Nintendo officially announced its new Switch console back in October, following more than a year of teases and rumours, but kept a lot of the details under wraps.
How capable would this console/portable hybrid be? When exactly would it release, and how much would it cost? And just what kinds of games would be available right out of the gate? We didn’t know those things then, but we thankfully know just about everything now.
Nintendo just held a late-night streaming event for the Switch, where it answered most of our lingering questions. Here’s everything we learned today, and if you don’t already know about the Switch, be sure to read our full preview on Nintendo’s possible savior.
And be sure to check back later today, as we’ll be going hands-on with the Switch for the first time and trying out the biggest games in the pipeline.
1) It’s out on 3 March
Yes, Nintendo is sticking with its original March 2017 target from ages ago, and we won’t have to wait long into the month either: it’ll release on 3 March across much of Europe, as well as the United States, Japan, Hong Kong, Canada, and some other territories.
And in a surprising move for a Nintendo home console (even if it’s a hybrid), the games won’t be region-locked, which means you can buy a game from any country and play it on a Switch released anywhere in the world. That’s awesome news for avid importers.
2) It won’t be that cheap
The Switch was pegged as a cheaper competitor to other consoles, but that’s not really the case: the launch bundle will set you back £280 in the UK, or US$300 in the States.
With that, you’ll get the Switch handheld itself, the two Joy-Con controller nubs, the Joy-Con Grip that combines with them to make a traditional gamepad, two Joy-Con wrist straps, the home dock that connects to your TV, and an HDMI cable and AC adaptor. You’ll be able to get it either with two grey Joy-Cons, or with one blue and one red Joy-Con included.
And the accessories will be pricey, too: we don’t have UK prices yet, but a pair of extra Joy-Con controllers will sell for US$80 in the States, while the optional Pro Controller is a staggering US$70. Kind of startling, really.
Also, note: the Switch comes with 32GB of internal storage, which seems to be the only version available, but you’ll be able to expand it significantly with microSDHC and microSDXC cards.
3) Yes, it has a touch screen
The earlier Switch reveal video seemed to carefully hide that the device offered touch capabilities, but sure enough, the 6.2in display is a touch screen. That ought to come in handy for menu navigation, and perhaps make it easy for mobile games to make their way over to the device.
That said, it’s only a 720p display, which means it’s not a very high-res screen. It boasts a lower resolution than the iPhone 7, for example, and the larger screen here means some lack of clarity, too. You’ll be able to output 1080p gameplay onto a TV, however.
4) Online play is premium
Like other console makers today, Nintendo won’t let you play online without paying a monthly fee. The company revealed a premium online service for the Switch, which will not only put online competition behind lock and key, but also features like voice chat and online lobbies.
There’s no word yet on how much Nintendo plans to charge for this service, but luckily, they’ll let early Switch owners ease into it: the service will be free of charge until this autumn, at which point you’ll need to pay the monthly toll to continue.
At least there is one really cool perk: if you subscribe, you’ll get a free NES or SNES game download each month – and the SNES games have been updated with online play. Yes, that does sound pretty amazing.
5) Battery life could be an issue
Battery life on the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U GamePad have been underwhelming, and it looks like that trend will continue with the Switch. Nintendo estimates that the built-in battery will allow for between 2.5 and 6 hours of play depending on activity and settings, with a big game like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild expected to run for about 3 hours on a full charge.
In other words, you’ll want an external battery pack – and thankfully, Nintendo is making that process easier by not using proprietary connectors. The Switch can charge via a standard USB-C port, which means you can plug it into a power source on the go, or use your own battery pack.
6) The Joy-Cons have some tricks
The detachable Joy-Con controllers look very, very small, but they’re packed with functionality. Each has a full array of buttons, so you can have two players battle it out on the go, plus each has an accelerometer and gyroscope for Wii-like motion controls.
One of the Joy-Con controllers also has an infrared camera that can read hand gestures (like rock, paper, or scissors) and sense distance, which will probably be put to amusing use in the launch mini-game compilation, 1-2 Switch.
Meanwhile, the right Joy-Con has an NFC sensor for Amiibo usage, ensuring that the popular smart toys will continue on for another generation, and the left Joy-Con has a Capture button that’ll snag screenshots at launch. Later on, it’ll be updated to grab video, as well. And both have "HD Rumble" capabilities touted to provide incredibly sensitive force feedback.
7) Up to 8 systems can link up
Looking to host a local Switch party? If seven of your friends have the console as well, you’ll be able to link up eight of them via local wireless connections for LAN-like play.
That’ll come in handy with Splatoon 2, no doubt, and its 4-on-4 Turf War paint-blasting battles. It’ll also have Wi-Fi capabilities for online action, of course, and Splatoon 2 in particular is pegged to be Nintendo’s first attempt at building an eSports sensation with that kind of support.
8) The launch lineup might be tiny
First thing’s first: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will launch alongside the Switch on 3 March (no word on the Wii U release date, sadly), and that should be enough to get a lot of Nintendo fans onboard.
Besides Zelda? Well, we’re not sure that it’ll be a very robust day-one lineup. 1-2 Switch is also confirmed for 3 March, but that’s the only other game we know of at this point. We’ll probably see some ports ready for the launch – maybe The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, or some downloadable games?
But it’s going to be really strange if Nintendo drops this thing with only a tiny handful of games to play right out of the gate. Actually, it’ll feel like 1996/1997 all over again with the Nintendo 64.
9) But there’s plenty more coming
Nintendo announced some pretty big releases beyond those couple confirmed launch titles, including Super Mario Odyssey, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and Fire Emblem Warriors, and pointed to third-party releases like FIFA this autumn and a new No More Heroes game at some point.
It could be a slow trickle at first, but hopefully the release flow continues to ramp up… unlike with the Wii U, where a big batch of games launched with the system, mostly underperformed, and then led to a much quieter release calendar thereafter.
10) You can (try to) pre-order it today
We can’t promise that you’ll still be able to get your hands on an early order by the time you read this, but if you’re excited about the Switch and have a chance, you should go ahead and plunk down a deposit or order. Given Nintendo’s history with hardware, it could be very difficult to find in the early months. Good luck out there.