Nintendo Switch: What we know so far

Nintendo's got a completely new game system coming next year, and it's totally modular. The Nintendo Switch is a lot of things: a tablet, a console and even a portable multiplayer tabletop game system.

The Switch is a bold move, not a surprise from a company that's made bold hardware moves its modus operandi since the '80s. The Nintendo DS introduced crazy dual-screen touch gaming in a handheld; the Virtual Boy was a tabletop 3D game system. The Wii introduced motion gaming and a wild reinvention of the classic game controller. The 3DS has glasses-free 3D. The Wii U has its bizarre quasi-tablet GamePad controller.

Compared to all those wild ideas, the Switch leans on a concept that's relatively sane. It's a combination portable system and home console. It might bridge the gap between Nintendo's long-lasting handheld game business and its TV-connected gaming. And, maybe, it's pointing towards the future of Nintendo and where it's headed as a company.

Here's what we know so far, now that the Switch has been announced.

It's a system that will play connected to a TV, or by itself on the go.

Nintendo demonstrated that the Switch will play its games connected to a TV like a regular games console, or as a tablet-style handheld with its own controls. It can also be played while standing up on its own kickstand, with detachable controllers.

It pops into a dock.

The "Nintendo Switch Dock" is where the Switch lives when it's in your living room. The tablet slides into the dock, and then seems to instantly switch into a TV-connected mode. This is a bit like the Nvidia Shield tablet, which had a similar play-on-TV, play-on-the-go idea.

You can hot-switch between TV mode or handheld mode on the fly.

Nintendo's preview video shows people playing games on the TV, then popping the tablet out and playing on the sofa. Games should instantly switch, and play in either mode.


The Switch in both of its forms.


Its Joy-Con controllers detach and become stand-alone wireless controllers.

The Switch has a flexible idea of controllers: two "Joy-Con" side pieces slide onto the edges of the Switch tablet, adding four buttons and an analog stick on each side, plus shoulder buttons, just like the Wii U GamePad. But when these are slid off, they can become standalone Wii remote-like controllers, held sideways to play games. The Joy-Con controllers also slide into another accessory, the Joy-Con Grip, turning them into a full controller separate from the tablet.

There's a kickstand, too.

The Switch can stand up on a table, and games can be played with the controllers like a mini console. Local multiplayer games can be played on one or several Switch tablets. It looks like several people could play games on one together, or network several for LAN-style gaming.

There's a cartridge slot.

Besides downloading games, the Switch will have its own little card-based cartridges. It doesn't support any DVD or Blu-ray-style discs.

Is it backwards-compatible with old Nintendo games? We don't know.

Nintendo did show the Switch using 3DS-like cartridges, but the safe bet is that this will use its own category of software.

What games will it play?

We don't know about much that yet, but Nintendo's upcoming Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will be a launch title. Nintendo's new Switch video also shows a Splatoon game, Skyrim, a Mario Kart title, a Super Mario game, and an official NBA basketball game.

Nintendo's already announced a lot of development partners.

The list of partners unveiled by Nintendo is pretty extensive: Activision, EA, Capcom and more are onboard. Of course, they haven't said what games they'll release. Ubisoft's CEO Yves Guillemot said in a statement, "With the Nintendo Switch's unique capacities and design, Nintendo could again redefine the way we play games. The Nintendo Switch is accessible at its core and also seizes on the growing trends of sharing more experiences and playing anywhere at any time." Of course, similar statements were made by developers during the launch of the Nintendo Wii U.


Some of the partners developing for the Switch already.


It's powered by an Nvidia Tegra processor.

Nvidia says the Switch uses a custom Tegra processor. Nvidia Tegra processors have previously powered Nvidia's Shield gaming tablets and other mobile devices, but Nvidia promises this processor is "based on the same architecture as the world's top-performing GeForce gaming graphics cards," adding a revamped physics engine and other tools. Nvidia's Tegra processor might sound like it'll be less powerful than a full "normal" console, but it's hard to tell how advanced the Switch will truly be.

It's arriving March 2017.

We don't yet know the price.

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