There’ve been rumblings about Nintendo working on some type of hybrid console/mobile-gaming device for some time now. That wasn’t exactly shocking since the Wii U definitely pointed in that direction. But it wasn’t until October of 2016 that Nintendo officially announced the Nintendo Switch, confirming that it would, in fact, be a hybrid gaming device and that it would be released sometime in 2017. And that’s about all we got at the time.
This past Thursday (January 12, 2017), Nintendo finally revealed the Switch, including how it worked, the games that would be available for it at launch, and its actual launch date.
Popular YouTubers and members of the press were invited to the event where they were able to get some hands-on time with the intriguing game system. Between official announcements, press coverage, and YouTube videos, we’ve learned quite a bit about the somewhat mysterious Nintendo Switch. In particular, we’ve gotten answers to some really important questions: Is the Switch meant to be a console like the PS4 and X-Box One, or is it a mobile gaming system like the Nintendo 3DS? Is the Nintendo Switch the successor to the Wii U, or is Switch a separate game system? What titles can we be expecting for the Nintendo Switch, both in the near and distance future? And how much will the Switch cost?
Here’s a brief summary of everything we know about the upcoming Nintendo Switch.
What is the ‘Nintendo Switch’?
To really ‘get’ where the Nintendo Switch is coming from, we need to, first, look back at the Wii.
Historically, there’s been little to no overlap between mobile and console gaming; if you wanted both, you had to invest in at least two platforms. Although gaming enthusiasts are likely to buy multiple consoles anyway, this is huge turn-off for average consumers.
The Wii U — which was very recently discontinued — was a halfhearted attempt to bridge that gap between console and mobile gaming by incorporating a display into the console’s controller. If you recall, the Wii U’s main controller was essentially a touchscreen tablet in a landscape orientation with buttons and joysticks on either side; it also had a built-in stylus à la the Nintendo DS line. In essence, you could either use the Wii U controller’s display in lieu of a television, as a companion display to a TV, or not at all.
However, using the controller as the primary display didn’t make the Wii U fully portable because the display still required the actual console to operate. In other words, the only way to use the Wii U on-the-go would be to transport both the controller and the console, which would still need to be plugged into a power source. This left the Wii U in limbo, right on the cusp of true portability. Close, but no cigar.
Nintendo’s new Switch console promises actual, bonafide portability in a very ingenious, practical way, which is to make the built-in display the entire console. Basically, it’s like eliminating the Wii U’s main console and just leaving the controller with display as the entire system. But it goes a step further.
Rather than making the controller (called the ‘Joy-Con’) and display a solid unit, the buttons and joysticks on either side can be detached from the display and combined, forming a separate controller that works independently of the display. And it goes further than that. Drop the display into a dock, which connects to your TV, and use the Switch like a traditional console. Hence, the idea behind the system’s name: It’s called the ‘Switch’ because you can literally switch back and forth between a mobile gaming system and a traditional console.
A game system with possibilities
Does it sound impressive? It should. But you might get a better sense of the Switch’s potential when you consider the different ways it can be used, which are called ‘modes’.
Check out this video that was released by Nintendo when the Switch was first announced in the fall. When the system is docked, it’s a regular home console. This is called TV Mode. Simply sit back on the couch and play on it like a PS4 for X-Box. Of course, the Switch doesn’t really seem all that impressive in this scenario, but it can be used in many other different situations.
As I mentioned previously, the controller consists of two separate pieces that can attach to and detach from the sides of the main console/display, and that’s how you can use it as a mobile gaming system, which is called Handheld Mode. But another way to use the Switch on-the-go is in Tabletop Mode with the console/display subbing for your TV while you use the controller separately. Let me explain.
Simply extend the kickstand on the back of the display so it can stand on its own. You can even separate the two sides of the controller and hand one of them to a friend since both sides of the controller can also become two separate controllers.
Like PlayStation and X-Box controllers, each side of the Switch’s controller has a joystick and buttons. However, they can be separated and used as two full controllers. When used like this, they look much like the original Nintendo’s controllers. It’s very similar to how you’d use a Wii remote sideways to play something like Mario Kart.
In case it’s still not sinking in, there are two important implications: (1) The Nintendo Switch will offer that home console experience anywhere. No matter where you are, you can separate the Switch console/display and controller, using them like you would use a home gaming system. (2) You can also break the controller down into two separate controllers. This is the first time that a one-person controller can double as a two-person controller and means that you’ll have everything you need, right out of the box, for two-person gameplay.
What you need to know
Now that you’re up-to-speed on what the Nintendo Switch is, it’s time to get down to brass tacks. If you’re as excited about the Switch as I am — and I’m not even a gamer! — you want to know: (a) When can I get it and (b) how much is it going to cost me?
The global release date for the Nintendo Switch is Friday, March 3, 2017 for the entire globe. Yes, it’s one date for all countries and regions, which is a huge plus. Most of the time, these consoles are released in phases and often causes issues with the people who can’t buy them in their countries and who end up trying to buy consoles made for different regions online.
You should also know that the Nintendo Switch will be region-free, which means that every console programmed in the same way; no matter where you buy your console, it will work in any country, so there will be no issues with region restrictions or anything like that.
How to pre-order
At the launch event, Nintendo didn’t mention a specific date for pre-orders, but many YouTubers and members of the press placed their pre-orders while at the event. Sure enough, the Nintendo Swift — both the gray version and the red-and-blue version — can already be pre-ordered in the United States on Amazon, Best Buy, Target, and GameStop.
(Update Jan. 14, 2017: All stores offering Nintendo Switch pre-orders — Amazon, Best Buy, Target, and GameStop — are sold out of pre-orders. Amazon and Best Buy seem to be updating the most frequently and will allow for some pre-orders to go through every few hours or so. If you’ve not yet been able to place a pre-order, keep checking intermittently. Also, both Amazon and Best Buy have an option where you can sign up to receive email notifications when an item can be ordered again. For what it’s worth, I was able to place my pre-order from GameStop this morning, but the site is not currently offering pre-orders.)
As stated above, Nintendo Switch allows for three main modes of play: TV Mode, Desktop Mode, and Handheld Mode. TV Mode is when the unit is separated from the Joy-Con controller, docked, and connected to your TV. Desktop Mode is similar, but instead of the unit being docked and connected to your TV, it’s serving as a separate, portable gaming display. Finally, Handheld Mode is when the Joy-Con pieces are attached to the sides of main Switch unit, becoming a single mobile-gaming device that is both controller and display.
Expected battery life
As you would expect, the Nintendo Switch has an internal battery that will provide power while it’s used in Desktop and Handheld Modes. According to Nintendo, the amount of battery life you get on the Switch will depend on the type and intensity of games you play. Specifically, the Switch will get somewhere between 2.5 hours and 6.5 hours of gameplay. These aren’t mind-blowing numbers; in fact, the fact that battery life could be as poor as 2.5 hours is a bit disappointing. However, when you consider how much time the majority of people will spend playing a game in a single sitting, this is probably more than sufficient. Of course, we should expect to need to charge the Switch in between every use. Meanwhile, a Joy-Con controller is slated to get as much as 20 hours of use on a charge, which is respectable.
Oh, and the Nintendo Switch uses USB C rather than proprietary ports. This means that we’ll be able to charge the Switch using the same cables many of us have lying around for our other mobile devices.
On the Joy-Con controllers, there are a number of unexpected sensors that could bring some really interesting features to Switch gameplay. For instance, the right controller has NFC and an infrared camera, the latter of which can sense the shape, size, and distance of objects in front of it. On the left controller, there’s a square-shaped button that can be used to capture screenshots and, eventually, record video of gameplay.
Perhaps the most intriguing feature of the Joy-Con is what Nintendo is calling ‘HD Rumble‘. Most consoles’ controllers have some type of motor in them that provide ‘rumbling’ feedback as a means of enhancing the experience of gameplay, but HD Rumble in the Joy-Con controllers has next-level precision. For instance, you could grip one of the Joy-Cons in your hand and it would give off pronounced little rumbles so that you could count how many ice cubes were falling into your simulated ‘cup’.
Long-overdue online services
One of the areas in which Nintendo has been known to be weak was online functionality. XBox and PlayStation have had robust online services for years at this point and Nintendo announced plans to finally join their ranks. However, the company decided, somewhat controversially, to make the upcoming online services subscription-based rather than free. In essence, users will have to pay for the ability to play against their friends over the internet.
Once you get past the disappointment of the subscription-based system, there’s actually a lot that Nintendo is going right with their online services. Firstly, you should know that all users will be able to use these new online capabilities for free until fall of 2017 as a sort of ‘soft launch’; in the fall, Nintendo’s online services will launch for real, which will be when it becomes a paid feature.
Some of the features we can expect include player profiles, the ability to add and follow friends, being able to play against friends online, and chat with friends in an ‘online lobby’. Also, anyone with a membership will get access to a free classic Nintendo game each month, and the game will have been re-worked so that you can play against your friends online. You’ll be able to manage your account on-the-go using the companion smartphone apps, too.
There are a number of other features that have been a long time coming. Check out Nintendo’s official page for the upcoming online services for more details.
Price at launch
The Nintendo Switch is launching at $299, which is one of the system’s many enticing features. Most consoles are extremely expensive at launch with a prime example being the PlayStation 3, which launched in 2006 for a whopping $499. However, Nintendo is known for pricing consoles much more competitively. The original Nintendo Wii was only $249 at launch and the updated Wii U launched at $299, so the $299 price of the Nintendo Switch is perfectly in line with the company’s previous releases and will surely make the system more tempting to those who are on the fence.
Comes with everything you need
It’s important to note that the Nintendo Switch will come with everything you need, even for multiplayer gaming; the only thing that won’t be in the box is an actual game. However, you’ll have a two-piece Joy-CON controller, a Joy-Con grip to use the Joy-Con as a single controller, the actual Switch console, the console’s dock for TV Mode, wrist straps for the Joy-Con, an HDMI cable, and a USB C cable with power adapter. There will also be a Nintendo Switch Pro controller available for purchase separately, which is a large, non-modular controller for those wanting a more traditional experience.
On the actual day of launch, the available Nintendo Switch titles will be a bit slim, but it’s definitely launching with some solid games. The one that people are most excited about is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. At the Switch’s launch event, Nintendo played a rather impressive trailer (see video below) that has been trending on YouTube ever since.
In addition to Zelda, there are four other titles that will be available at launch: Just Dance 2017, 1-2-Switch, Super Bomberman R, and Skylanders: Imaginators. However, there are many other games slated for release in the days, weeks, and months following the Switch’s launch.
- Arms — Spring 2017
- Has-Been Heroes — March 2017
- I Am Setsuna — March 2017
- Mario Kart 8 Deluxe — April 28, 2017
- Puyo Puyo Tetris — Spring 2017
- Snipperclips, Cut It Out Together — March 2017
- Rime — Summer 2017
- Splatoon 2 — Summer 2017
- Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 — 2017
- FIFA — 2017
- Minecraft — 2017
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim — Fall 2017
- Sonic Mania — 2017
- Super Mario Odyssey — Winter 2017
Personally, I’m most excited for Super Mario Odyssey.
So what do you think? Will the Nintendo Switch be a hit? Or will it be another Nintendo Wii U? Are you planning on buying the Switch? If so, which launch titles are you getting and which upcoming games are you looking forward to the most? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. Feel free to share my round-up with any friends that might be interested in the Nintendo Switch, too.
*Most photos courtesy of Nintendo®