Gaming in Taiwan: Switch Replacement Woes
Contributed by DJMMT
I love the Nintendo Switch. It’s a good console that accomplishes many things that I simply can’t get from other current gen/next gen platforms. When I first purchased the Switch, it was specifically to use docked. I didn’t think I’d use the handheld mode much at all. But now I use the handheld mode almost exclusively save for when I’m playing larger plot focused games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. But with games like WarioWare: Get It Together! and Pokemon Sword, I play them almost exclusively in handheld mode. I love being able to watch Netflix on my TV and play mini-games on my handheld at the same time. What I don’t love is dealing with Switch maintenance as an American living here in Taiwan.
I bought my Nintendo Switch at a legitimate local game store here in Taiwan back in 2017. Nintendo Switch games and products are some of the only gaming products I buy locally, because of the region locks. Whenever I buy a PlayStation game, I have to either go digital or import it from the US. This is a long, expensive process that no one should have to go through, but I’m forced to because I’m an English speaking American that happens to live outside America. PlayStation, Ubisoft, and several other brands don’t care about customers like me and the many inconveniences and additional costs I have to incur because of the fact that I’m an English-speaking American with American gaming accounts/profiles living outside America.
I support local businesses and that’s why whenever possible I buy my games locally. But currently that only applies to Nintendo Switch related purchases because of the reasons explained above. This is why I imported my PS3, PS4, and Wii U but bought my Switch locally. What I didn’t expect is that four years later I would need my Switch repaired and how nightmarishly difficult that process would be.
My Switch, for reasons I absolutely can’t explain, has a very odd problem. The Switch has this stupid protocol where when your battery gets too low, but not to empty, the console shuts off. It’s supposed to work like a phone where this happens at 15%. This is to make sure you charge your Switch and not let it run to 0%, because that can have adverse effects on the battery. At face value, I don’t have a problem with this feature. But you should be able to turn such a feature off if you want to. The notification isn’t the problem. It’s the console turning itself off that is. Even if you try to turn it back on, the console will turn on for a few seconds and then shut off again. But after a full battery of play shutting down at 15% is an acceptable limitation.
The problem with my Switch is that it started doing this at higher percentages. My Switch started turning itself off with a low battery notification at 50%. That’s ridiculous. I could barely use my Switch for more than a couple hours in handheld mode without it turning off on me. Then I looked it up and found that this was a widespread problem that many people had experienced. As handheld use is crucial to my Switch experience, I chose to pursue getting my Switch repaired.
The first thing I did when I tried to get my Switch repaired is attempt go through official Nintendo channels. I went to Nintendo’s customer service repair site and logged in to my account. Remember, I have an American account but I bought my Switch locally in Taiwan, where I live. Nintendo refused to help me. They said the serial number on my Switch was not from the region matching my account so they would not allow me to get it repaired. Now this is ridiculous because who the hell cares what the serial number is? It’s an official Nintendo product that was purchased and registered by a paying customer with a long-standing Nintendo account. They made the product. Why does it matter what number the label on the product says? But they refused to help me. Then I decided to try to get the Switch fixed by a local repair shop. Console repairs are a sticky subject. Some countries allow third party repairs and even modding of consoles. The USA doesn’t, but repairs do happen by lots of small untraceable businesses across the country. In Taiwan, console repairs are totally legal. I had to have my PS3 repaired years ago. I went to a local shop, paid a very fair price, and watched the guy fix my PS3 in a matter of minutes. My power supply had blown out because of a power surge. My PS3 still works fine today. So while I wanted to do an official Nintendo repair, I turned to local repair services.
It’s a long, ridiculous story, but basically I went to multiple repair shops only to have them all tell me they couldn’t help me and that surprisingly my problem wasn’t the Switch’s battery but actually the Switch’s motherboard. One store informed me that there is actually an official Nintendo Switch repair center located in Taipei. I was shocked to learn this but also happy because it meant that I could get my Switch fixed through official channels. Or so I had hoped. I went to the repair center and waited in line only for them to tell me that they couldn’t repair my Switch because the serial number was registered to Japan. I legally purchased the Switch from a legitimate store located literally two blocks away from the repair center. Yet the repair center refused to help me. I still have my receipt and can prove I purchased the Switch in Taiwan, but apparently the unit was imported by the store from Japan. This is a fairly common practice in Taiwan and I’m not angry at the store. What I’m angry about is the fact that Nintendo seems to think that this is a legitimate reason not to repair my Switch. And I want to be clear. They didn’t tell me they wouldn’t fix it for free. They told me they wouldn’t fix it at all, because of the serial number. Even if I wanted to pay, which I would have, they refused to take my Switch for repairs. The repair center clerk literally told me my only course of action is to fly to Japan and find a repair center there, because of that serial number. Absolutely preposterous. But that’s not the end of the story.
After giving up on being able to get my Switch repaired, I decided that I would buy a new Switch. Since the OLED model just came out, it seemed like a fine time to replace the console with an upgrade. To be clear, I never buy mid gen upgrade consoles and would prefer to keep my current Switch, were it in properly working order. But if I have to get a new Switch anyway then the idea of getting an OLED model is serviceable. So I started looking for a Switch OLED model after it released.
All gaming related stuff is marked up in Taiwan. Whether it’s a game or a console, the price is always marked up. Sometimes the markup is small. Like a new AAA first party Switch game usually releases for about $64. That’s including tax. Meaning the price is about the same as buying it in any state in the US that has sales tax. Sometimes the markup is big like with the Switch OLED. The retail price varies from shop to shop, but the average price for the console is about $420. That’s a $70 markup. Even when using my native California’s high sales tax rate for comparison, the Switch OLED in Taiwan is still marked up by about $45. And that’s assuming you can find the console as a standalone purchase at all.
One of the worst things about buying a new console in Taiwan isn’t that you can’t find it. It’s that you can’t find it the way you want it. They love forcing a bundle on you in Taiwan and they almost never let you choose the bundle. Each store may have its own bundle set, but it’s usually something you don’t want with no standalone console option available. For instance, PS5s are easy to find here, but a lot of stores force you to pay for PS4 games bundled with it. Yes, you read that right. These local stores are forcing you to purchase three PS4 games to go with your new PS5. And you can’t choose the games. It’s three random PS4 games that no one wants. It’s literally Starlink: Battle for Atlas PS4 starter edition, which is literally the worst edition of the game, and two JRPGs that I have never heard of because they weren’t translated to English. You have to buy those games with your PS5. This is true for multiple stores I’ve checked at. Super easy to find a PS5, but you have to spend more than $100 on last gen shovelware and pay a markup on the console itself in order to acquire it. And these aren’t scalper prices and practices. These are just standard legitimate game stores in Taiwan. And the prices never go down. Taiwan doesn’t have a degrading price structure for games like the USA does. God of War (2018) will basically always be $64 new here. Doesn’t matter how old it gets. There are reasons for that which I could explain in detail, but we’ll skip it for the purposes of time.
The Nintendo Switch OLED is in a similar situation to the PS5. It’s being forcibly bundled with games I absolutely don’t want to pay for. Funny enough, many of the games being bundled with it are games I already own. So they want me to pay a premium price for a product I have literally already paid for. I have seen a few stores offer a bundle on the Switch OLED that let you pick the game(s) bundled with it. But the pricing is ridiculous. I saw one store offering a bundle that was marking up the total purchase of the Switch and game by about $60. Some bundles let you choose from a selection, but it’s all games I either already own or would never buy. There’s no Metroid Dred bundle for instance. I’d buy that if the price wasn’t marked up by too much. Instead, they’re bundling it with games like Super Mario 3D Allstars and Trials of Mana. Both games I already own. I saw one bundle that was forcing you to choose between old indie games like Ori and the Blind Forest, which I also already own and definitely wouldn’t pay the markup being charged for them in these bundles. But this is buying consoles in Taiwan.
As I write this, I still don’t have a Switch OLED. I’m continuing to use my malfunctioning Switch with limited handheld battery time. The thing that’s most angering is that I know the Switch OLED will be on sale for Black Friday in America, but if I buy it there and import it I’ll be in the same situation if it needs to be repaired. Sadly, they don’t really do Black Friday here. I’d have to fly back to America and RMA it from there rather than just get it repaired in Taiwan. It’s a stupid system that hurts players, but this is gaming in Taiwan.