Coming next March, Nintendo debuted the machine in a three-minute lifestyle video this afternoon, and it seems the rumours were right. The Switch sees Nintendo merging their handheld and home console strategies into one flexible platform, with a tablet that you can either attach tiny controllers to and take on the go, or dock at home to connect to your television. The console uses 3DS-like cartridges for its games because, obviously, you aren’t going to want to take a wallet of optical discs with you when you’re out and about, and while handy, this would seem to be the death knell for physical backward compatibility.
We’re yet to see official specs for the system, but NVIDIA this afternoon revealed that the Switch is powered by a custom Tegra system-on-chip – an ARM part, and another detail that has long been rumoured. Given that we don’t know what this custom SoC actually is (both X1 and the upcoming X2 have been rumoured), it’s difficult to guess at how the Switch will perform – at least relative to the Wii U, as it’s unlikely to trouble either Xbox One or PS4 in performance. But more important than that, surely, are the games that the machine will run.
If the leaks and rumours have taken a bit of the surprise out of the console reveal, there was at least the unexpected appearance of the upcoming Skyrim remaster in the reveal trailer, as someone was shown playing Bethesda’s fantasy RPG on a plane, before returning home to dock the tablet and continue their adventure. Also present were Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon, two titles which have been rumoured to be getting ports to the new platform, as well as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, NBA 2k17 and a 3D Mario game. Nintendo have also announced a selection of the third party support the Switch will, hopefully, enjoy, which includes names like Telltale, Take Two, From Software and more. You can see a larger list on this handy slide.
So let’s talk a little more about the hardware. As above, we don’t have specs yet, but we can talk in a bit more detail about the ways in which you’ll play the Switch. The tablet comes with two small detachable controllers, each containing an analogue stick and a collection of face buttons. These ‘Joy-Cons’ can be used separately, with one in each hand, or attached to a controller-shaped unit called the Joy-Con Grip to create a more traditional, albeit odd-looking, controller option. The Joy Cons can also be used for multiplayer games, with each player using one, and then there’s the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller as a separate option.
It’s an interesting strategy for sure, and I think it makes sense given Nintendo’s relative strengths; their handhelds have pretty much always outpaced their home consoles in sales, and it’s hard not to argue that the 3DS has enjoyed better third party support than the Wii U. Indeed, even in an apparently shrinking handheld market, the 3DS has managed almost 60 million sales, so it’s not a bad idea for Nintendo to make an attempt at unifying both of those markets. With the Switch being fully capable of handheld play, it’ll be interesting to see how long the company continue to support their current portable system, but if the Switch comes in at a reasonable price and gets the next mainline Pokémon game, it could do very well for itself indeed.
The Switch concept is unlikely to do much for those that have been clamouring for Nintendo to just release a simple, traditional home console free of gimmickry or new ideas, but as someone who plays handhelds quite a lot, I’m pretty optimistic about it. I love my Vita, but one of the reasons I was excited for it in the first place was the promise of console quality games on the go. While there’s still a ton of interesting games coming to that platform, the bigger budget titles have long since dried up. With Switch, the possibility has returned, and even if third party content does slow to a Wii U-style trickle, there’s still the promise of playing Nintendo’s own games, like Breath of the Wild, while you’re on the go.
For now, we’ll have to wait for hardware specs and launch pricing, but you can check out the unveil trailer below.