The Nintendo Switch — known before its announcement as the NX — is one of the weirdest and most interesting pieces of major gaming hardware we’ve seen for a while. It’s a modular device that can be used as a portable console or placed in a dock for living room gaming. But Nintendo packed a lot more detail than that into its three-minute trailer for the Switch, so here’s everything we’ve just learned.
We’ve seen at least five configurations for the Switch
Nintendo’s goal with the Switch is to fill all gaming niches — single-player couch and mobile sessions, party gaming, meeting another friend with a console, even e-sports. To that end, we’ve seen at least five distinct ways to use the Switch.
The first, at the beginning, is most like a standard console: a black box sitting next to the TV, with a handheld gamepad. But then, its owner — who’s playing Zelda — gets up and reveals that the main controls slide off the frame of the gamepad, then slide onto the sides of a small tablet nestled in the box. Pull it out, and you’ve got a handheld console.
In some situations, you can also prop it up with a kickstand and use one half of the controller in each hand.
If you like, you can put the Switch back into its living room console box, but use a more traditional controller instead.
With friends, you can prop up the Switch with its kickstand and turn each half of the controller into a simple gamepad. In this case, we’ve got four players in total, playing against each other on two separate Switches.
Nintendo promises that you can play the same games whether the Switch is mobile or docked, and the device looks beefier than your average Nintendo handheld — it’s more like the Nvidia Shield gaming tablet, and is in fact powered by a custom Nvidia Tegra processor.
The Switch controller is called the Joy-Con
Nintendo describes each small half-controller as a Joy-Con, with an analog stick and four face buttons on each. As we see above, they can be used separately, slotted onto the side of the main Switch body, or secured to a Joy-Con Grip accessory.
There’s an optional "Pro" controller as well
Nintendo is making an interesting play for e-sports fans in the trailer video: a Splatoon team practices together before an event, then members walk on stage and slot their consoles into stands on the desks to compete for real. To do that, they’re using what Nintendo refers to as the optional Switch Pro Controller, which is conceptually similar to the older Wii U Pro Controller — a traditional gamepad for a non-traditional console.
The Switch uses DS-like GameCards
They’ve been described as "cartridges" before, but they’re essentially the kind of little cards that players of portable Nintendo games will be familiar with. They pop right into the side of the tablet, like so:
48 software companies have pledged support
The Wii U struggled to attract developers, but Nintendo has published a list of 48 software partners for the Switch, hoping to allay concerns. These include game development companies like EA, Bethesda, Capcom, Activision, and Ubisoft, as well as middleware and game engine companies like Unity and Havok.
So far, we’ve seen six games, including Mario and Zelda
The list of what we’ve actually witnessed people play on the Switch is a lot shorter than the list of partners, but Nintendo has confirmed a broad spread of genres: there’s The Legend of Zelda, Mario Kart, a new Super Mario game, the paint-based team shooter Splatoon, open-world fantasy game The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim, and an unspecified NBA game.
It’s coming in March
No price, no precise date. But that’s still not too far away. Until then, here’s Nintendo’s detailed rendering of the Switch in both its living room and portable forms.