The Nintendo Switch may have been an industry revelation in 2017 but, as time has gone on, its performance issues have become increasingly apparent. While the company’s first-party offerings are highly polished, developed with its console in mind, most modern third-party Switch releases tend to hover around a shaky 30fps as they battle against Nintendo’s aging hardware. But, it’s not just Nintendo Switch games that are affected by that wobbly performance.
For the past half-decade, as performance-hampered games take center stage, a sinister force has been left to bubble away like an infernal cauldron. The Nintendo Switch’s grossly undercooked eShop waits in the wings, ready to bombard players with a litany of baffling issues the moment they open up the app.
The Nintendo eShop was and is a complete disaster, with issues ranging from horrendous input lag and slow load times, to copious shovelware and frankly glacial download speeds. It’s essentially a microcosm of the Switch’s biggest problems: shockingly unoptimized and in dire need of a refresh.
The Nintendo eShop has few redeeming qualities to speak of. Its ‘current offers’ section buries genuinely great deals under mountains of poor-quality games, while scrolling through its menus, even just a little, slows the app to a somewhat concerning crawl.
A press of the d-pad can take seconds to register in the eShop, creating just about the worst input lag I think I’ve ever seen on any console. The fact it’s an issue where it wasn’t on prior hardware is frustrating and, frankly, embarrassing. That’s not to say store performance is pristine on PS5 or Xbox Series X|S – both consoles’ stores could stand to be optimized better – but it’s far less noticeable an issue thanks to better layouts, easier navigation, and more powerful hardware.
The reason why performance in the eShop is so dire is pretty easy to pinpoint, though, and it largely lies in the app’s curation. Or lack thereof. That ‘current offers’ section typically features hundreds – occasionally thousands – of discounts. All crammed into a single menu. The Switch’s ancient processor has a rough time keeping all that product information in its memory, turning the app into a treacle swamp.
There’s no rhyme or reason here, either. Some games appear to be perpetually on sale, with many advertised as 90% off, giving the illusion of a great deal when really you’re buying something that looks like it was copied and pasted from the Unity asset store. Good luck trying to find a deal on one of the best indie games when sifting through a smelly landfill of schlocky visual novels and asset-flipped survival horrors. It’s Steam Greenlight all over again.
Wii can fix it
Nintendo needs only to look at its history to recognize what a great eShop could look like. At the risk of sounding like a boomer, remember the Wii Shop Channel? The Nintendo Wii’s online shopping solution was marvelously well curated, segmenting Virtual Console titles by console, while giving WiiWare (Nintendo’s fancy term for smaller budget games on the console) its own section.
The Wii Shop Channel wasn’t perfect, having to buy a tailor-made currency before shopping was grossly outdated even for its time (that goes for you, too, Microsoft Points), while download speeds were painfully slow even for Virtual Console games.
Yet the Wii Shop Channel was consistently a joy to browse. Updated once a week, new games were added to the platform regularly. They didn’t call them Wii Shop Wednesdays for nothing. Oh, and it’d be a crime not to mention the iconic Wii Shop Channel theme, fondly remembered today through remixes and memes. What does the eShop offer in comparison? Silence. Joyless, unforgivable silence. Sort it out, Nintendo.
The good stuff
Despite its glaring issues, the Nintendo eShop isn’t entirely irredeemable and has some strong aspects worth highlighting. For one, the search function is robust, allowing players to sort by genre and price range. You can also choose to search for DLC only, or for games with a demo available.
The Discover tab has improved over time, too. This section shows off curated offers, new titles, and highlights, all with tailor-made thumbnails to better draw your attention. Discover is definitely the eShop’s most polished section, and it shows that the app can be improved further. Of course, Discover doing much of the heavy lifting makes the eShop’s problems all the more glaring. Everything else within the store feels like an afterthought.
Am I confident in the eShop’s future, then? Not particularly, no. Its glaring performance issues mean that it’ll take a substantial overhaul to improve. And that’s not something I see happening on the Nintendo Switch.
Instead, it’s likely we won’t see a considerable eShop revamp until a Nintendo Switch Pro model (or future Nintendo Switch 2 console) materializes. After all, Nintendo did improve upon the DSi shop with the 3DS eShop, so there’s precedent at the very least. But, with the next iteration of the Switch still unconfirmed, we could be waiting some time for a much-needed eShop refresh – if it happens at all.
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Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.