After years of speculation and a missed E3 showing, the Nintendo Switch – formally known by its codename Nintendo NX – has been unveiled to the world. The successor to the Wii U and 3DS is a portable handheld console with detachable controllers, with the option to connect to a TV, and will be powered by Nvidia Tegra technology.
Thanks to Eurogamer reports and Nintendo’s official announce in October, we now know a fair amount about the system, from its form factor to games, the media it’ll use, technical specs and more.
Nintendo Switch – what is it and how does it work?
Nintendo Switch is a handheld system with a screen that’s bookended by two controllers – named Joy-Cons – that can be attached and detached as required. A built-in stand allows the screen the device to stand upright, allowing you to use the controller(s) to play games.
As well as playing on the move, you can also connect the Switch to a base unit or docking station, so games can be displayed on a TV screen at home. It’s essentially the reversal of the Wii U, with a fully independent games machine complete with local multiplayer, that can also be hooked up to a TV.
The move allows Nintendo to develop and release games for a single system that can cater to audiences who prefer portable and home-based games, and is a strategy that makes sense in light of Nintendo’s decision to merge its handheld and hardware divisions under one roof so the two teams can collaborate on its next system back in 2013.
While not confirmed by Nintendo, it has suggested the detachable controllers will feature Wii-style motion sensors and high-tech vibration, allowing for multiple levels of feedback – so if you’re hit by a sword, expect a different level impact than if you were catching a ball.
As well as the ability to use them individually (the system comes with a kickstand to act as a television screen on the go) the detachable controllers can be attached to a central module – the Joy-Con Grip – while connected to a television, or be used by a dedicated, Xbox-style controller named the ‘Switch Pro Controller’.
Meanwhile, something Nintendo has yet to clarify is whether there are touch screen controls, and if so, how that would work when the system is docked. More soon on this, hopefully.
Nintendo Switch games list – every game announced for the new system
Even before release, we got a taste of what’s to come from both Nintendo’s own studios and third parties, and the system’s October reveal trailer delivered a few more interesting revelations.
Confirmed games coming to Nintendo Switch:
As part of the Switch’s October reveal trailer, we saw glimpses of games from first and third parties. Nintendo and other publishers have yet to confirm these as full Switch titles – consider them as representative of what the system could be capable of, even if that Mario game sure looks new to us – so put them in the ‘likely but not confirmed’ column for now:
With release looming fast, development kits have been in the hands of studios as of last year, with Nintendo itself releasing a list of studios working on Nintendo hardware:
Elsewhere, while not full announcements, other possible Switch games from third party studios include:
As well as the games hinted at and confirmed above, a recent rumour suggested Switch will be home to various ports of Wii U’s most successful games, including Super Mario Maker and the latest Super Smash Bros. While Splatoon was shown during the console’s reveal, there’s no confirmation of others yet, so still take the shortlist with a pinch of salt.
Nintendo Switch backwards compatibility, physical media, operating system and other features
We know that game cartridges (GameCards) – and not discs – will be the form of physical media the Switch will use, taking after the portable 3DS rather than high capacity discs like the Wii U. This was hinted at earlier this year with a trademark for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild that included cartridge-based games, so doesn’t come as a big surprise.
While not fully confirmed, like the Wii U and 3DS before it the ability to download games digitally is likely to be supported, while details on storage space so far thin on the ground.
Interestingly, a Eurogamer source said there are no plans for backwards compatibility, meaning the Switch will be a clean break from the 3DS and the Wii U, which supported the DS and Wii respectively (which, in turn, supported Game Boy and GameCube games at launch).
On a possibly related note, one source said the operating system for the Switch will be brand new – but not Android-based despite previous reports. Whatever form the dashboard will take, expect the new cross-platform account and reward service My Nintendo to feature, following its debut on smartphone app Miitomo earlier this year.
While Amiibo got a small cameo in the reveal trailer and will be supported by Switch, another fan-favourite feature of previous Nintendo hardware – Virtual Console – has yet to be confirmed, but is probably likely.
As for region locking, it could be a thing of the past, with late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata saying in early 2015 that, though it had yet to be decided at the time, Nintendo was “optimistic” of changing its approach for its next system.
Nintendo Switch specs – how powerful will it be?
Nintendo Switch is being powered by a custom Nvidia mobile Tegra processor, with development kits using the X1 chip that’s already in use for the Shield Android TV console and the Google Pixel C tablet.
As with the Wii, Wii U, DS and 3DS, it’s another Nintendo system that isn’t attempting to compete with current generation hardware, so don’t expect PS4 or Xbox One quality visuals; the aim and benefit of using Tegra is striking a balance between power and energy efficiency to maintain battery life, which is vital for a portable system.
That said, Tegra is no slouch. To quote Digital Foundry’s report on the Switch’s use of Nvidia Tegra hardware, here’s how the X1 chip lines up: “…Doom BFG Edition on Xbox 360 and PS3 runs at 720p60 with frame-rate drops [and] the same game running on the Shield Android TV micro-console, based on X1, hands in a near-flawless 1080p60 presentation. Trine 2 – another 720p30 game on Sony and Microsoft’s last-gen consoles – operates at 1080p30 on Tegra X1.”
As for the device’s screen resolution, that is currently unknown. The Tegra X1 is capable of 1080p visuals, but a 720p output could yield better results thanks to a lower pixel count.
Other speculation suggests that not only would removing the Tegra from its Android underpinnings lead to improved results, but the Switch could opt for the next-generation X2 chip over the X1.
Though very little is known about the X2, the Switch’s early 2017 release comes around two years after the X1 launch, and could explain Nintendo’s decision to hold off releasing the system until then – but there is no basis for that at the moment.
For more hardware specifics, including discussion on how the chip might be cooled, a more thorough breakdown on X1 technology and thoughts on the possible CPU set up, read Digital Foundry’s extensive Nvidia Tegra codename NX piece.
Nintendo Switch release date – when will it be available?
Nintendo Switch is set to release globally in March 2017, which is later than the original assumption of 2016 that many expected. It was also widely speculated to be announced and shown at this year’s E3 expo, but instead Nintendo left most of its focus on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – a tactic that paid off when the game won the coveted Game of the Show award from attending critics.
Regarding the move from 2016 to March 2017, Nintendo said “one of the reasons” was to do with getting software ready in time for day one: “Not only at launch, but we also need to be able to continuously release titles after launch,” president Tatsumi Kimishima said. “We are planning for this to be a platform that consumers can enjoy for a long time.” This was further backed up by Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aime, who said: “We have to do a better job [than the Wii U] from a software planning standpoint.”
Cost has yet to be confirmed or rumoured, but whatever it ends up as, the Switch won’t be sold at a loss, with Kimishima explaining: “When Wii U was launched, the yen was very strong. I am assuming that situation will not repeat itself. Selling at a loss at launch would not support the business, so we are keeping that mind in developing NX.”