Nintendo’s unveiled its new console – and it’s a modular marvel that looks equally at home and on the go. The device will be called the Nintendo Switch – that Nintendo NX name was just a working title – and was revealed to the world via a 3-minute video which you can watch below.
The chief takeaway is that the Switch will be a flexible beast: you can play it at home, connected to your TV, or you can detach the tablet-like core and bring it with you on the go, complete with tiny attachable controllers.
It’s a bold move from Nintendo, essentially combining its two core hardware businesses while trying to deliver an experience that doesn’t have to compete with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One solely on specs and graphics prowess.
Here’s everything you need to know right now.
1) IT’S A CONSOLE AND A HANDHELD
No longer will you need two different devices to play all of Nintendo’s big games: the Switch is a two-in-one device that you can play at home or on the road. Though not while driving, obviously.
The core of the device looks like a tablet, with a moderately large screen in the middle and a couple of physical controller segments – known as Joy-Cons – on either side complete with analog sticks and buttons. You just charge up the battery then carry it around and play it wherever you are.
Then, when you’re home, you simply pop it into the TV-connected dock and keep playing on your 50in flatscreen, picking up right where you left off in the same games. It’s a more powerful handheld than anything Nintendo’s built before, by far, but now with the flexibility to get the full home experience too.
2) THE CONTROLLERS DETACH
That’s part of the secret sauce: it’s not just a handheld system with an optional TV plug, but rather a versatile system that can do loads of different things. When you’re on the go, you can pull off the Joy-Con controllers and use one in each hand while the screen is propped up on a surface with the built-in kickstand.
It’s also an on-the-go multiplayer device: two players can each use one of the Joy-Cons for simpler games, as they each have an analog stick and buttons. Alternatively, you can link up two Switch consoles and do local four-player gaming across the two screens. It also looks like you could link four local Switch devices and have each player play on his or her own screen.
At home, the Joy-Con controllers attach to a shell to make a larger controller, so you can create a more traditional gamepad for couch-based play using these individual components.
3) IT USES CARTRIDGES (REALLY!)
The rumours were true: the Switch uses little cartridges or memory cards for games, much like every previous Nintendo handheld system. That’s just a mock-up image above (repeat: not real), but it looks about the size we briefly see in the video.
It seems a little silly for a console released in 2017 to still be based around a physical and proprietary media format, especially now that downloadable phone and tablet games have become so accepted and commonplace, but Nintendo doesn’t want to scrap its retail store presence. It also means you don’t need an internet connection to enjoy the Switch, or have to wait for a huge download to snag a new game.
Don’t worry, though: we’re absolutely sure that you will have the option to download games, although we don’t know what kind of storage options are available at this point. Hopefully we’ll be able to bring in external storage, as with the DSi and 3DS systems.
4) IT’S NOT A TOUCH DEVICE… WE THINK…
One big surprise out of this trailer? The Nintendo Switch doesn’t seem to have a touchscreen. We don’t know the size or resolution of the screen yet, but we’d estimate it to be about 7in or so. Either way, the video doesn’t show anybody touching the screen – and Nintendo’s official announcement says nothing about it, either.
Both the Wii U and Nintendo’s last decade of handhelds relied on touchscreens, and given the popularity of mobile games, we’re a little shocked about this move. However it might just be a detail that Nintendo didn’t want to stress upfront, so give this one time.
5) THERE’S A PRO CONTROLLER TOO
Much like the last couple of Wii consoles, Nintendo also has a Switch Pro Controller available that’s a lot more like the gamepads we’re used to from Xbox and PlayStation offerings. It’s a more contoured gamepad that’ll be a better fit for the living room.
It’s not fully clear yet, but we suspect you can use the Pro Controller when you’re on the go as well, assuming you want to haul around an extra gamepad. So if the Joy-Con contraption seems a little insubstantial, then at least you’ll have the Pro option available.
6) WE DON’T HAVE ANY SPECS
You might have noticed a common thread here: Nintendo showed off plenty of different play scenarios and did a great job of selling the concept of the Switch in the trailer, but the company hasn’t shared final specifications about pretty much anything.
So we don’t know the exact tech inside – though we do know it’s provided by NVIDIA. We don’t know how large or crisp the screen is, what kind of display tech it uses, or whether it’s a touchscreen (as noted above). And we don’t know about storage, either.
All of those details will come, but the announcement wasn’t focused on tech, which means we’ll be waiting around a bit longer for that info. At least it seems as if Amiibo support will be included, as if there was any doubt whatsoever.
7) IT’LL FEATURE FAMILIAR FACES
We already knew that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild would be a launch game, but some other Nintendo greats showed up in the trailer – namely a new Mario game that looks much like the legendary Super Mario 64.
We also see Splatoon and what appears to be Mario Kart 8, making it look like some of the better Wii U games will get a second life on a system that hopefully reaches a lot more players. And there are third-party games, too: Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Special Edition and NBA 2K17. Don’t be surprised if plenty of the early games are multiplatform ports.
Furthermore, Nintendo has announced that dozens of top publishers and developers – everyone ranging from Activision, EA, and Capcom to Ubisoft, Square Enix, and Take-Two – have confirmed support for the platform. Hopefully they stick around, however, as the Wii U’s third-party support disappeared after the initial launch window.
8) IT’S COMING IN MARCH
Nintendo said we’d get the NX by March 2017, and sure enough, the Switch is dated for March 2017. That window seemed less and less likely as the announcement stayed out of sight, but Nintendo says it’s sticking to that timeframe.
However, we don’t have any sense of price yet, or exactly what you’re getting in the box – all crucial details as Nintendo tries to mount a console comeback, especially since the Wii U seemed a bit overpriced at launch.