’s not all. The annoying thing was that unlike my experiences with PSN or the Nintendo shop on my 3DS or Wii U, it seems you cannot save your payment details on yourSwitch ‘My Nintendo’ account. So for every purchase, it will ask you to input your card details in full each time. After buying the third game this way, I thought to myself, why not just top up my account with £110 of credit to buy the rest? But after I inputted my card details for this, an error message showed up for no apparent reason never a good sign when you’re making a big payment. But being the stubborn fool I was, I just tried making the purchase again, and yet again an error message flashed up telling me that I had basically gone over my funds. This didn’t make any sense, as I had been buying digital games individually up until then and hadn’t topped up my account with any credit, which was still currently at £0.
According to the eshop, you cannot add more than £120 of credit onto your account any given time, hence why £110 is the maximum amount of credit you can top up in one go. Of course, I thought it meant that you cannot have that much in your account, but it seems to be that you cannot spend over that amount within a given period. So it was I continued making individual purchases (and inputting all my card details each time) without a hitch but then I came to trying to download one more title,Super Bomberman R, priced ridiculously at £50, which should by all means deter most rational people, no matter their beloved multiplayer memories. Not me obviously, as I kept trying to buy it and kept getting an error message come up. That would be because buying this extra game would take my day-one expenditure of digital games past the £120 threshold. Or maybe it was a sign to tell me not to buySuper Bomberman R.
My credit card told another story. Because despite those failed attempts to buy credit, I went on my Barclaycard app and was stunned to find the balance had rocketed up to over £1,000. This however included any pending transactions, and even now a couple days later,my eshop purchases combined with the failed attempts to buy are still logged on my balance as ‘pending transactions’ worth almost £500. Yes, that is an eye-watering amount for anyone, anytime. That should also have put me off trying to make any more purchases. But hell, I ended up waiting another day and tried again, this time successfullyBomberman R, which seems to confirm to me that you can only spend £120 maximum on the eshop in a 24-hour period – but what moron with more money than senseis gonna spend that amount anyway, right?…
Pending transactions are of course just pending, and my guess is that after a few days of checks and balances, those failed transactions will come off the balance and my card will start to look a bit more sensible, even if that still means I ended up spending almost £500 on the Switch console and games over the weekend. Let’s just hope I don’t have to make calls to both my credit card company and Nintendo support with back-and-forths over disputed transactions and receipts, because I’ve had enough drama.
All said and done however, I’m absolutely glad I have the Switch, that I’ve been able to play it over the weekend of its launch, thatBreath of the Wildis an absolute stunner of a game, possibly the greatest ever whether at home or on the go, and that I’ve already had a lot of laughs getting family members to play with me too with classic multiplayer likeSnipperclips andBomberman R and sheer insane laughs with1-2 Switch. But by god, please let that be the last time I ever buy a console on launch day.