After years of waiting, Nintendo finally has a new video game console on the way: the Nintendo Switch.
It’s a hybrid console — you can play it at home on your living room television, or you can take it on the go. Here are the basics:
- It’s called Nintendo Switch.
- It’s scheduled to launch on March 3.
- It starts at $A469.95.
- Nintendo has a gaggle of games starring its most prominent creations in the works.
There is, of course, much more to the Switch than that. We’ve finally got our hands on one, and have lots of to tell you. Here’s everything we know about the Nintendo Switch:
Here's what's in the box:
• A Switch tablet -- the console itself is the tablet.
• A set of Joy-Con controllers.
• The Switch dock, for connecting to your TV.
• The Joy-Con dock/gamepad.
• Two wrist straps for making sure you don't lose the Joy-Con while playing a motion game.
• Two cables (power and HDMI).
There are two bundles that each cost around $391.25. One has a blue and a red Joy-Con, and the other has two grey ones.
What you see above is exactly what'll come in the box when Nintendo Switch arrives on March, 3: the Nintendo Switch dock, the tablet-like console, and a home gamepad with the detachable Joy-Con in tow.
Notably, the controller is called the Joy-Con Grip. Since you can detach each of the Joy-Con bits and attach them to the Switch tablet, the Grip turns the Joy-Con into a more traditional gamepad. Unfortunately, the Joy-Con Grip that comes with the Switch isn't capable of charging the Joy-Con -- you need to re-connect them to the Switch tablet while it's docked to charge the Joy-Con.
Of note: Everything in the package is also sold separately. Want another dock? You can buy one. Need just a left Joy-Con? Can do. Nintendo breaks it all down on its site.
The connection between the Switch and the dock is a USB-C port. Sliding the Switch tablet into the dock is remarkably simple and easy -- there's a little bracket that guides the tablet into port. If you don't connect it perfectly on the first try, you can just slide the tablet around left and right until it connects. It feels like a natural fit, and there's a satisfying click when it's locked in. There is no learning curve.
The Switch tablet itself has a USB-C port on the bottom edge for charging. You can plug directly into an outlet from the tablet itself and play as long as you like -- on a long flight, for instance. Notably, connecting the Switch to the dock doesn't feel finicky, like connecting a smartphone to a speaker; it feels similar to docking the Wii U gamepad, actually.
The Joy-Con Grip gamepad has two offset analogue sticks and four buttons on each side. There are also shoulder buttons and triggers on each side -- the standard gamepad setup nowadays, more or less.
Ergonomically speaking, the Joy-Con Grip is a bit bizarre. It's a rounded rectangle rather than a more standard gamepad design (the 'boomerang' look of the Xbox One gamepad, for instance). You don't actually have to snap the Joy-Con into the Grip to control the Switch on a TV -- you can hold one in each hand and use it like a deconstructed gamepad, which is more comfortable (if a bit weird).
They slide in on each side of the Grip, and rails on each side of the Grip enable a Joy-Con to be easily attached. It's not a perfect gamepad solution, but it's the easiest one for the Switch that doesn't require buying a separate gamepad (more on that in a moment).
Each side of the Joy-Con slide onto the sides of the screen, turning it into a portable handheld game console. Each Joy-Con has a thumbstick and four main buttons. They can be used with the screen, detached from the screen, or used at home with the Nintendo Switch dock.
Nintendo says the Switch lasts about three hours while playing a game in portable mode. In my experience, the battery hasn't been a major issue. I also haven't been marathoning any games while in handheld mode, so take that with a grain of salt.
Nintendo offers different-coloured Joy-Cons. To start, it will have the neon blue and red ones seen above, in addition to the standard set of grey Joy-Con.
Each Joy-Con can be held sideways and operated as its own gamepad. The thumbstick in the middle becomes the way you move, and the four buttons on the right side are for interaction. There are even two shoulder buttons on each.
You'll want to be careful not to lose these, as they cost $105 to replace. The same thing goes for those of you who want matching blue or red Joy-Cons -- they come in a package, but the package costs $US80. If you'd prefer to just buy one to complete your set, they're sold individually for $65 (for a left or right one by itself, to be clear).
The Nintendo Switch can capture screenshots of games. The system even has a button dedicated to capturing screenshots. The button is said to also enable the sharing of screenshots over social media, directly from the console.
Using the screenshot button is a ton of fun -- it's incredibly quick and enables some gorgeous in-game photography.
The Switch will also record video of gameplay using this button, though that feature won't work at launch in March. It's unclear whether the Switch will be able to live stream games, as the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 can. The system we have, before launch, isn't capable of streaming games to the internet without using a third-party solution (a video capture device, for instance).
The Joy-Con are also motion controllers. They have a thing called 'HD rumble' built in, which is a hilarious way of saying 'they vibrate.'
The Joy-Con controllers are more capable than they look. They rumble. They act as motion controllers. They can be used as individual gamepads or connected to a Switch tablet and used as one.
Surprisingly, a variety of motion games are heading to the Switch -- in what feels like a bizarre throwback to Nintendo's gimmick with the Wii. Those motion games employ the new 'HD rumble' feature.
The first big game featuring motion control on the Switch is called, '1, 2, Switch.' It's a collection of minigames where you're doing silly stuff like milking cows and eating invisible sandwiches.
But perhaps you'd prefer something more traditional? Nintendo also has a standard gamepad -- this is the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller.
Nintendo has been making the Pro line of gamepads since the original Wii as a way for people to play Nintendo games with a relatively standard gamepad. The Nintendo Switch is no exception -- this generation's iteration of the Pro controller looks an awful lot like an Xbox One gamepad. The thumbsticks are concave and offset, and four face buttons are on the right side.
Don't expect this guy to come with the Nintendo Switch you buy in March -- it's sold separately. Worse, it costs a whopping $91.
The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller is adorably retro in its translucent case. It replicates the functions of the Joy-Con controllers in many ways, albeit in a far more comfortable format.
There's a near-field communication reader built in so it can be used with Nintendo's popular Amiibo toys. It has motion sensors so it can be tilted for gameplay (in, say, 'Splatoon 2'). It even has the new 'HD rumble' feature.
Nintendo's gimmick with the Switch is flexibility. Want to play in the car? Go ahead. At home on a TV? Sure thing. As a group of friends? You got it.
Top, far left: One example Nintendo gives of how the Switch can be used is in the car. In this instance, someone has purchased a Switch mount then detached the Joy-Cons to use as two individual gamepads. If they look tiny, that's because they're hilariously tiny. While it looks like a lot of fun to play a new 'Mario Kart' game in a car, we're betting most folks will either play alone or wait until they get home, where there are normal-sized gamepads.
Top, middle: Here's a closer look at the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. It's a pretty standard gamepad. It's unclear whether you can use it without the Switch dock. Could one of the 'Mario Kart' contestants above be using one instead of the tiny gamepads in the example? Perhaps, but who wants to carry a gamepad everywhere?
Top, far right: Nintendo smartly built a kickstand into the read of the Switch tablet. The company envisions this being used for multiplayer gaming and in-flight gameplay -- we envision it as an easy way to watch a movie on the Switch. Nintendo hasn't confirmed Switch is a multimedia device, but we'd be shocked if it weren't capable of as much.
Bottom, far left: As seen here, the Joy-Con Grip comes together via slidable attachments. Each Joy-Con gets attached to the Grip by sliding it on. We're eager to see how this works in practice -- the last thing anyone wants is a bunch of hardware rattling around in a bag.
Bottom, middle: Though Nintendo Switch has an online infrastructure for multiplayer gaming, you can play with friends locally, wirelessly. This kind of local multiplayer is a standard on Nintendo's handheld consoles, so it's a no-brainer to bring it to the Switch. Nintendo says up to eight people can play together as such.
Bottom, far right: When you're done living life out loud and playing games outside, simply plop the Switch tablet into the Switch dock and it instantly becomes a home console. You can even leave the Joy-Con attached to the tablet and use the Pro controller.
So what about games? Here's a close-up look at the type of media used for games. Think of it like a thicker SD card.
Speaking of games, there are some fantastic-looking ones headed to the Switch -- like 'Super Mario Odyssey,' for instance.
Nintendo has a stable of games cooking for the Switch:
• A new 3D 'Super Mario' game, 'Super Mario Odyssey.'
• A new 'Mario Kart' game, 'Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.'
• A new NBA game in 'NBA 2K18.'
• Bethesda Game Studios' 2011 masterpiece, 'The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.'
And that's not all: 'Splatoon 2' is planned for launch this summer, while '1, 2, Switch' and a handful of others are arriving at launch on March 3. Unfortunately, 'Super Mario Odyssey' is expected to arrive in 'holiday 2017.'
Electronic Arts also confirmed it's bringing the 'FIFA' soccer series to Switch, and a handful of Japanese role-playing games are in the works. And a delightful little indie game named 'Snipperclips' is also available at launch on March 3.
Most notably, 'The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild' is a launch title, arriving alongside the console on March 3.
You can buy games digitally, as well as on Game Cards, though the eShop. It arrives in a patch that you'll need to download after setting up the console.
Ahead of launch on March 3, the Switch is capable of one thing: Playing games off of Game Cards. The same thing applies to the console when you take it out of the box at home -- it can do one thing, play Game Cards, until you connect to the internet and download an update.
After downloading that update, the Switch gains access to the 'eShop' -- Nintendo's digital storefront for new games. Notably, this is different from the Virtual Console storefront -- we'll get to that in a moment.
Nintendo is introducing a new online service with the Switch. It's free at first and becomes a paid service this fall.
Along with the Switch, Nintendo is introducing a more fully featured online service. The service will be free for a period after launch in March but will become a paid service this fall.
Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima said more details are coming, but he didn't say when. A website from Nintendo details a service that sounds similar to the paid services offered on Sony and Microsoft platforms, like PlayStation Network and Xbox Live. Those services offer stuff like cloud saves, free monthly games, and other perks for paying.
In the case of the Nintendo Switch Online Service, you'll get access to multiplayer and co-op online gaming, voice chat, and a classic NES or SNES game every month.
There are some massive caveats with Nintendo's new online service. For instance, those NES/SNES games won't remain free forever. You get them for one month -- that's it.
As Nintendo America President Reggie Fils-Aime told Wired: 'Essentially you've got access to that game for a period of time, and then after the month there's a new selection. You'll have the opportunity to buy it, but (after) that month we've moved on to another game.'
And yeah, that's a pretty crappy service. In the case of the free games offered on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, those remain yours as long as you're a paying member of their respective online services, Xbox Live and PlayStation Plus. In the case of the Switch, Nintendo revokes free NES/SNES games with its paid service after a single month.
When you add the fact that Nintendo's free games are just old games, it becomes even less logical.
Nintendo's long-running Virtual Console service, a digital storefront for classic games, isn't ready for launch. Nintendo says it's coming at some point, but isn't offering other details just yet.
Unfortunately, Virtual Console isn't ready for launch.
The service, which debuted on the Nintendo Wii over 10 years ago, offers paid access to games from Nintendo's storied history in game development and publishing. It's the service where you can buy 'Super Mario Bros.' for the original NES and play it on your modern game console, and it's been a staple of Nintendo hardware for years -- on the Wii, 3DS, and Wii U.
It's not clear why the service isn't arriving at the Switch launch on March 3, but Nintendo promises it's still coming. Perhaps Nintendo is figuring out a way to transfer all those Virtual Console games we bought on previous Nintendo consoles to the Switch? Perhaps, but don't hold your breath on that.
This is Nintendo's first portable console that can be used anywhere in the world, without any region-locking.
Previous Nintendo consoles sold in the US couldn't play games that were produced in Japan, and vice versa. The same situation applies to Europe.
In the case of the Switch, that's changing. Kimishima, Nintendo's president, announced as much during the Tokyo event in January. It's a major departure for a company that has been slow to change with international trends.
Nintendo hasn't detailed the internal specs of the console just yet, and it may never. What we do know is the internal storage (32 GB, but it can be expanded easily using microSD cards) and the screen size (6.2 inches, 1280 x 720 resolution).
The screen is also of the touch variety, which is employed more as a means of navigating menus on the go than as a gameplay input device. In my experience with the Switch so far, the touchpad isn't used for anything in terms of gameplay -- just menu navigation.
In terms of the internal horsepower, that's unknown. Nintendo's using a 'custom' chip from Nvidia, which is described as a 'high-efficiency scalable processor.' In terms of what's powering graphics, that's a 'Nvidia GPU based on the same architecture as the world's top-performing GeForce gaming graphics cards.'
Rather than using discs, the Switch used game cards -- an example is above.
Most important, perhaps, the battery is said to last 'roughly three hours' while playing 'The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild' on the handheld version of Switch.