Nintendo revealed their next “home” console today. I say that with the largest of air quotes around home because it looks like the rumors are true and the system will indeed be a portable hybrid console that you can play at home or take on the go.
Let's look at what the video confirmed first.
Let’s start with the name. The Nintendo Switch. I didn’t think they could come up with a better name that the NX. I thought for sure it would be called the Nintendo NeXt, though I think that might be too close to the computer company started by Steve Jobs (no not that one). I feel like the Switch is a fantastic name. The console will have you switching between playing at home or on the go. Plus they can do some pretty great marketing telling people to Switch to Nintendo.
The “cradle” for the switch which looks awesome by the way shows at least two USB ports on the side, no weirdo angles like the Wii or PS4 and the tablet portion of the console slides into the cradle perfectly. I do worry about scratching the screen of the tablet putting it in the cradle though. When you take your game on the go, you don’t have to do anything, just walk up to the game that’s playing and grab the console out of the cradle. The unit switches off and you have your portable.
Detachable controllers - The controllers can be removed from the side of the system with what seemed to be a satisfying click. That being said, it could just be sound effects added in post. They are called the Joy-Con apparently and you can play with them attached to the system, one in each hand, or with this odd spacer in the middle of them. I’m guessing to make it feel more like other controllers. You slide the controllers down from the top to attach them to the screen.
The controllers have thumbsticks not circle pads which I think is a BIG win for everyone. I like the 3DS as much as the next guy, but an actual stick is better than the circle pad.
You can play multiplayer games on the go, because each side of the controller has a stick and face buttons. Playing this way doesn’t seem like the most comfortable solution, but hey if I want to play Mario Kart with my son and we only have one of these I can. If I do have two it seems like Nintendo has built in networking for the device, they showed 4 people playing a basketball game together using two Nintendo Switches.
The D-pad that Nintendo is famous for is gone and replaced with buttons that seem more like face buttons than a d-pad. I’m a little wary of this, Nintendo has always had a really great D-pad on their hardware, it will be a shame if this doesn’t measure up. I’m guessing this is so when you are using only one of the detachable controllers the D-pad can act as the face buttons.
The Switch is Cartridge based. Which for a portable system makes sense. Less moving parts in a portable device is always a good idea. My guess is I’ll be buying most games digitally anyway, small cartridges are easy to lose, and I tend not to trade games in anyway.
The system has a headphone jack on the top, and the back has a stand so you can play it with the detachable controllers and no TV. They didn’t come out and say it but they showed Amiibo in the video so it must have amiibo support. It would have been foolish of Nintendo to leave this feature out as it has been very successful for them. I wonder if the controllers will have RFID readers in them or just the tablet itself. This would be problematic if your Amiibo reader is across the room and you have to constantly get up to scan them in. It looks like they will be selling a stand that clips onto a car seat so that people in the back of the car can play the Switch multiplayer on the go.
Switch Pro Controller has the thumb sticks located where Xbox has them rather than where the Wii U Pro Controller has them. The pro controller also has the full Nintendo D-pad that we know and love.
The video featured Skyrim probably the new version, the idea of a portable skyrim is bonkers to me. I can’t wait.
What the video didn’t do was tell us the Specs of the system. How powerful is it compared to the PS4 or XBox One. How powerful will it be compared to the new iterations of those consoles, or the yet unknown project scorpio. Nintendo in the last few generations has not been about being the most powerful. I’m fine with how Nintendo games look. But that isn’t the only reason you want your system to be powerful. Ports of games made for other systems need to have enough horsepower so the games don’t need much work to port. Will Nintendo win with 3rd parties this time? I hope so.
Is the screen a touch screen? I didn’t see anything to indicate that the screen is touch sensitive, but I think it would be amazing if it were. This would mean that Nintendo could port games like Mario Maker to the Switch without losing a step. However you can't use the screen while playing on TV. This would make having a touch screen complicated.
Speaking of the screen it looks to be about the same side as an iPad mini which I think is a good size for a portable. And while we are on the subject of Apple, Miyamoto surprised us on stage at the iPhone 7 event. What would really be awesome is if they showed up again and said Nintendo Switch controllers are compatible with iOS. so Nintendo games can have real controls on mobile. It may be a pipe dream but Apple does have a scheduled announcement on the 27th.
They didn’t announce a price, but the last thing they showed was a Splatoon eSports match followed by the release date of March 2017.