Japanese video game giant Nintendo has officially unveiled its next console, dubbed the Nintendo Switch. Here’s everything we know about this curious home console-portable hybrid.
It’s been rumoured, hinted at and teased for months, but yesterday Nintendo finally gave us a glimpse at its next console when it dropped a tantalising three-minute video. Previously known by the code-name “NX”, the next Nintendo-branded console will henceforth be known as Switch. And it’s a little bit different…
There’s certainly plenty to be digested here, but there’s also a great deal about the machine that Nintendo has yet to confirm. Here’s what we do know about Switch, based on both the above video and what the company has said through official statements:
Switch is both a portable and home console all at once
The Nintendo DS had two screens; the Wii had motion controls; the Wii U came with a tablet-esque controller. And now, with the Nintendo Switch, you’ll be able to take your big-screen TV games on the road with the selfsame hardware, no additional hardware required. Nintendo has long been known for its quirky hardware, favouring innovation over raw processing power since the days of the Wii (or perhaps the GameCube if you count its carrying handle and miniature discs). Switch blurs the line between home console and portable, consisting of two main pieces: a handheld unit featuring traditional face buttons, thumbsticks and a crisp, generously proportioned screen; and a “dock” for said unit which connects to a TV or monitor to play games at home.
Interestingly, the promotional footage shown so far does not show any cables connecting the dock to the TV screen. It would be great if the console could stream data wirelessly to an Amazon Fire/Google Chromecast-style thumbstick plugged into the back of the TV, but given that wireless tech isn’t always the best for the kind of low-latency inputs required for gaming, it’s more likely that the lack of wires in the promo video is purely for aesthetic reasons. But hey, we can dream.
Games will ship on tiny game cards
Although software will undoubtedly be available to download as well, Nintendo is opting for SD card-style cartridges for physical media releases. Advances in flash memory technology mean that much larger amounts of data can be stored on these tiny cards than ever before, and at a lower cost too, and the medium offers lightning-fast load times compared with optical discs.
The screen has a built-in kick-stand
Not only can you take your Switch out and about with you, but, unlike most portable consoles and tablets, you won’t necessarily have to hold the screen in your hands while playing. Switch comes with a small (albeit slightly flimsy-looking) kickstand built in so that the screen can be stood on a table or seat tray while the player uses the two detached controller pieces — officially known as “Joy-Con” — a little bit like how they held the Wii’s remote in one hand and “nunchuk” thumbstick unit in the other. This should, in theory, make longer gaming sessions more comfortable than using a regular portable console or tablet. In fact…
…there are multiple control options available
Nintendo Switch can be used in a number of different ways:
- As a regular handheld.
- With the entire console docked and connected to a TV, with the player controlling the on-screen action with either a more traditional gaming controller.
- With the console’s screen alone docked and its Joy-Con pieces attached to a special plastic “grip” that connects the two together and communicates with the console proper.
- As above, but using the screen section as a tiny monitor instead of a TV.
- With two players taking one Joy-Con each and playing on the shared screen.
Graphics by Nvidia
Nvidia, the company behind one of the world’s most popular brands of graphics processing units (GPUs), is providing Switch with a custom Tegra mobile processor. This high-efficiency hardware is thought to be based on Nvidia’s GeForce architecture and should be capable of running some fairly graphically demanding games — though whether a) the games will be able to compete with what Nintendo’s competitors have up their sleeves, and b) what effect running home console-quality games on the go will have on the system’s battery life (information about has yet to be released by Nintendo) remains to be seen.
There are plenty of big-name developers and publishers on board
The number of games each company actually has in development for Switch isn’t clear, and we have yet to see any footage of them in action, but Nintendo has announced a long list of development partners that are apparently working on software for Switch. A lack of third-party support has been a sticking point for some of Nintendo’s past consoles, but Switch looks to be off to a solid start, with big names such as Activision, Capcom, Bethesda, Square Enix and Ubisoft already on the list.
It’s coming out next March
Nintendo Switch is scheduled for release in North America, Europe and Japan in March 2017.
There’s plenty we don’t yet know about Nintendo Switch. What are the exact system specs? How long will the battery last? What will it cost at launch? What’s clear, however, is that Nintendo’s next console is far easier to understand than its predecessor, the Wii U, which, despite having all the hallmarks of a portable console, was awkward to use and had to be paired with a base unit at all times. It’s still early days, but it looks like Nintendo has learned from its past mistakes, and is on course to produce something genuinely exciting with Switch — provided, of course, that they can strike a balance between the kind of processing power that home gamers have come to expect and a battery life that mobile gamers demand.