After years of speculation and a missed E3 showing, the Nintendo Switch - formerly known by its codename Nintendo NX - has been unveiled to the world. The successor to the Wii U and 3DS is a portable handheld console with detachable controllers, with the option to connect to a TV, and will be powered by Nvidia Tegra technology.
Thanks to Eurogamer reports and Nintendo's official announcement events in October 2016 and January 2017, we now know a fair amount about the system, from its form factor to games, the media it'll use and technical specs ahead of its launch on March 3, 2017.
Nintendo Switch - what is it, how does it work and what is bundled with the system
What is the Nintendo Switch?
Nintendo Switch is a home console that can be played on the move. It has the form factor of a handheld system, with a screen bookended by two controllers - named Joy-Cons - that can be attached and detached as required.
So how does it work? There's three play modes; 'Handheld Mode' sees the Joy-Cons attach to the base unit to be played on the go; 'TV Mode' which connects the system via a dock to a television, with controllers attaching to a central module - the Joy-Con Grip - or synced to a decided Xbox-style 'Pro Controller' (available separately), and 'Tabletop Mode', which uses a built-in stand so the screen can be displayed upright anywhere, with the Joy-Cons detached controller(s) to play local multiplayer games.
Changing between the three modes is designed to be as frictionless as possible, as this video shows:Pokémon Sun and Moon Walkthrough and strategy guide Our complete guide for every step of your latest Pokémon journey.
The move allows Nintendo to develop and release games for a single system that can cater to audiences who prefer portable and home-based games, and is a strategy that makes sense in light of Nintendo's decision to merge its handheld and hardware divisions under one roof so the two teams can collaborate on its next system back in 2013.
How do Joy-Cons and other peripherals work, and other ways to play
The Joy-Cons themselves offer several features. As well as more traditional inputs like an analogue stick (that can be clicked in), face buttons, shoulder buttons and a Home button and Share button (allowing screens and later video to be uploaded to social networks), the Joy-Cons will offer Wii-style motion sensors and 'HD Rumble'.
The latter is said to be accurate enough to convey a variety of feedback levels; one example was the feeling of moving ice cubes in a glass, with different levels of feedback for one, two or three cubes, and water filling to the top of the glass.
Additionally, the right Joy-Con features an NFC reader for tapping in amiibos, as well as a motion IR camera said to detect the shape, motion and distance of the objects in front of it, such as a hand playing rock, paper scissors.
Nintendo is also providing an Xbox-style Pro Controller, similar in design to its previous Pro controllers for Wii and Wii U, but with the addition of HD Rumble, motion sensors and NFC support.
As for the base system, it features a 720p, 6.2 inch touch screen with a capacitive, 10-point multitouch display - meaning multi-finger gestures are supported, offering input akin to modern smartphones as opposed to the stylus-driven Wii U and 3DS. As well as online connectivity, up to eight Switch systems can also be connected locally.
Battery life, meanwhile, is said to range from two and a half hours to six hours depending on the software and usage conditions, with Nintendo claiming roughly three hours of play with launch title The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The system can be charged with an AC adapter on the move with a USB-C connector. The Joy-Cons themselves, meanwhile, have a charge time of around 20 hours.
Elsewhere, there's details about storage. Nintendo Switch offers 32GB built-in, some of which will be taken up by the operating system, and can be expanded with SDXC cards up to 2TB in size. Of course, with game cards not expected to store much data on the system itself, it's assumed 32GB will last a while for those not downloading games digitally.
Finally, recent Nintendo patents have hinted at possible VR support for the Switch, where the device can clip into a headset similar to Gear VR or Daydream View. While it's unknown whether this will be available all during the system's lifespan, but it's a hint that Nintendo is at least considering the technology.
How much does Nintendo Switch cost and where can I pre-order?
Nintendo Switch is available March 3rd, 2017 in Europe, North America, Japan and other select territories, with the launch unit featuring a base console, a TV-connecting Dock, left and right Joy-Con controllers, wrist-straps, and a basic Grip controller module for 29,980 Yen, $299.99 and Ł279.99.
Though two versions are available - with grey, or red and blue Joy-Cons - neither come packed in with a game, the first for a Nintendo system at launch since the GameCube. Additionally, the Grip controller that comes with the system doesn't charge the Joy-Cons during play - you'll have to pay for a Ł28 charging grip, or remember to slide the controllers back into the dock to charge them after playing.
Other peripheral prices are also on the steep side; a pair of new Joy-Cons run at Ł75, or Ł42.99 individually. A wireless Pro Controller costs Ł64.99, meanwhile. There is also a steering wheel that was demoed for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, though this has yet to be given a price or release date.
Nintendo Switch games confirmed so far - full games list for the new system
Following the January 2017 reveal event, we have a firm idea of software coming to the switch. Here's every confirmed game so far, and what else we know that could be on the way:
Nintendo Switch launch games confirmed so far
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo, March 3rd)
- 1-2-Switch (Nintendo, March 3rd)
- Just Dance 2017 (Ubisoft, March 3rd)
- Skylanders Imaginators (Activision, March 3rd)
- Super Bomberman R (Konami, March 3rd)
Post-release first-party Nintendo games
- Snipperclips - Cut it out, together! (March 2017)
- Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (April 28)
- ARMS (Spring 2017)
- Splatoon 2 (Summer 2017)
- Fire Emblem Warriors (late 2017)
- Pokémon Stars (late 2017)
- Super Mario Odyssey (holiday 2017)
- Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (TBC)
Third-party Nintendo Switch games confirmed for 2017
- I Am Setsuna (Square Enix, March 2017 in US, 2017 in Europe)
- Fast RMX (Shin'en, March 2017)
- Has Been Heroes (Frozenbyte, March 2017)
- Rime (Tequila Works, May 2017)
- Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ (Nicalis, Spring 2017)
- Disgaea 5 Complete (NIS America, Spring 2017)
- LEGO City Undercover (Warner Bros, Spring 2017)
- Puyo Puyo Tetris (SEGA, Spring 2017)
- Sonic Mania (SEGA, Spring 2017)
- Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda, late 2017)
- NBA 2K18 (2K, September 2017)
- Project Sonic 2017 (SEGA, late 2017)
- Shovel Knight (Yacht Club Games, 2017)
- Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap (DotEmu, 2017)
- >Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom (FDG Entertainment, 2017)
Third-party Nintendo Switch games with no release date
- Arcade Archives (Hamster, TBC)
- Constructor (System 3, TBC)
- Cube Life: Island Survival (Cypronia, TBC)
- Dragon Quest X (Square Enix, TBC)
- Dragon Quest XI (Square Enix, TBC)
- Dragon Quest Heroes I and II (Square Enix, TBC)
- Dragonball Xenoverse 2 (Namco Bandai, TBC)
- EA Sports FIFA (EA, TBC)
- Farming Simulator (Focus Home Interactive, TBC)
- Minecraft: Story Mode - The Compete Adventure (Telltale Games, TBC)
- Rayman Legends: Definite Edition (Ubisoft, TBC)
- Redout (34BigThings, TBC)
- Seasons of Heaven (AnyAny Productions, TBC)
- New Shin Megami Tensei (Atlas, Western release unconfirmed)
- Stardew Valley (Chucklefish Games, TBC)
- State of Mind (Daedalic Entertainment, TBC)
- Steep (Ubisoft, TBC)
- Syberia 3 (Microids, TBC)
- Project Octopath Traveller (Square Enix, TBC)
- Taiko Drum Master (Namco Bandai, TBC)
- New Travis Touchdown game (Suda 51 / Grasshopper, TBC)
- New 'Tales of' RPG (Namco BandaiTBC)
- Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers (Capcom, TBC)
Finally, while not full announcements, other possible Switch games from third party studios include:What Skyrim had that Fallout 4 lost And not just dragons.
- Toki Tori 2 developer Two Tribes is thinking of shifting PS4 and Xbox One title Rive away from the Wii U and to the NX.
- Project Cars for Wii U has been struggling to work on the platform, and while it hasn't given up on development just yet, it has said it could instead shift to Nintendo's next system instead.
- Yooka-Laylee is all but confirmed as developer Playtonic says it is "working very closely with Nintendo" to bring it to the platform, with more details to be shared "in early 2017".
- The developer behind Steamworld, Image and Form, is working on "something special" for Switch.
There of course should be much more to come; development kits have been in the hands of studios as of 2015, with Nintendo itself releasing a list of studios working on Nintendo hardware:
Nintendo Switch online features, backwards compatibility, physical media and other features
3DS and Wii U social features Miiverse and StreetPass won't be part of the Switch, instead to be replaced with a Share button on the left Joy-Con that can upload screenshots to social networks, and post-release, videos.
Nintendo will launch a paid, subscription-based online service with the Switch in late 2017, with a free trial period available at the system's launch. Pricing has yet to be confirmed, but players will receive discounts on digital games, and a free NES or (online enabled) SNES game to play - but not download and keep - on rotation each month. Nintendo will also release a smartphone app allowing friends to chat online and arrange appointments.
We know that game cartridges (GameCards) - and not discs - will be the form of physical media the Switch will use, taking after the portable 3DS rather than high capacity discs like the Wii U. This was hinted at in 2016 with a trademark for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild that included cartridge-based games, so doesn't come as a big surprise.
Man, Nintendo missed the boat in not making Zelda's cartridge/card gold. pic.twitter.com/ic1lZCDgjd— Craig (@CraigSkitz) January 13, 2017
While not fully confirmed, like the Wii U and 3DS before it the ability to download games digitally is likely to be supported, while details on storage space so far thin on the ground.
Interestingly, a Eurogamer source said there are no plans for backwards compatibility, meaning the Switch will be a clean break from the 3DS and the Wii U, which supported the DS and Wii respectively (which, in turn, supported Game Boy and GameCube games at launch).
On a possibly related note, one source said the operating system for the Switch will be brand new - but not Android-based despite previous reports. Whatever form the dashboard will take, expect the new cross-platform account and reward service My Nintendo to feature, following its debut on smartphone app Miitomo earlier this year.
Another fan-favourite feature of previous Nintendo hardware - Virtual Console - has been confirmed by Eurogamer sources, debuting GameCube Virtual Console games including Super Mario Sunshine, Super Smash Bros Melee and Animal Crossing.
While no other platforms have been confirmed, an upgrade programme where you can buy discounted versions of Virtual Console games purchased on previous systems is said to be in the works.
As previously suggested by Nintendo, region locking is a thing of the past, allowing you to play software from any region on the system.
How powerful will Nintendo Switch games be?
Nintendo Switch is being powered by a custom Nvidia mobile Tegra processor, with development kits using something similar to the X1 chip that's found in the Shield Android TV console and the Google Pixel C tablet.
Leaked specs confirmed by Digital Foundry however reveal there is a difference when the system is docked (for playing on a TV) and undocked (when playing on the move). While the CPU remains the same, the system will run at 40% of the speed - from 768MHz to 307.2MHz - when undocked, with developers allowed to keep it at the lower spec when docked if they so choose.
While CPU will remain the same regardless - to ensure game logic "will remain entirely consistent" - according to Digital Foundry "the machine's embedded memory controller runs at 1600MHz while docked (on par with a standard Tegra X1), but the default power mode undocked sees this drop to 1331MHz". That said, developers can opt to retain full memory bandwidth in their titles should they choose to do so".
More on this, and other specs details, in the following video and dedicated Nintendo Switch specs analysis article:
As with the Wii, Wii U, DS and 3DS, it's another Nintendo system that isn't attempting to compete with current generation hardware, so don't expect PS4 or Xbox One quality visuals; the aim and benefit of using Tegra is striking a balance between power and energy efficiency to maintain battery life, which is vital for a portable system.
That said, Tegra is no slouch. To quote Digital Foundry's report on the Switch's use of Nvidia Tegra hardware, here's how the X1 chip lines up: "...Doom BFG Edition on Xbox 360 and PS3 runs at 720p60 with frame-rate drops [and] the same game running on the Shield Android TV micro-console, based on X1, hands in a near-flawless 1080p60 presentation. Trine 2 - another 720p30 game on Sony and Microsoft's last-gen consoles - operates at 1080p30 on Tegra X1."Everything we know about Project Scorpio How powerful Microsoft's next system will be, backwards compatibility and more.
For more hardware specifics, including discussion on how the chip might be cooled, a more thorough breakdown on X1 technology and thoughts on the possible CPU set up, read Digital Foundry's extensive Nvidia Tegra codename NX piece.