The Nintendo Switch has finally been revealed and with it the next generation of Nintendo’s gaming system. The three-and-a-half minute teaser trailer posted to the website gives us our first look at the long-awaited console, which is arriving March 2017. The device, previously called the Nintendo NX, has attracted a lot of attention and interest with the gaming community. While some of the most jaded hardcore gamer critics of Nintendo have long said the company’s time in the sun is long over, the 127-year-old Japanese gaming company still has a trick or two up its sleeve.
With the unveiling, loyal Nintendo fans celebrated, some analysts remain skeptical, and the internet scrambles for more details about the innovative device. The teaser presented a series of real-world situations showing how the Switch can be played. The aptly-named Switch can be used as a home video game console hooked up to your TV, as a portable device with controls attached on either side or as a separate tablet screen with two handheld controller devices that slide off of the main part, depending on your preference.
The Switch comes as the result of a three-year-long period of build-up with anonymous reports, rumors, and vague official announcements. The Kyoto-based company has been silent on the exact technology specs. The announcement and teaser confirmed many of the rumors and leaks by news outlets and gaming websites over the past year. While there’s still a lot that’s been left to our imaginations, the teaser trailer does give us a glimpse of the basic form of the Switch, how it operates and what it can do, and even what games will be offered (is that Skyrim? It is!)
Here are 15 things you might not have known about the Nintendo Switch, and some reasons why we’re more excited about the upcoming Switch than any Nintendo product in a long time.
15 It’s The First Of Its Kind
If our understanding of the reveal trailer and the information available is correct, the Nintendo Switch is the first ever hybrid-console all-in-one gaming system. The Switch will be a console that can be hooked up to your TV, and also as a portable handheld device similar to the wildly popular Nintendo DS and Game Boy lines. From the teaser, the Switch appears to have three modes: a home video game console that can be hooked into a television, a portable handheld device with the controllers attached, and finally as a stationary tablet-like screen with handheld detached controllers.
The Switch’s concept is completely unprecedented for a gaming console, and this fresh start means Nintendo can begin anew with gamers and developers who have abandoned it over the years. There are countless ways to use it, and Nintendo already thought of most of them and put them in the reveal trailer. While few customers would buy, say, both a PS4 and an Xbox One, people may want to buy a Nintendo Switch in addition to another platform. The Switch has a unique appeal, and while consumers didn’t “get” the Wii U, the idea of the Switch basically explains itself. That’s going to be a big advantage.
14 It Has An Interesting Controller Scheme
This is a brand new concept for a video gaming platform, and features an interesting controller scheme. The Nintendo Switch is essentially two mini-controller segments connected to a tablet screen. The portable main unit of the Switch can be docked and used with your TV like a regular console platform with a standard wireless controller, or the little controllers that slide onto the Switch’s portable screen (which Nintendo has called “Joy-Con” controllers) slide off and slot into the Joy-Con Grip, becoming the console’s home controller. In addition to connecting to your TV, the dock also doubles as a charging station for the unit.
When the Switch isn’t docked into your TV, you can also snap the Joy-Con controllers to the side of the screen and play it like a DS. The detachable controller segments can even be used as separate controllers for multiplayer. You can also prop up the device on its kickstand and use one or both controllers wirelessly. Judging from what’s been shown so far, the controller for the Switch has two analog sticks, the standard four face buttons and four directional buttons, and two trigger buttons for each segment, and a home button. There are also + and - buttons similar to the ones on the Wii. This unique controller set-up allows reconfiguring for nearly endless possibilities.
13 And It’s Not Just A Gimmick
When the Switch was unveiled, the reactions ranged from doe-eyed dreaminess and cries of “shut up and take my money,” to jaded curmudgeonly skepticism. Predictably, among the skeptics was the tendency to dismiss the idea of the Switch as “just another gimmick” designed to attract old-school Nintendo fans who have since fled to Sony or Microsoft consoles, or even worse, embraced the new age of PC gaming.
That last part is partially true, but the idea that the Switch is a mere gimmick isn’t the case at all: there’s a perfectly rational business strategy behind its creation. In a world where smartphones are omnipresent and games for portable handheld devices are among the most popular in the world, the concept of the Switch makes perfect sense. Nintendo is essentially fighting a two-front war against the competitive at-home console market and the dedicated handheld market. Whether the Switch ends up being a success or not, combining both into a casual console and dedicated portable game device is a compelling strategy for Nintendo to take up. Far from a simple gimmick, Nintendo may have just reinvented the console.
12 It Uses Cartridges Instead of Discs
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Nintendo Switch is its seamless fusion of the latest portable tech with old-school gaming. Early rumors that the Switch would use game cartridges instead of discs were confirmed by the trailer, which clearly shows a tiny cartridge (about the size of a 3DS cartridge) being inserted into the device. Nintendo became famous in the 1990s for its cartridge-based games on the Super NES and N64, and the design and implementation of a new cartridge system will open up a special market within the gaming world.
The Nintendo Switch is the first console in years to use cartridges instead of discs, but it’s not just an attempt to appeal to 90’s nostalgia - the switch to disc-based playing happened around 1992 because they contained more data and cost less to make. However, CDs also are prone to smudging and scratches, which could easily ruin your favorite game. Optical disc drives are also prone to buffering and loading screens because they aren’t built to handle the data from the CPU and graphics. Also, to save games required a memory card or some form of external storage, since CDs don’t have built-in game storage.
A return to cartridges would mean more physically durable products, more mind-blowing graphics, and built-in storage. For those still not too keen on the return of cartridges, it seems the Switch will also support digital downloads. In case you were wondering, the Switch also features a 3.5mm headphone jack.
11 It’s Obviously Aimed At Millennials
Within hours of the launch video for the Switch being posted online, jokes circulated about a glaring change in Nintendo’s marketing ad campaign: namely, the focus on well-to-do millennials with spacious apartments, expensive furniture, and leisure time to play, and the notable absence of children or family scenes that have long been a staple of Nintendo ads. Instead of focusing on preteens, teenagers and their older siblings that populated video game advertisements from the 90s, the entire reveal trailer is squarely targeted at young adults; this isn’t about playing virtual sports with your mom or kiddie-friendly touchscreen games: the Switch is about hardcore gaming.
This shift is critical and reflects a bold new strategy for Nintendo. Nintendo’s new paradigm may prove fruitful in competing with Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s Playstation, both of which offer violent, mature games with high-end graphics in contrast to Nintendo’s more traditionally family-friendly approach. The Switch is clearly targeting millennials who grew up playing Nintendo games, from the original NES to the famed N64 and beyond, who were raised on Super Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon, and who recently rediscovered their childhood affection for these games by playing the mobile sensation Pokemon Go.
10 It’s Pretty Much Guaranteed To Be Worlds Better Than The Wii U
The Nintendo Wii was crazy popular and its brand of cutesy family entertainment and controllers you had to actually move around sold well, but Nintendo’s last console, the Wii U, was a mess and remains struggling. The Wii U never really found its audience. On the surface, the Switch seems to be an attempt by Nintendo to merge their famous home console offerings, including the lackluster Wii U, and their portable handhelds, including the enormously popular Nintendo 3DS.
Unlike the Switch, the Wii U had fewer features than the PS4 or the Xbox One and was a big disappointment with only 13 million units sold and lukewarm reviews from consumers. The Switch looks to be an improvement on the Wii U in every way imaginable. It seeks to recapture the young adult market Nintendo lost when they released the Wii, and the concept of the Switch is pretty much the Wii U, but done right - and you can take it with you when you leave the house.
9 The Switch Enables Nearly Limitless Multiplayer Ideas
The very different way the Switch’s controllers work will allow for several combinations of single and multiplayer. The reveal trailer clearly showed each of the two controllers being used individually by two different players gaming on the same device. While that’s certainly neat on its own, another scene also stood out to us as particularly exciting. In one scene, two devices are seen back-to-back, with four people playing two-on-two multiplayer. Even more exciting, the teaser shows four Switch screens being used by four different players at the same time to play a collaborative e-sports game.
The Switch’s screen has a kickstand to allow players to gather around it in portable mode, and it’s shown that multiplayer is available in this mode. If the Switch can be split between two players wirelessly, or if players can play the game collaborative game on multiple devices, it opens up new realms of possibility for multiplayer gaming. Soon, it may be possible to form your own e-sports teams and play in tournaments.
We can only imagine that with time there will be suites of online features for connecting with other devices, sharing games, and playing with friends. Previously, Nintendo’s online features have been relatively bare, lacking features like voice chat. The Switch may represent a healthy break with that tradition.
8 You Can Use It Anywhere - And We Do Mean Anywhere
In the teaser, a man undocks the main unit from the charging station, slides on the controllers, and starts playing Zelda on the go. In a later sequence, two players with one controller each play on a standalone screen in the back of a car. Later still, four players play Mario Kart by sharing two controllers, and a man sitting on an airplane props the main screen up on its kickstand for open viewing his airplane tray table before playing with a wireless controller. The message is clear: the Nintendo Switch is designed so that consumers can comfortably enjoy the game away from home - no cords, no wrist straps, no nothing! Everything points to players being able to access their whole library of game software from anywhere.
Nintendo seems to finally be embracing mobile gaming as a platform and as a way of life for the 21st century. The use of the Switch on a plane seems to imply a fairly significant battery life. Judging by the close proximity to the tablet every time the wireless controllers are seen, chances are their range isn’t very far, but a traditional wireless controller can also be used in console and portable mode, which brings us to our next point.
7 All The Games Look The Same In Docked And Portable Mode
By simply lifting the Switch from the dock, the system will be able to instantly transition between home gaming mode and portable mode. Nintendo has been pretty tight-lipped about many of the finer details about the Switch, but they’ve already said that gamers can rest assured: all games will work in both modes, and the quality will not change between them.
Nintendo has stated that the sizeable dock shown in the ads doesn’t have any extra graphics processors hidden inside; it’s really just a charging station that connects the device to a TV. This is actually a positive sign, as it indicates that Nintendo meant what they said when they claimed there would be no difference in quality between the docked and portable versions of the same games. If the company can actually deliver on this promise and make a system that can enable mobile and TV-docked modes to work exactly the same, with all graphics and quality intact, that would be an impressive feat.
6 NVIDIA Technology Is Powering It
One of the first things to note is the GPU running the device; the Nintendo Switch is powered by NVIDIA, a big change from the AMD-powered PS4 and Xbox One. NVIDIA confirmed on Thursday that Nintendo’s latest generation would have a “custom Tegra processor” chip, but the company didn’t provide a name or specs for the chip, which is being custom-built specifically for the Switch, though reports say the Switch development teams are using NVIDIA’s Tegra X1 chip. The X1 is best known for running the Shield, which runs on Android software, as well as Google’s Pixel C tablet.
Images of the Switch also show air vents on the top of the device, a feature designed to divert heat from internal components in home electronics. Notably, the Nintendo’s 3DS doesn’t have these. This would seem to indicate that the Switch will have relatively powerful processing capabilities and higher performance. Whether this new custom GPU will impact third-party compatibility remains to be seen, but hey, for the record, the teaser was confident enough to show the Switch playing Skyrim.
5 There’s A Possibility Of Streaming Services
While nothing is confirmed so far, the 3DS and Wii U both have Netflix and other streaming services. There’s no reason to believe the Switch won’t follow suit. Though Nintendo has a tendency to run strictly games on its devices, chances are it will at least run a few streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu. NVIDIA’s Tegra chip should easily be powerful enough to run 4K streaming, and with the clear emphasis on in-person multiplayer, it stands to reason the Switch will offer other features for group activity, like streaming your favorite movies and TV series.
It’s clear that almost all of the Switch’s functionality is contained within the display module, which is a tablet-like LCD screen that appears to be around 5 to 7 inches. Combined with its high level of portability, the Switch would be perfect for streaming on the go. With downloadable options available, it definitely seems like the Switch will wisely jump on board the streaming train.
4 And Even VR And AR Eventually
Many gamers have dreamed of the day that Nintendo embraces the up-and-coming world of Virtual and Augmented Reality. According to some rumors, that day might be coming sooner than we thought - the original mass production plan of the Nintendo Switch in mid-2016 was reportedly delayed to include VR support in the final product. Based on the reveal trailer, this may not be the case, since it makes no allusions to VR capability, but that’s not to say a VR function won’t be added to give Nintendo a competitive edge.
Another possibility is that the Switch will plug into another peripheral device for VR experience, to be revealed at a later date. Again, since all the guts of the device are contained within its LCD screen module, it would be easy to add VR or AR functionality with a simple plug-in HMD. If true, this would mean that each of the big three console companies would be involved in VR technology.
3 There Are Rumors About A “Share” Button and Motion Controls
A report from Let’s Play Video Games surfaced in August 2016 stating that the controller for Nintendo’s new system would feature a share button, similar to the one found on the Dualshock 4 controller. This button would allow instant sharing of still images and videos to social media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Miiverse. Images and video could also be saved on an external storage device and transferred to your PC.
While this is still - you guessed it - another unconfirmed rumor, it’s worth noting that there are several buttons on the Joy-Con controllers whose purpose is unknown, including a prominent square button seen in the ad, and the leak seems to have been correct about the split D-pad. There were also reports that the Switch’s controllers will support motion controls and advanced vibration in the style of Nintendo’s Wii MotionPlus controller. The report also said that the console will support current Wiimotes, which will be compatible with some newer games.
2 There’s Still A Lot Left To Our Imaginations
After what was called the Nintendo NX at the time skipped making an appearance at the E3 2016 conference, a Nintendo spokesperson back in June said the device was simply too big to talk about. Since then, the gaming giant decided to announce their latest and greatest project on their own terms. Even though the product launching in less than six months, there’s still a lot we don’t know a whole lot about the Nintendo Switch.
In particular, details about the device’s specs, battery life, display, and resolution remain shrouded in secrecy. Perhaps most pressing question for all of Nintendo’s eager customer base is: just how much will this baby cost? As of now, we simply don’t know, but from the limited bits of information that have been released, we can piece together clues. For starters, Nintendo hasn’t said anything about the price tag yet, but the Wii U debuted at $300 in 2012, and the 3DS cost $250 during its debut in 2011.
The Switch will probably run independently for at least four hours of battery life, though some similar devices have been known to carry on for eight hours or so. The teaser even shows it being played on a plane, which implies a more significant battery life, though this could be affected by playing graphically intense games like Skyrim. Questions have been raised if the Switch has a touchscreen, since no one touches the screen in the teaser, and official statements make no mention of touch, but there’s no stylus in sight either. A touchscreen does seem likely given widespread customer expectations, though.
Storage capacity remains unknown, and unfortunately, chances are it won’t be backward compatible with the Wii, 3DS, or Wii U games. It’s not known if it will have a camera or video chat, what will come bundled with it and what will be sold separately, Though estimated to be around 5 to 7 inches, the exact size and resolution of the LCD screen is still a mystery.
1 But It Will Have A LOT Of Games...Including Third-Party Games!
Aside from the price and specs, the biggest question we all have for the Switch is perhaps the most important: what games can you play on it? The reveal trailer shows six games being played on the Nintendo Switch: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Splatoon, Mario Kart, an NBA game, and a new Super Mario game.
This shows the Switch has games for first-person open-world, multiplayer, and e-sports, as well as showing that Super Mario is going to be getting a new Switch installment. It’s already been confirmed that the highly-anticipated new Zelda game will be released simultaneously on Nintendo Switch and Wii U. This is good news for fans of classic franchises like Zelda and Mario, since this will allow Nintendo to consolidate titles on the Switch instead of releasing them exclusively for console or portable.
But best of all, the Nintendo Switch marks the long-awaited return of third-party games to the Nintendo system, as the obvious presence of Skyrim in the trailer shows. If porting on the Switch is like PS4 or Xbox One, it should be easy and cost-efficient, meaning lots of high-profile third-party games will be available to play early on. Nintendo released a massive list of 48 publishers that have already signed up to be partners, including such big names as Activision, Bandai Namco, Bethesda, Capcom, Electronic Arts, Havok, Konami, Sega, Square Enix, Take-Two, Telltale, Ubisoft, and Warner Bros.
All in all, there’s a lot to be excited about as we await the release of the Nintendo Switch in March, 2017.