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In a community abundant with PC, PS4, and mobile gamers, the Nintendo Switch stands out as the black sheep in the Indian gaming scene. With its signature neon-blue and red design, it has attracted a lot of attention during the occasions I bring it out in public. The people who come up to me have the same question in mind: What is it that I’m holding? Their response to my answer is usually standard- A warranted look of surprise and a response somewhere along the lines of them proclaiming they’ve never seen the device before, or the rare person saying they’ve never seen one before in person.

This interaction just about sums up Indian mass’ familiarity with Nintendo- fairly non-existential, and the same can be said for the company’s official presence in India. However, believe it or not, there’s a niche community of gamers within the country who own the Switch, including myself.

I’ll give a bit of backstory with my exposure to Nintendo. My childhood spent abroad led me to my first ever console as a birthday gift from my parents- the Nintendo DS. Back then, it was the hottest handheld in the market. The E3 presentation for the device was the turning point for Nintendo, with the former president of Nintendo of America, Reggie Fils-Aime, delivering the iconic line- “I’m about kicking ass, I’m about taking names, and we’re about making games.” With an entry like that, it’s pretty obvious why people went nuts.

nintendo switch india

As a kid, the DS was probably one of the coolest things I owned. It had two screens, and most importantly, I could play with my friends! I still have fond memories of school field trips where we’d play Mariokart DS on the bus and compete. Even if one person didn’t own the game, the DS had local multiplayer that would allow them to play without the cartridge. Not to mention, the introduction of the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection, allowing for a lot more options through online play. All of this was way back in ye olde 2004.

nintendo switch india

Since then, I’ve been a Nintendo fanatic, and have owned quite a few of their consoles including the Switch. However, with Nintendo having absolutely zero regional support for India, being a Switch owner is quite the hassle these days.

The advent of digital copies has definitely been a huge benefit to the Switch player. Thankfully, Nintendo made the decision of getting rid of region locking with the Switch, making the buying process a whole lot easier. Although the Nintendo eShop doesn’t accept Indian credit or debit cards, there are a few ways to bypass this, such as buying eShop codes or using a PayPal account. But what if you want a physical version of a game?

As someone who likes having physical copies for collection purposes, it’s an expensive preference to have, that is, if you find the game you’re looking for in the first place. There are only so many options you’ll have in the form of online stores that stock games for the Switch. If you live in the right city, you’ll find a game store that imports the physical copies. Most of the time, you’re lucky if you find the game only a few dollars upwards of its US retail price, but more often than not they’re exorbitantly priced. I’ve caught myself turning green with envy many a time just looking at the much more affordable prices of PS4 games in India. 

Then, there’s the situation with the actual console and accessories itself. After a few months of the Switch’s release, players discovered the system’s controllers, known as the joy cons became prone to a term coined as ‘drift’, a result of the control sticks getting dust and debris under them. This tampers with gameplay quite a bit. For example, your in-game character who was standing idle a few seconds ago is now jumping off of a cliff. Nintendo apologized for this defect by announcing that they would repair or replace joy cons facing drift for free, even if they were out of warranty. 

In the average Indian Switch owner’s case, we’re technically still privy to that benefit, but only if we happen to board a flight to the USA. Otherwise, the next best alternative is to break the bank and buy a new controller. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are many tutorials on how to repair them at home, provided you have all the right tools. Needless to say, I’m extremely cautious when it comes to taking care of the console, because of the fact that I don’t have the option of rushing it to a service center. It’s hard to not get a mini heart attack every time I pass on the controller to someone else in fear of the unlikely event that it’ll get destroyed on the spot.

nintendo switch india

Of course, there’s still a silver lining to all this. Despite being a console that has no official roots in India, it’s the second best-selling console in the country, surpassing even the likes of the Xbox, a console with an official presence in the form of Microsoft. The Mako Reactor’s article covers this a bit more in-depth.

With the Nintendo Switch being a niche amongst gamers, there’s a tight-knit community of players. Super Smash Bros., the hit fighting-crossover game from Nintendo, has really thrived to a point where there are tournaments being held at events such as DreamHack Mumbai. While the bigger cities such as Bangalore, Delhi, and the like have regular meet-ups, in the current conditions of social-distancing there are weekly tournaments being hosted as well. There’s a really nice camaraderie between players, and it’s something that the relatively small number of Nintendo fans in India has helped achieve.

It’s plain as day that the Switch is a console that invites people to play with others. It’s never been this easier for me to rope some friends into MarioKart on the Switch, even if they don’t have any prior experience with gaming, almost as if I’m reliving those days as a kid playing on the Nintendo DS. I definitely think it’s a crying shame that Nintendo hasn’t ventured into the waters of the gaming market in India, especially when their games appeal to such a wide audience. 

For a lot of people, the push to buy the Switch has been either a new release on a long-time favorite franchise, the convincing words of another Switch player, or maybe even that piece of nostalgia from their childhood. Slowly, but steadily that community has grown and flourished. With us Switch players creating such noise in India, we can only hope that Nintendo decides to set foot into the country in the near future.

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