It’s almost the dictionary definition of a first world problem, I know, but I’ve been having an awful time lately trying to make my Switch cute. Sure, there are a ton of Joy-Con colourways that I could drop at least 70 quid on, but the issue is that they aren’t cute.
Forgive me for being the kind of gal who wants lovely pastels in my life, but Nintendo’s neon offerings just don’t do it for me, and the heavy branding of the Fortnite and Skyward Sword Joy-Con is really not my jam. And sure, there’s the Animal Crossing: New Horizons Switch, which is quite beautiful, but I don’t want an entire Switch! I have one already, even though it’s got more battle scars than a tank.
So, as with many things, I turn to the wider internet to find what I want. I scour Etsy and peruse Amazon, the havens of third-party sellers doing questionable things with copyrights and warranties. I find a few options that intrigue me – ExtremeRate’s popular translucent shells, and various listings on Etsy with suspiciously weird titles like “Joy-Con Nintendo Shell Replacement Cute Pink Custom Console Kawaii Shell Wrap Set Perfect Lovely Cute”.
The fine print catches me up a few times. It’s hard, especially with titles this long, to figure out if something is a shell – an actual plastic replacement – or merely a case, or, even worse, a vinyl skin, which is basically just a sticker that will come off in a matter of weeks with heavy play. Many of the ones that are bonafide plastic shell replacements look really rough, like the seller found them at the back of a charity shop, or they come in weirdly specific colour options like “the soft green of a moss carpet in a forest at sunrise” and “baby puke”.
Some of the kits come with tools, like all the tiny screws and miniature screwdrivers that you’ll need, as well as video instructions of varying quality. Some of them arrive in a ziplock bag, stuffed into an envelope like the kind of thing you’d struggle to get through airport security.
They often come weeks after you ordered them, the parcel itself looking so battered that you wonder if someone’s been using it for football practice. The contents themselves are usually of such low quality that you realise there’s a horrible factory somewhere churning these adorable things out, and it wasn’t just a sweet little old lady handcrafting Joy-Con shells in her living room. You probably could have guessed that, though.
I would love to find a reputable source of Joy-Con and Switch mods that didn’t make me feel icky, but it’s been hard. The vast majority of people who’ve hopped on the Switch mod bandwagon have been companies with creepy vibes and Etsy resellers, and finding that one trustworthy artisan Joy-Con shell craftsman has been like trying to find an ice cube in a swimming pool. There is eXtremeRate on Amazon, but the one item I ordered from them never arrived, and Colorware’s incredible range of Joy-Con colours is tempting, but pretty pricey for a website with no reviews on it. I am adrift in a sea of confusing options.
This isn’t an issue limited to Switch mods, of course. Trying to find a computer case or a keyboard that isn’t all Gamer Bro is a nightmare. I don’t need my keyboard to glow a threatening red; I really don’t want my computer to load up with a message that proclaims that I’m a member of the “Republic of Gamers” (ew), and please don’t tell me that my motherboard is called a BAZOOKA. That’s honestly pretty embarrassing for me, like having to tell curious strangers that your dog is named “Duke Poopypants”.
It would be lovely to have more – for the want of a better word – feminine options on the market, without having to shell out hundreds of pounds on small-batch keyboards and cases. My own custom keyboard setup is a combination of a 65% base with Cherry MX Blue switches and a completely blank blue/red gradient set of keycaps, and it’s gorgeous. I’m looking for a similar customisation level for all of my electronics, but I know it doesn’t come cheap.
The wealth of unsettlingly sweatshoppy businesses on Amazon and Etsy is hardly new, either. Although both have reputable sellers, they also have a pretty low bar for quality, since it doesn’t really suit their business to be picky. Both are markets which have a huge “BUYER BEWARE” stamp on them – if you order something and it turns out to be a terrible fake, well, you should have done more research and realised that you can’t get a good quality product for the suspiciously-low price of £6.72, even though the (often stolen) images looked pretty good.
It’s all pretty exhausting. I just want adorable Joy-Con, and to fix my awful, cracked backplate without having to get a new, boring, grey one. Pardon the moment of “back in my day”, but back in my day, it was super easy to renovate your mobile phone – the case would just pop off, and you could buy new ones in just about any phone shop (of which there were many in the early 2000s). I had a Winnie the Pooh one, because I was a child, and my literally brick-sized phone was mostly used for playing Snake and telling my mum that I was in the car park after school.
Slowly, companies realised that having their electronics be easily moddable and mendable would make people keep them for longer, and therefore not buy new ones; thus, we got the all-in-one, take-it-to-a-specialist-repair-shop-if-it-breaks kind of phones. It’s anti-consumer, I tells ya!
But alongside this move away from consumer-friendly practices, those same consumers got savvy. With an hour of my time, a lot of patience, some tiny tweezers and a YouTube tutorial, I can mod things myself – in theory, anyway. People jailbreak phones, homebrew consoles, and generally mess around with Raspberry Pis to make whatever they need. Every hurdle that a company puts in their way will just slow these folks down. So why do it?
Well, imagine if Nintendo sold little DIY Joy-Con shell kits – and imagine the backlash they’d get when people inevitably break the inner workings of the tiny controllers and try to get their money back. Imagine that Nintendo’s tacit approval of the modding process would be claimed by lawyers as an encouragement to void warranties, and the legal cases that would ensue. It just doesn’t make sense. The Joy-Con are built to be clever little things in a solid case, not to be fiddled with by idiots like me.
Nonetheless, I do wish that consumer electronics had more customisation options than a bunch of pre-decided colours. At the very least, it would be pretty bloody awesome if Nintendo had a “Choose Your Own Joy-Con Colours” option, even if they were a little more pricey than the bundled ones. It wasn’t even that long ago that the New Nintendo 3DS had customisable cover plates, after all.
But what do all of you think? Is there a gap in the market for more colours, or are you perfectly satisfied with Nintendo’s existing options? Have you modded your Switch in some way? Don’t worry, we won’t report you to the authorities. We’re mostly just envious of your technological skill.
And yes, I know – the minute I finally drop a bunch of money on Switch mods is going to be the EXACT moment that Nintendo announces the Switch Pro. Such is the way of things. Sigh.
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