I love my Nintendo Switch, but I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t have a few flaws. While I don’t think any of its flaws totally ruin the experience, there is one that’s pretty annoying: the lack of an Ethernet port.
Online multiplayer has never been a truly big deal to me, but there are a few games that I’ve gotten pretty addicted to. On Switch, there’s been one title so far: Rocket League. While I’ve put dozens upon dozens of hours into Rocket League on PC, I picked up the Switch version the same time I got the console itself since I was attracted to the hybrid functionality. It’s been great having the game wherever I go. I got to play it at 30,000ft during my flight down to Ecuador; that really sold the whole Switch experience for me.
Now, I’ve never attempted playing the game online when on-the-go. That’s fine, seeing that there’s a single-player mode. But, when at home that’s a different story. I typically don’t play in single-player mode at home since I prefer to build my skill set by competing against actual people online. Even so, there’s been one nagging problem that I’ve had with the Switch version: the lack of being able to play through a wired connection.
Having a fast, stable Internet connection is pretty much a necessity when playing online. While you may be able to get away with a sub-par connection when watching videos or doing some light browsing (as long as you’re willing to put up with the all the buffering and loading screens), it’s a total nightmare to try and play a game with this kind of connection. Dealing with buffering when watching video is annoying but tolerable. However, anytime something like this happens in a game (called ‘rubber-banding’) it can be absolutely infuriating. Games require split-second reactions, especially frantic ones such as Rocket League. So, when playing online, having smooth playback is essential if you intend to have an enjoyable play session. Unfortunately, I encounter rubber-banding when playing Rocket League on Switch very often.
I really love playing Rocket League on Switch, but playing online requires a very fast and stable connection to keep things smooth.
Earlier in the article, I mentioned that I played the game during my flight to Ecuador. I’m still here. I have a plan with one of the ISPs for 20Mbps. I’m satisfied with these speeds, and they’re good enough for online gaming too, but just not through Wi-Fi. When playing on Switch, I constantly run into the aforementioned rubber-banding effect due to the connection speeds not being good enough through a Wi-Fi. Another factor that leads to this is that Wi-Fi connections just aren’t 100% stable. They’re constantly in flux since the signal travels through the air. That’s why just about every online game recommends playing via a wired connection since it provides near total stability. This allows a device to access the maximum amount of available Internet speeds at all times.
Admittedly, in the late hours of the night, my ISP opens up my connection. This allows me to get speeds between 60-90Mbps. When I try playing Rocket League on Switch during these hours, things are a lot smoother and far more responsive. The performance mirrors what I get when playing the PC version, which is done through a wired connection. When I’m playing on PC, it doesn’t matter what time of day it is since that wired connection keeps things nice and stable. This is why I wish there was a built-in Ethernet port on the Switch dock.
Using a wired connection offers the best experience for online play.
When Microsoft introduced the Xbox Live service with the original Xbox in the early 2000s, that really made online gaming in the console realm very popular. When the 7th-generation of consoles came about in 2005/2006, having Internet-enabled systems became more important than ever due to the rise of features like patches and DLC, alongside a new major service: PlayStation Network. All of these factors led to both Sony and Microsoft outfitting models of the PS3 and 360 with Ethernet ports. This, of course, carried over into the current PS4 and Xbox One systems. Nintendo, on the other hand, has continued to give us just one thing: adapters. The Nintendo Wii had an Ethernet adapter, which was then rebranded for the Wii U. That same adapter is now compatible with the Switch, although an improved model for the new system was released alongside the Switch last March. At $30, it’s not a super-expensive piece of tech, but I consider it to be an unnecessary expense.
This could have been avoided had Nintendo simply put a port inside the Dock that comes with every Switch. I’m not the only person who’s upset by the lack of its inclusion. There’s been enough demand for it for third-party accessory-makers to include it in their aftermarket docks. Japanese company Cyber Gadget recently released the ‘Cyber LAN’ Switch dock which has this very functionality. This proves that Nintendo could have taken care of this themselves with the original dock, but simply decided not to. As much as I hate to say it, I honestly think it was only omitted just to squeeze an additional small profit out of consumers who would resort to buying the aforementioned official Switch LAN Adapter. Low move, Nintendo. Some might argue that another reason an Ethernet port was omitted from the original Switch dock is because the console is a hybrid. Clearly, once the system is removed from the dock it would lose that wired connection. While this is true, it’s still not a valid reason in my opinion. I’m one of the Switch owners that tend to use the system docked far more often than portably. As a result, having built-in Ethernet functionality would be quite nice. After all, it’s always better to have options rather than nothing at all.
I’m hoping that if the Switch and its major peripherals (Joy-Cons, Dock, Pro Controller) get revised in the future, this is one of the improvements that are made. Is it an absolute travesty that this feature is missing? No, not exactly. But, online games are only getting more popular. With Switch Online coming later this year, it shows that even Nintendo realizes how big the digital world has become. As a result, I believe this functionality is definitely worth adding to the Switch. You’re doing a great job so far Nintendo, but things could be better. If you make this happen, I’m sure quite a number of folks will be even happier with you.