So long, Nintendo NX. The codename for Nintendo's next piece of gaming hardware has been cast aside and replaced with the console's true moniker: Nintendo Switch.
It's an apt appellation, as you'll see when you read on - because this is a machine that is truly different to every other console out there. Here's what we know about it so far.
What we know
As previously rumoured, the Switch is a hybrid console that can be used either with your living room TV or handheld. The console’s tablet-like core can be docked in a TV-connected hub station, where it’ll charge as well as feed video to your screen – but when you attach the Joy-Con controllers to the core and remove it from the hub, it becomes a fully-fledged handheld console. The tablet-like core has a kickstand too, so you can prop it up on a tabletop and play with wireless controllers.
All games will be playable in either mode, so you won’t have to choose between a full-fat home version and a watered-down mobile version – the only difference will be in the size of the screen, and the fact that the handheld version will obviously run on a battery that will, eventually, run out. You don’t even have to reload your game to continue playing when you make the switch, you simply pick up exactly where you left off. Since the launch of the Wii, Nintendo has been keen to stand out from its console rivals – and making the Switch a 2-for-1 deal certainly does that.
The Switch’s Joy-Con controller modules are multitalented. They can work in a multitude of ways: as a tradition gamepad, with one linked to each side of a central unit; as on-board controllers for the handheld guise of the Switch, with one connected to each side; or as wireless controllers for the handheld Switch, to be used one in each hand. Additionally, you can play two-player split-screen games with a single Switch and a single Joy-Con pair, by giving one half of it to a mate.
For those who think the Joy-Con looks a little uncomfortable – and while we’ll retain our judgement until we’ve actually used it, it does seem slightly small – Nintendo is launching an optional Pro Controller, which is very much a traditional wireless console gamepad, looking a lot like the current Xbox One controller.
In a blog post that dropped just after Nintendo’s reveal trailer, Nvidia announced that the Switch will be powered by a custom Tegra processor. This features an on-board GPU with GeForce-style architecture, hardware acceleration for video playback (which suggests the Switch will also be a multimedia device as well as a gaming one), custom software for audio effects, a new physics engine and more.
What we don’t yet know are the technical specs. What’s the console’s maximum resolution and frame rate, for example? Its RAM, its on-board storage, its wireless capabilities?
Looks like we’ll have to wait until closer to launch to find out for certain, but rumours prior to Nintendo’s big reveal suggest we might be looking at anything between 900p at 60fps to 4K at 60fps for the display resolution (the latter seems highly unlikely, but you never know…). Nintendo has only said so far that the screen is “high definition”.
Here’s another thing we don’t yet know: precisely how big the portable Switch’s screen is. From the video, it looks to be around 7in in size, but for reasons unknown Nintendo has chosen not to mention specifics in its press release.
Ars Technica, doing some clever technical measurement jiggery-pokery based on the images of the Switch, estimates that it’s 6.5in.
While we’re on the subject of mysteries, what’s the deal with the Switch and touchscreen controls? The reveal video showed no examples of the screen being tapped, poked or prodded, which suggests that either Nintendo isn’t going down the touchy route with the Switch, or that it wants to keep confirmation of its touch capabilities a secret for now.
Right now, we’re leaning towards the former possibility, especially given one of the console’s core selling points is the fact that every game can be played on your TV or handheld. You can’t very well play touchscreen games on your telly, can you?
One thing we do know? That the Switch is bringing back cartridges, baby! Yes, the long-forgotten game medium, beloved of 8- and 16-bit consoles, is making its comeback here, albeit in a much smaller form than we’ve previously seen. As glimpsed in the teaser video, the Switch’s cartridges are more like memory cards.
Will you also be able to download games? Nintendo hasn’t mentioned it thus far, but it would be very strange indeed if digital downloads weren’t on the menu.
The reveal video gave a few clues about early titles for the Switch. We saw the newest Zelda game, Splatoon, Mario Kart and a port of Skyrim (which is now five years old!), as well as a hitherto-unknown 3D Mario game in the style of Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Galaxy – which is obviously very exciting news for pretty much any Nintendo fan.
Nintendo has also posted a list of games publishers and developers who are or will be making titles for the Switch, and it includes giants like EA, Ubisoft, Take-Two and Activision, as well as the likes of Telltale Games, FromSoftware and PlatinumGames. So far from being a device just to play Nintendo’s much-loved first-party titles on, the aim seems to be grabbing the best games from all sources.
All the latest news
Wondering where we're getting all this? Here are all the news stories, leaks, rumours and speculation we've spotted over the past few months.
> 20 October 2016
Nintendo gives the world its first official look at its next console in a preview video that reveals an absolute ton - including the fact that it's called the Switch!
> 06 May 2016
Rumours abound that the Nintendo NX will be using... cartridges? Shurely shome mishtake? What is this? 1995?!
> 27 April 2016
Nintendo announces in an earnings report that not only will the NX be released in March 2017, but that it will be getting a version of the next Legend of Zelda game, previously thought to be a Wii U title only.
> 21 January 2016
A GFK survey - purportedly performed on behalf of Nintendo - leaks online, suggesting that the NX will support gaming at a display resolution of 900p/60fps (yes, that's HD, but less pixel-packed than 1080p) as well as 4K streaming. The latter probably means you'll be able watch videos from Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and other online sources via your NX, provided you also have a 4K TV or projector.
> 06 January 2016
A Japanese analyst believes the NX will go on sale in 2016, that it will be teased between March and May, and that it will be launched in June.
> 03 December 2015
Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima sits down for an interview with Time Magazine, and reveals that the NX will be taking a very different tack to the company's previous two consoles, the Wii and Wii U: "It’s something unique and different. It’s something where we have to move away from those platforms in order to make it something that will appeal to our consumer base." With the Wii U proving to be a dismal sales failure, that's perhaps not the most surprising pronouncement.
> 02 June 2015
Nintendo reveals that it's working on a new console, but declines to give away any clues as to its particulars other than its current codename - the NX - and the fact that it plans to release it in 2017. Cue two years of rabid speculation!