It’s every bit as crazy as you expected, and quite removed from the ‘leaked‘ designs we’ve seen the past few months.
We knew the console would work as both at home and on the go, but it’s a lot more modular than rumors suggested. It’s able to transform from a handheld to a console by simply dropping it into a the simply named ‘Switch Dock;’ the transition from small to big screen happens instantly.
The main controller unit looks a lot like a smaller Wii U pad with a bigger screen, but it has a neat trick: the sides pop off to become individual controllers.
These sides are called ‘Joy-Cons’ – a portmanteau of “joystick controllers,” presumably. The D-Pad is replaced by four buttons on the left Joy-Con in order to maintain symmetry.
The idea is that not only can you take the full-powered home console anywhere with you, but you can also easily invite a friend to play a two-player game right on screen. At a time when virtual reality consoles make you more isolated than ever, Nintendo wants you to go out and play with others.
There’s also a built in kickstand, as well what appears to be a car mount accessory, to make it easier to play with others while out and about.
The Joy-Cons can also be used separately from the screen for single player use as well. And when you’re playing at home, you can place the main unit into a dock, and remove the controllers, and pop them into the Joy-Con Grip that imitates a traditional remote for a bit of added comfort.
The controllers (when combined) include the usual dual analog and with four ABXY buttons, a pair of shoulder buttons, two triggers (through it’s not clear if these are pressure sensitive or just simple clicks), ‘+’ and ‘-‘ buttons borrowed from the Wii and Wii U, as well as two new ‘square’ and ‘circle’ buttons. As previously mentioned, the traditional D-Pad’s been replaced by another set of four buttons.
If you really want that D-Pad back, there’s also a ‘Pro’ controller, but it’s not clear if these include any particular features over the normal setup.
As far as we can tell there is no motion control on any of the devices.
Oh, and yes, the Switch uses cartridges (simply called ‘Game Cards’):
Nintendo isn’t saying very much about the console just yet, but we do know it’s powered by a ‘custom Nvidia Tegra Processor.’ Nvidia says the development took up “500 man-years of effort” to fit a powerful console in what’s ostensible a handheld form factor.
The console is powered by the Nvidia’s latest ‘Pascal‘ 16mm microarchitecture, which brought about the huge performance boosts seen in the company’s new 1000-series cards. In Nvidia’s words:
The Nintendo Switch’s gaming experience is also supported by fully custom software, including a revamped physics engine, new libraries, advanced game tools and libraries. NVIDIA additionally created new gaming APIs to fully harness this performance. The newest API, NVN, was built specifically to bring lightweight, fast gaming to the masses.
Gameplay is further enhanced by hardware-accelerated video playback and custom software for audio effects and rendering.
It’s fair to assume it won’t be as powerful as the much larger Xbox One and PS4. It’s obviously a lot smaller, and there’s no mention of 4K or VR anywhere, though Nvidia’s Tegra chipset should definitely be powerful enough for handling 4K streaming for the likes of Netflix and such, like on the the Xbox One S.
Still, we have to applaud Nintendo for doing something way different from everyone else. And this doesn’t seem quite as esoteric as the Wii U either – there’s a lot of practical sensibility to the design, and the emphasis on in-person multiplayer is a nice change of pace from the solitude of online gameplay.
Other than ‘The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,’ – for which there’s a new trailer, by the way – we don’t know much about what’s coming to Switch, but the announcement trailer did provide some clues.
As the Verge points out, six titles show up in the reveal. Most of these appear to be title’s we’ve already heard of in some capacity: the aforementioned Zelda, what seems to be ‘Mario Kart 8,’ ‘The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim,’ an NBA 2k game, and ‘Splatoon.’ The new title is, unsurprisingly, a Mario game.
It might just be demo footage made for the trailer, but given there’s no way Nintendo won’t release a Mario platformer for Switch, it’s fair to assume it’s at least an early version of a real game.
This one breaks away from the isometric view of Super Mario 3D world, with the camera instead following closely behind Mario, in the style of Super Mario 64. It also isn’t explicitly shown, but the trailer suggests it will be playable in multiplayer with the Joy-Cons as well.
Meanwhile, Nintendo revealed 48 publishers and developers bringing software for Switch:
When will we learn more?
The console is still slated to launch in March 2017, though no price has been announced. Nintendo says that we will see full game demos, a list of launch titles, as well as a specific dates, pricing and configuration in advance of the March launch.
In the meantime, check out some of our thoughts on the reveal trailer in the video below.