Nintendo Switch: Everything We Know (and Don't Know) So Far

The Nintendo Switch, previously codenamed NX, will release in March 2017. Nintendo packed a ton of information in their three-minute reveal trailer. Here's everything we learned about the new modular console.


It's a hybrid home/handheld console

Despite the company not announcing anything since April, many Nintendo fans predicted the Switch's biggest features months ago. The Switch looks like a slimmer, sleeker version of the Wii U GamePad that can be played while docked and displayed on HDTVs or as a portable console.

You can lift its small screen off the dock and attach controllers to it to play games on the go. It definitely looks larger and heavier than past Nintendo handhelds, looking more like the Nvidia Shield gaming tablet.

It's not clear yet how large the Switch screen is while undocked, but based on the trailer, I'm estimating it's between 7 to 10 inches, measuring diagonally across the screen. Given its portability, the big questions left unanswered are how long the Switch's battery life lasts and how each component charges.

 

There are several different controller configurations

The Switch comes with a unique controller scheme called Joy-Con. It includes two modular halves, the Joy-Con (R) and the Joy-Con (L), that each slot into the sides of the Switch screen in portable mode. Both individually have one analog stick, four face buttons, one shoulder button, a home button, and either a plus or minus button.

The two can also detach and work together wirelessly. You can use both halves to play a single-player game like the Wii's remote & nunchuk configuration, or separately to play local split-screen multiplayer games.

The Switch can be propped up with its kickstand in portable mode, and appears to support four-player multiplayer modes on two separate Switches.

For controller traditionalists like myself, there's also the Joy-Con Grip and Switch Pro Controller options. The former slots both pieces together and adds two palm grips. The latter looks nearly identical to like a Wii U Pro controller, making it the most conventional Switch controller of all. We don't know if there will be rumble support, but it's likely that the Pro Controller will support it. Also, it's not clear if the either the center of the Joy-Con Grip or the Switch screen itself is touch-enabled.

 

Game cartridges are back

Well, they're not exactly huge cartridges like the NES and Super Nintendo had, but the Switch games themselves are cartridges called GameCards that look similar to the 3DS or PlayStation Vita's tiny cards. They're inserted into a small slot above the screen. I bet you hear that satisfying clicking sound in your head right now, don't you?

It's unclear if you can play DS and 3DS games on it because the Switch's GameCards look noticeably larger and longer.

 

The GAMES: Mario, Mario Kart, Splatoon, Zelda, NBA, and (surprise!) Skyrim

We already know that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is arriving at or near Switch's launch. So far, Square Enix's Dragon Quest 11 and Ubisoft's Just Dance 2017 are other confirmed third-party games.

In the reveal video, we saw some other gameplay surprises: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Mario Kart, Splatoon, an unspecified NBA game, and a new 3D Mario platformer. Mario Kart was especially interesting because it looked like Wii U's Mario Kart 8 with some new additions, like the ability to hold two items simultaneously and play new characters. 

Nintendo has yet to announce official release dates for any of these games. As for other rumors, a new Pokemon game will be released within six months of the Switch launch, according to an MCV report.

Did Nintendo officially announce any other titles? No, but they did reveal that 48 publishers and developers are already working on them, including EA, Activision, and Capcom.

It's also unclear whether or not backwards compatibility with Nintendo's previous consoles will be available on the Switch. Nintendo has a mixed history of releasing older titles via Virtual Console and is releasing the NES Classic Edition later this year. However, because of the nature of the Wii U's and 3DS's dual-screen games, it's pretty safe to assume games that use both screens probably won't work.

There may be some good news if you're someone who loves importing games: sources say the Nintendo Switch will be a region-free console. That's huge news because both the Wii U and the 3DS are region-locked, meaning Japanese titles won't work elsewhere and vice-versa. Here's hoping Nintendo bucks tradition and confirms this rumor.

 

Graphics-wise, it's not as powerful as the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One

Nvidia confirmed that the Switch is powered by a custom Nvidia Tegra processor. Nintendo promises that you can play the exact same Switch games whether mobile or docked. However, technically, the Switch will not match the competitive graphics capabilities that the PS4 and Xbox One tout.

It's worth noting that the Tegra X1 chip debuted last year in the Nvidia Shield set-top box, with promised PS3 and Xbox 360 equivalent graphics. Those consoles were a decade old at that time, but the Tegra-powered Shield benchmarks never met their marketing hype.

Digital Foundry, Eurogamer's tech and hardware analysis blog, pointed out that Doom 3 BFG's port on the Shield ran at 1080p and 60 frames per second, while running at 720p and 30 fps on last-generation consoles. However, they discovered significantly lower texture resolution, levels of model complexity, and shadow maps on the Shield. So while running on Tegra, Doom 3 BFG ran faster and in higher resolution, but looked bad in all other graphical aspects.

It's highly unlikely that the Switch will boost graphics to anything remotely resembling the PS4 or the Xbox One, even while docked. That's not surprising given that most of the games shown in the teaser video are ports of last-generation titles. The final system specs are still unknown, yet at the very least, the Switch can deliver better performance and increased visual fidelity than the Wii U.

 

How much will it cost?

There's no official word on the Switch's launch price yet. “Today’s video incorporated short glimpses of representative gameplay to demonstrate the liberating nature of the Nintendo Switch home gaming system,” according to a press release. “Full game demonstrations, the list of launch window titles, as well as launch date, price, product configuration, and related specifics, will be shown and announced prior to the March launch.”

Some analysts predict Nintendo will set the MSRP at around $350. That would be much cheaper than the PS4 and Xbox One launch prices set three years ago, but would now be $50 more than either competitor's base model. Coincidentally, $350 is what the Wii U deluxe bundle sold for at launch.

Industry analyst Michael Pachter thinks Nintendo should set the launch price even lower.