After spending a week struggling to find every single possible issue that could explain why I kept getting an error claiming my Switch had lost connection to my router, I spent the first twenty-four hours of the most recent Splatfest trying to enjoy myself between instances of getting temporarily banned from continuing to play. Nothing I’d done had worked. It had maybe decreased the frequencey of the issues, which was probably enough to hide the problem in the week leading up to the Splatfest, but with all of the heavy traffic and multiple hours of playing that weekend, the lost connection issues resurfaced. I spent time on Saturday doing more research, once I’d gotten so sick of being banned that I decided to call it quits for the night, but it was one of my friends who gave me the tidbit I needed to confirm the actual source of the issue.
Apparently, parallel to the “fix my internet” efforts I’d been researching and participating in with the online community of other people who just wanted to play Splatoon 3, was a slightly smaller community of people lamenting the fact that they had the same version of the Switch console that I did. This earliest version throttled the network card (throttling in this context refers to when a piece of hardware has certain limits and restrictions on it that prevent it from performing at more than a set percentage of it’s capacity, generally to prevent the piece of hardware from growing too warm or overtaxing the other pieces of hardware it’s connected to) in a way that frequently made the Switch dip below the bandwidth levels required to play Splatoon 3, resulting in a lot of false “disconnected from the internet” errors for people like me who had fine internet but an old Switch. Newer versions, the slightly upgraded basic Switch and OLED Switch models did not throttle the network card nearly as much, which meant that the connection was frequently more stable and less likely to dip below the required minimum because the Switch got warm.
After doing some research to verify these claims, and then a bit more research to make sure there wasn’t anything more than the usual rumors that Nintendo was about to release the next-gen version of the Switch, I would up diverting a big chunk of my “Buy a PS5, Eventually” budget into buying an OLED Switch. I will say that the wired ethernet port on the included Switch dock was a HUGE selling point, since that would solve most of the stability issues inherent in throttled wifi connections, but I was also interested in a better battery, weightier console, and sharper display. I’ve had my original switch since the day they came out and I’m still incredibly attached to it. I’ve played thousands, if not tens of thousands, of hours of video games on that console and I have a lot of fond memories based around when I got it. I spent 12 hours outside a BestBuy with some of my closest friends to get one and while I’m not as close with most of those people anymore, I still treasure the day we spent today, passing time in the freezing cold Wisconsin March weather, and the memories we made in the weeks after as we all binged Breath of the Wild and gushed about it in a group chat. We, of course, couldn’t hang out and play near each other despite the mobility of the Switch, since we would have spoiled each other about the game’s secrets. We were also having an unofficial competition about who could clear the game first and wanted to avoid giving anyone else a leg up. Which is why one of those friends didn’t find out about shield surfing for over a month.
But the poor old thing is dying. The fan has to work overtime to keep up during normal use. The network card is clearly struggling. The battery lasts an hour and a half at best, now. I’m worried the kickstand will fall off the first time I bump the Switch from the side. The cartridge cover doesn’t like to stay closed anymore. There are a ton of small problems with the console and none of them are getting any better. I love it dearly, but I think this is the system that I have used the most heavily for the longest time. I can’t think of another console I’ve used almost daily for over five years. Sure, I had periods where I was only playing Playstation 4 games, as I worked through some excellent titles, but I don’t think anything other than my TV and stereo system have been powered on for as many hours as my Switch has. My computer has been on for way more, for sure, but that’s sort of different, considering I’ve used it for work, for play, for communication, and for hobbies. It’s kind of in its own category at that point.
But now I have an OLED Switch that has an immacculate display, improved sound system, more storage space, and a much longer battery life. I even managed to play another three hours of Splatfest (which my team wound up losing, by less than last time) without getting banned from playing due to connection issues even once, which is a personal record for this past weekend. The jury is still out on whether just a new Switch alone will fix my connection issues, but I’ve also been looking at replacing my ISP with a different provider (that has less terrible upload speeds, hopefully) since I’m still nervous about the place the upload speed is sitting when I do a connection test on my fancy new Switch. It would be nice if an ISP change was the only thing I had to do to solve all my problems, but I’ve been thinking about buying an OLED Switch on and off for the better part of a year at this point, so it was probably going to happen before next May, regardless.
Time will tell if this was a wise investment, but I’m hoping that it will help extend the life of my old Switch. Even though I’m not going to be using it as my main console anymore, I’ll probably still use it on occasion for things like new Animal Crossing Islands or restarting games without needing to delete my save data. It might not have access to any of my digital library anymore, but as last week’s post about Digital Impermanence might have suggested, I buy pretty much every game I play as physical media. I’ve got the hard copy of pretty much every game I repeatedly and can just pop it into my old Switch even if I might not have any of the DLC on it. Which is better than nothing, you know?