Nearly 22 months after it was casually announced as Project NX (the “dedicated game platform with a brand new concept”) and nearly three months after it was first revealed in a short trailer, Nintendo will be sharing details of its upcoming Switch tonight and tomorrow. console in global events.
The news kicks off Thursday with a livestreamed event from Japan (with an English-language option) at 11 p.m. Eastern Time (8 p.m. Pacific). This will be followed by a short presentation from New York City at 9:00 am on Friday morning and hands-on events in New York, Japan and England where members of the press and invited guests will have the chance to play the system. The public can then try out the Switch through a promotional tour that will run in the coming weeks and at conventions such as PAX.
Ars will be on hand to bring you the news when it happens, and we’ll provide hands-on impressions, photos and video of the hardware itself. But before it all goes wrong, here’s what we know and what we expect from Nintendo’s new console.
If you’ve heard about the Switch, you probably know that its most unique feature is its hybrid portable/TV-based design. The system can be used independently via a tablet-style screen (apparently in the six-inch range) or played on a TV using a connecting dock.
To enable this design, the Switch’s “Joy-Con” controllers on either side of the screen can be detached and slid off the tablet to be used independently in each hand or connected to a unified controller grip. The controllers can also be held horizontally, NES-style, for limited local multiplayer option on some games. The tablet itself can be propped up on an included stand to make this possible.
The Switch’s hybrid design and slim, tablet-like form factor means the system runs on a “custom Tegra processor” that should consume less power than a traditional, large box console plugged into a wall. The architecture is rumored to be a system-on-a-chip based on the Tegra X1, which would mean the Switch could struggle to match the raw performance of the PS4 and Xbox One (TV-based systems that were released over three years ago). Reports suggest the Switch’s TV dock will come with a cooling fan that will allow the system to run at a slightly higher clock speed, but don’t expect a transformative difference between portable and TV performance. We expect it will be just enough to get a portable 720p image closer to a native 1080p on a TV.
Software and launch details
Nintendo is adamant that the Switch will launch in March. While Nintendo has a history of delaying both hardware and software at the last minute, there’s little evidence that the company will slip the Switch in fiscal year starting April (a move that would certainly worry shareholders and boost Nintendo’s stock price. would wrinkle). There have been some reports of mid-March launch dates around the 17th, but right now any specific day is just as likely as any other.
As for hardware pricing, a flurry of retail leaks and speculation suggests that $250 could be the sweet spot for an entry-level Switch system, perhaps with a $300 upgrade option with a pack-in game and expanded storage. That would make the system price competitive with older console hardware from Sony and Microsoft, but the Switch will boast the added bonuses of a built-in screen and a fully portable playback option.
Following a spate of rumors suggesting the Switch may not launch, the latest reports suggest: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will not be further delayed; it should hit store shelves next to the Switch in March. That game was first shown on the Wii U at last year’s E3 show, and it will likely be the last Wii U game produced by Nintendo, much like how Twilight Princess launched with the Wii and ended the Gamecube era.
Nintendo also showed images of super mario, splatoonand Mario Kart games in the October Switch reveal trailer. The first two of these have been heavily rumored as launch titles, with splatoon as a possible pack-in, but we wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of them slides to later in the year (especially since the super mario game looked a bit rough and was pre-rendered in October). Reports also suggest a full-fledged Pokemon RPG is in the works for the Switch, and that would mark the first time such a title has been available on a TV-based console.
Nintendo will likely dive further into its deep stable of first-party franchises for Switch announcements this weekend. The real question is how much enthusiasm the system will get from third-party publishers and developers, who have provided mediocre support for Nintendo’s home consoles for years.
So far, there have been only a handful of official announcements from major publishers, including Sega’s “Project Sonic 2017”, Just dance 2017 from Ubisoft, Lego City Undercover from Warner Bros., and Dragon Quest X and XI from Square Enix. Take Two and Bethesda were on board to show versions of Skyrim and NBA 2K in the October Switch trailer, though oddly enough neither company has officially confirmed those games are in the works for the system. Among independent developers, we’ve heard of a few well-known titles coming to Switch, including: Kick Knight, Stardew Valleyand the upcoming crowdfunded Yooka-Laylee (which is no longer coming to Wii U).
For example, Ubisoft seems especially optimistic on the Switch and is reportedly planning a timed exclusive version of the expected Beyond Good and Evil 2 for the system. That would be a major coup for Nintendo. It’s also rumored that Nintendo is working with Ubisoft on an RPG that will feature Ubisoft’s rabbit-like Rabbids characters and the super mario franchisee.
Aside from the companies already mentioned, a “sample of Nintendo Switch partners” offered in October also included Activision, EA, Codemasters, Konami, and Capcom. This weekend should help clarify whether their initial support for the Switch comes down to big new exclusives or warmed up ports from games released in recent years.
After taking stock of all the Switch build-up leaks and rumors, here are a few other things to note ahead of this weekend’s launch:
- There are some indications that the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers will have Wii-like motion sensing and pointing capabilities. It also looks like those controllers will have small shoulder buttons on the side that can be used when those controllers are held horizontally and independently for local multiplayer.
- Recently revealed Nintendo patent applications suggest that Nintendo may be planning a VR headset that uses the Switch tablet as a display. Still, we’d be surprised if such plans get attention this weekend.
- We don’t know yet whether the LCD screen will be touch-sensitive. While we were skeptical at first, later reports suggest the system will have multi-touch functionality.
- Leaks of accessory listings for the Switch suggest the system will charge via USB Type C, doing away with Nintendo’s usual proprietary chargers and potentially speeding up charging speed compared to previous Nintendo handheld devices.
- The Switch will reportedly support games on small cartridges rather than discs, but reports suggest there’s no direct support for older cartridges designed for the DS and 3DS lines. Internal storage for downloaded games should be expandable via SD cards, according to reports.
- Nintendo has hinted at a “wide range” of add-on hardware for the Switch. We hope this means a selection of custom slide-on controllers for different types of games.
- Reports suggest the Switch will expand Nintendo’s Virtual Console offering to include downloadable, emulated Gamecube games for the first time.