Nintendo’s newly-unveiled gaming console looks awesome. It’s also what we’d all expected.
Originally given the codename “Nintendo NX,” it’s now officially called the Nintendo Switch, an allusion to the fact that it’s a console/handheld hybrid — exactly as rumors had it since it was first teased over 18 months ago.
The announcement trailer hammered home its yin-and-yang-like logo and the fact that Nintendo likes employing happy hipsters. Fortunately, we’ve learned plenty more!
What Is the Switch?
The idea is a home console that you can carry around with you. It’s a continuation of gaming, no matter where you go. There are certainly echoes of the Wii U there, except this has the gimmick of detachable controllers too.
The first thing the trailer showcases is how the Switch slots into a bigger dock to play on a television. This is a charging station too. That’s accompanied by a traditional controller, like the Wii U Pro.
Going portable, the controls to either side of the LCD screen can either be left as one unit, again reminiscent of the Wii U, or can be detached. These “Joy-Cons” can be detached and used as one controller or for separate players in multiplayer modes. You’ve got to admit, that’s pretty neat.
Considering you can use the controllers vertically or horizontally, it’s likely they’ll have motion sensors and vibration, recalling the heady days of the Wii. Sadly, it seems Nintendo has ditched the D-Pad on the Joy-Cons, a feature of every console its ever made. Fortunately, it’s still a part of the Pro controller.
The Switch’s main screen has a handy kickstand, and unless it’s made of adamantium, we advise having super glue on standby for when it snaps off. Just like the Wii U, there’s a headphone dock, which makes it more technologically-advanced than the latest iPhone.
— K.A.G (@KingAveryGames) October 23, 2016
During the original March 2015 press conference, Nintendo called their upcoming machine a “brand new concept”, and since added that it wouldn’t be a successor to their current consoles. The company’s president, Tatsumi Kimishima, said:
When the NX is released, the Wii U business will slow… However, the NX is neither the successor to the Wii U nor to the 3DS. It’s a new way of playing games, which I think will have a larger impact that the Wii U, but I don’t feel it’s a pure replacement for the Wii U.
Nonetheless, it’s difficult to see how the three systems will go hand-in-hand. The Switch particularly makes the Wii U look superfluous. The 3DS is at least compact enough to slip into your pocket. The Switch looks akin to carrying an iPad around with you — which, admittedly, many do.
Which Games Will Be Available?
What might’ve initially looked to be a slot for an SD card is actually an aperture for the so-called Game Card. As the rumors said, the Switch is ditching optical discs, reverting back to cartridges, which should please traditionalists. And you probably won’t have to spend half as much on these as you did with old SNES cartridges!
This does spell an end to hopes for backwards compatibility, again tying into Nintendo’s statement that the console isn’t replacing the Wii U or 3DS. While games for the latter appear a similar size to the ones used in the Switch, their different resolutions would certainly cause issues.
— Nintendo Switch (@NintendoSwitchC) October 20, 2016
It doesn’t rule out the possibility that games from older consoles will be playable on the Switch via the Nintendo eShop, so we hold out hope. Indeed, there’s talk of ports for the Wii U’s more successful games like Super Mario Maker. But right now, that’s all it is: talk.
There’s good news too. Ruling out backwards compatibility means all the games we see in the trailer are entirely new — including a sequel to Splatoon, one of the Wii U’s most original and captivating releases.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim — Special Edition has pleased many, as has a glimpse of NBA 2K17. Bizarrely, publishers Bethesda and 2K Games refuse to comment about whether these games are in development for the Switch, despite both being confirmed as developers for the system. (The small sample of Switch’s partners features obvious names and some surprising ones too, including Capcom, Sego, DeNa, Silicon Studio, EA, Take-Two, and Activision.)
— Nintendo Switch (@NintendoSwitchC) October 21, 2016
Many were most excited to see new Super Mario and Mario Kart games; as Nintendo’s most successful franchises, these were guaranteed, but it was nonetheless satisfying to see actual gameplay. The ninth Mario Kart title promises a new character in King Boo, and the ability to hold two items at once, just as in the GameCube’s Double Dash.
The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild was announced for the Switch and Wii U after a very long wait. Other confirmed games include the Sonic the Hedgehog title codenamed Project Sonic 2017 (coming late next year for all major consoles), Dragon Quest XI, and Just Dance 2017. Pokémon games are in development for the Switch too, the franchise riding the success of its 20th anniversary, and the headline-grabbing Pokémon Go.
The Amiibo craze isn’t going anywhere either: aside from a glimpse of a few figures in the trailer, Nintendo has announced the Switch’s support for such extra content.
What About the Specs?
The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild‘s scope and graphics amazed us when we first saw its trailer. However, the Nintendo Switch isn’t trying to compete with the visuals offered by eighth generation consoles like the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.
While we don’t expect too much of a slump in picture quality, the Switch’s raison d’etre is entirely different, so its specs reflect this.
— Nintendo Switch (@NintendoSwitchC) October 23, 2016
Digging under the casing, we find a heavily-customized Nvidia mobile Tegra processor, mostly used in smartphones and tablets. This System-on-a-Chip (SOC) is based on the ARM (Advanced RISC Machine) architecture — specifically the quad-core Cortex-A57 — licensed by ARM Holdings. Their instruction sets are found in smart TVs, self-driving cars, digital cameras, drones, smart home devices, and plenty more — but this is the first time ARM’s been used on a major gaming console.
The closest comparison is last year’s Nvidia’s SHIELD, which is available in three iterations: the SHIELD TV, a fusion of 4k gaming and set-top television; SHIELD Portable, a gamepad with touchscreen for portable entertainment; and the SHIELD Tablet K1, a device that runs apps, including games, through Android’s OS. These run on the Tegra X1 chip that developers are using for the Nintendo Switch. It might still surprise us on release with an X2 chip instead, but that’s purely speculation right now.
— Nintendo Switch (@NintendoSwitchC) October 22, 2016
What does all this mean for the end-user? It’s a powerful system with good potential battery life. It’s ideal for a hybrid console.
We don’t know the Switch’s screen resolutions, but the X1 chip can cope with 1080p (which is Full HD). We’re hoping the handheld unit will be 720p (a great improvement on the 3DS, and even the PS Vita’s 540p), which will be perfect for extending battery life, and then step-up to 1080p when connected with the TV dock… but it’s doubtful.
What Else Don’t We Know?
The Nintendo Switch will be out in March 2017. Beyond that, we don’t know.
— Arekkz (@Arekkz) October 23, 2016
The company’s left a lot of unanswered questions, notably the precise release date, launch games, and pricing. The latter could make or break the console, as might the fact that it’s not out before Christmas. This might be in the hopes that sales of the Wii U and 3DS will rise during the festive season, but are people really likely to spend out on an older machine when the latest is just around the corner?
The investment banking agency, Macquarie Group estimated a RRP (recommended retail price) between $300 and $350. If Nintendo wants to compete against the PS4 and Xbox One, it’ll need to be where the smart money is: around the $299 mark. The cheaper, the better, obviously. For comparison, the Wii U initially cost $300, while the 3DS was $250 on launch.
Really enjoying the new Nintendo switch pic.twitter.com/sVrkFcgy4u
— scampi (@lmScampi) October 23, 2016
We don’t know what will be bundled alongside the console. It’s fair to expect the docking unit, screen with Joy-Cons, and Switch Pro Controller, alongside all the standard cables. Nintendo has stood by their statement that the dock is purely used for connecting with the TV and charging, but we still question what else it could do. Nintendo has not released much on this, either.
Even though it looks like a tablet, we don’t know whether other apps will be available. Streaming services like Netflix have at least been accessible through the Wii and Wii U. There are further rumors that it’ll be region-free, but that’s still an unknown quantity.
Lots to still learn, but the Switch seems promising. What do you think of Nintendo’s latest venture? Will you buy one? If not, why not? Let us know in the comments!