At long last, the last remaining Japanese gaming giant, Nintendo, has unveiled their next dedicated gaming console; the Nintendo Switch. Of course, just what the adorably transformative unit will be dedicated to is an entirely different matter. The Switch is a fully hybridized gaming system like we’ve never quite seen, in that it’s designed for both mobile and home usage, offering unique controls and controller setups for both. Sound confusing? It’s Nintendo, so time to re-learn what a gaming system can be all over again!
In fact, Nintendo has already “switched” their homepage to be more Switch inclusive (though at this time the new console doesn’t occupy a vaunted place atop their menu bar). Scant images and video (none of which feature younger or older gamers…) reveal the stylish new machine, which has several components working together is harmony to bring you the latest Super Mario, Legend of Zelda, and (surprise) The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim action anywhere you like. Looks like “bathroom time” just got a lot more interesting!
It’s gray-coloring this time around, so no more straight-up whiteness soaking up accidental spills and other dusty residue (thank goodness). The Switch is actually modular: the base “unit” actually serves as a docking station to push that Nintendo Power to your HD display after sliding the “tablet” system into its cradle. This is where things get interesting, or confusing, or possibly both. The tablet unit has a nice pull-out stand, and the promotional video seems to indicate the tablet plays nice with other Switch tablets in competitive e-sport environments.
As the Switch is clearly designed to satisfy both mobile and stationary gamers, the tablet unit can be played away from home, and yet still house two detachable controllers (Nintendo is calling them “Joy-Cons” – awesome), which look like evolved Wii Remotes. Each Joy-Con has a single analog stick and the familiar four-button layout found everywhere. They also sport a shoulder “trigger”, as well as a “Plus” or “Minus” button (depending on which one you’re using). They’re also super tiny looking, so hopefully that won’t be an issue for big-mawed fans.
The Joy-Cons can attach to the tablet unit for Wii U-styled controller input, and can be used by more than a single player for split-screen gameplay on the tablet unit while mobile. The Joy-Cons also attach to a base unit when docked at home if you prefer the scheme, though Nintendo will offer a more traditional controller, too, just as they did with the Wii U.
Again, one can’t help but feel slight trepidation when a company pushes a “standard” control scheme, yet offers many variations for/against it. This myriad of controller confusion didn’t do the Wii U any favors, after all.
In typical Nintendo fashion the company hasn’t divulged any info whatsoever to the public about the Switch’s innards; most likely because such technical mumbo-jumbo would A.) be largely irrelevant to the target market, B.) be ridiculed and torn apart by the techno-elite “gamerz” looking to max out their own giga-glops.
It’s pure speculation, of course, but don’t be surprised if the hybrid console doesn’t approach the power levels of “current” generation gaming consoles like the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. Of course…that hasn’t stopped curious types (like myself) from scouring the internet looking for clues.
Reports from “leaked” development kits have the new system powered by a Nvidia second-generation Maxwell architecture running at 256 CUDA cores at 1GHz. This gives the tiny processor 1024 FLOPS per cycle and more. Translated into human-readable form, this puts the Shield at a step below the Xbox One in terms of power and two steps below the PlayStation 4; that’s no surprise, since Nintendo’s never been focused on building a graphical powerhouse. The Nvidia-powered architecture might be considered to have something in common with the Shield TV Android-based set top box, actually, though there’s plenty differentiating the two machines.
Leaked specs put the mobile screen at 720p resolutions – more than adequate for gaming on the go, and a considerable leap forward from both the 3DS/Wii U displays (and critical as the Switch looks to offer split-screen gaming on the smaller screen). It’s not unreasonable to assume that docking the main unit bumps that up to full 1080p for home screen gaming; 4K may be a pipe dream (pipes and dreaming – get it?) but remember that even the PlayStation 4/Xbox One gamers are lucky to get 1080p at 60 fps. Those same leaked specs mention that the Switch is targeting 60 fps rather than the 30 that’s typical with console games, so we can probably expect Switch games to look nice and play well if that’s the case.
Likewise, other niggling questions like battery life, performance, compatibility, and so many others remain giant Question Mark blocks waiting a Mario headbop to spill their treasures. Compatibility is especially on the minds of those who may have invested in Nintendo’s last console, the Wii U, as straight backwards-compatibility is out of the question; the Switch doesn’t use discs but little cartridges that look just like what the 3DS uses.
Most importantly for a dedicate gaming console, of course, are the games. The promo video showed off the most high-profile announced game: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (by most accounts last E3’s Best of Show), as well as snippets of what looked like new Super Mario and Mario Kart adventures. Splatoon got some attention, as well as Skyrim (a nearly five-year old PS3/Xbox 360 game that will soon see a remaster on current-gen consoles and PC), and it’s still uncertain how much investment the Switch will get from valuable third-party publishers. We’ve got so many questions (price??), but at least we’re a little closer than we were yesterday.
You can bet we’ll learn more about the Nintendo Switch and all its wonders as we approach its vague March 2017 launch period; just in time for that lucrative Easter/St. Patrick’s Day holiday gift-buying season.