It’s been a few days since Nintendo released the version 5.0 firmware update for the Switch. A lot of talk has been surrounding this update due to it setting off a string of bricked consoles. But, the update, or Nintendo for that matter, really isn’t the one to explicitly blame for this situation. The unexpectedly guilty party is that of the consumers themselves.

All of the Switch units that have been bricked after this update have done so for one common reason: they were connected to unlicensed third-party docks. The unfortunate reports of this happening have come from several different Switch owners, all encountering this issue despite using different docks. This is why the best advice to all other Switch owners is to simply avoid all third-party docks for the time being, since the risk is currently just too high.

So, why has all of this happened in the first place? Well, I went into detail about it in my previous article about this update, but I’ll just paraphrase here. Nintendo has made some massive changes to the internal coding of the Switch OS. This was done for security purposes, and it’s worked, as hackers have been stopped dead in their tracks. There’s no telling how long this seal will last, but Nintendo definitely brought its A-game.

Evidently, despite this update being so helpful, it’s also caused a lot of harm for regular users. With that being the case, it’s understandable that some folks have responded quite negatively to this situation. This has even resulted in some blaming Nintendo for this debacle, insinuating that the company must have done this on purpose. There was even a comment that suggested Nintendo must have orchestrated this whole thing in order to boost the second-year sales of the Switch, since some people now have to go out and buy a replacement system. In my opinion, that’s a pretty outlandish conclusion to come to. The simple reality is this: while unfortunate, the consumers who are dealing with this problem only have themselves to truly blame. How so?

This problem has come as a result of consumers using unlicensed accessories, which is always risky.

When it comes to product accessories, there are three different kinds: official, licensed and unlicensed. Official accessories come from the parent company, licensed accessories are created by third-parties but are recognized and endorsed by the parent company, while unlicensed accessories are the big wild card. With official and licensed accessories, a customer can purchase them with confidence that they will be 100% compatible with the product they’re intended for. Unlicensed accessories, on the other hand, can be hit-or-miss.

According to Nintendo’s own website, licensed products carry the ‘Official Nintendo Licensed Product’ symbol. “This symbol is your assurance that the product has been evaluated and licensed by Nintendo for use with its systems.” If you take a look at the list of Switch accessories on Nintendo’s website, you’ll see a mixture of officially-made and licensed products. This list also reveals something interesting — there are no licensed third-party docks.

When a consumer decides to use any unlicensed accessory, it basically becomes a “use at your own risk” type of situation. Nintendo’s website has this to say about unlicensed products: “Unlicensed products and accessories do not undergo Nintendo’s testing and evaluation process. They may not work at all with our game systems, and they may have compatibility problems with certain games or accessories.” With this statement in mind, if anything goes wrong with an unlicensed accessory, you can only point the finger at the third party that made it, and also yourself for choosing to use it.  This applies to any other device/product. Let’s say you buy a cheap charger for your phone from a store. After using it for a bit, it short-circuits your phone battery and now a repair or even replacement is necessary. If you take the phone to its parent company, it’s likely they won’t honor the warranty since the problem was caused by a product that isn’t one of their own or one they endorse. 

There are a lot of officially licensed Switch accessories out there, but none of them are docks. 

Since there are no licensed Switch docks, they were all unprepared for the major changes that Nintendo has made with the 5.0 update. In fact, quite a number of unlicensed Switch accessories have been rendered incompatible due to this update, as evidenced by reports of some third-party controllers and LAN adapters also suddenly running into issues. A conspiracy theorist might conclude that this shows Nintendo really is behind all of this. Even so, the chances of that being the case are incredibly low, if anything at all. For instance, think of it from the perspective of games and mods.

Mods are always unofficial and are thus not always guaranteed to work. Some games will even warn players after installing mods that they might encounter unexpected problems. In many cases, you will find that as games are updated, mods will cycle in and out of compatibility. That’s because with each patch/update, the game files are modified. Mods are created to ‘communicate’ with specific game files, so if they’re modified, that’s where the incompatibility comes in since the mod files and game files can no longer communicate. Thus, it’s normal to see mods needing to be updated alongside the games themselves. That’s exactly what has to happen here with the unlicensed Switch accessories.

Due to all the major changes that Nintendo has made, the accessory-makers will need to reconfigure their products to be compatible with the Switch’s modified coding. As more system updates are released, this cycle will likely continue. As a consumer, the easiest thing for you to do would be to stick with licensed accessories in order to ensure there won’t ever be any incompatibility.

Other unlicensed accessories have also been rendered incompatible after the 5.0 update. Nintendo must have made some serious changes to the OS.

Still, there’s the big question of what could have led to all these unlicensed docks actually bricking Switch systems instead of simply no longer functioning. This is just a theory, but a thought came to mind that perhaps this has to do with the security measures Nintendo has put into place. Since these changes have been made to block out exploits, my guess is that the new Switch coding may now consider the unlicensed docks (and other aforementioned accessories) to be “foreign threats” and thus are blocking them out. Perhaps these security measures go as far as to render the Switch useless in an effort to kill any progress a hacker might be making. I realize this is a pretty extreme tactic, but probably not out of the realm of possibility. Still, we don’t know (and may never know) for sure, hence why I’m calling it a theory.

Whatever the true cause of this issue may be, I still find it hard to believe Nintendo would have done this deliberately. It’s not uncommon for patches/updates to introduce new quirks and issues that weren’t previously present. In fact, this wouldn’t be the first time a Switch update has had unexpected side effects. Last October, Nintendo rolled out version 4.0 of the Switch firmware. It didn’t take long for curious users to realize that the Wii U Gamecube Controller adapter was now suddenly compatible with the system. Even more interesting is that apparently even Nintendo was caught off-guard by its sudden compatibility, with Reggie Fils-Aime himself admitting that it was “as much as a surprise” to the Big N as it was to consumers. Having considered this, I’m willing to classify this current situation as yet another unexpected occurrence.

It really is rather unfortunate that some folks have lost their entire console over this. But as we’ve considered, using any unlicensed product comes with a degree of risk. If you didn’t know that before, then hopefully this you’ll leave this article more informed. Again, everyone else’s best bet right now would be to avoid using any third-party docks until this situation is sorted out. After all, using any third-party Switch dock is a choice, not a necessity.

It’s simply best to just stick with the official products. 

A.K Rahming
Having been introduced to video games at the age of 3 via a Nintendo 64, A.K has grown up in the culture. A fan of simulators and racers, with a soft spot for Nintendo! But, he has a great respect for the entire video game world and enjoys watching it all expand as a whole.

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