January 12, 2017 – Nintendo officially announces their new console, the Nintendo Switch, with full release date, retail price, and a handful of games to expect alongside the system.
The presentation was classically Nintendo: bizarre. Each presenter had some kind of gimmick – such as the Lead “Squid Research” Scientist who told us about Splatoon 2 (coming this summer) – and nearly every presenter exited by saying they were going to “switch”, complete with a snap, over to the next person. What I found especially charming was how, despite the unenthused monotone of the English translators, the presenters all seemed genuinely excited to share this new toy with everyone.
So, what do we officially know about the Switch? Well, honestly, not much more than we got from their teaser video back in October, but now we know, rather than suspect, that we can play Skyrim anywhere. Here’s a breakdown of some other facts:
- The Nintendo Switch launches March 3rd, 2017 and will retail at $299.99
- There will be a paid online multiplayer service, with a free trial open to everyone at launch. The paid program will begin in the fall of this year.
- The Switch does not have any region locking.
- There are three major game modes: TV mode (in dock), Tabletop Mode (kickstand), and Handheld Mode
- Battery life varies by game, but will be between 2.5 – 6 hours, and can be charged with an AC adapter, not just the docking station.
- Up to eight Switch consoles can connect locally. You can also connect online via WiFi.
There’s some cool information here. Some of it is common sense stuff – like of course Nintendo is going to cash in on what Microsoft and Sony figured out a long time ago and start charging for their online multiplayer service. Similarly – duh, any modern console is going to have WiFi capability. And is anyone that surprised to hear that we won’t be able to squeeze more than 3 hours on average out of a handheld experience without having to attach to an outlet? But I would also like to point out a couple of really cool things that were glossed over.
The Switch does not have region locking.
For those who really only play games within their own region, this may not seem like a big deal at all. I know I generally just play games that were designed for North American release. However, there are some really good games that have only been released in Japan (and many other countries) that unfortunately cannot be played on our North American systems due to region locking. Think of all the JRPGs and Dating Sims we’ll have access to now!
Up to eight Switch consoles can connect locally.
This is a small but beautiful nod to the Wii U. Since the Wii U’s launch, the question has been asked – why doesn’t the system support more tablet controllers? Admittedly, fewer and fewer people asked that question because fewer and fewer people cared about the Wii U, but the question was still out there. We’ve also somewhat experienced the joy of face-to-face multiplayer with the 3DS, but only to a limited degree – the most console hook-ups you could find in a pure 3DS game is four players. If you play Super Smash Bros. using the Wii U as a hub, you can get up to eight people, but the setup is long and clunky. And while at the moment the idea that me and my seven closest friends all getting together with our individual Switch consoles seems a little far-fetched (mostly because I’m not sure I have seven friends), I like the concept of getting together with a bunch of people to play Mario Kart. How fun would it be to gather together in a park and play a party game that isn’t Pokémon Go?
But wait, there’s more! Let’s talk about the Switch’s controllers. In classic Nintendo fashion, they have the dumbest name ever, but it’s adorable. Let me introduce you to the Joy-Con:
- Each Switch comes with two Joy-Con.
- While in single player TV or Tabletop modes, the Joy-Con have a “dock” of their own, forming them into a single controller.
- Each Joy-Con has a clickable analog stick.
- The Right Joy-Con has classic ABXY buttons and a home button as well as an NFC reader/writer. It also includes an infrared camera that can determine the shape and distance of an object.
- The Left Joy-Con has directional buttons (same configuration as ABXY), and a “capture” button to capture and share screen shots, and potentially video, on social media.
- Each Joy-Con has an accelerometer and gyro sensors.
- L/R buttons are on the grip side of the Joy-Con; these click into the Switch for handheld and single-player modes.
- The Joy-Cons feature “HD Rumble”, which Nintendo claims can perfectly replicate the feeling of having one, two, or three ice cubes in a glass. Supposedly, you would even be able to tell if there was water or not in the glass.
These Joy-Con are probably the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen, and I’m ridiculously hyped about them. Once again, there’s some pretty standard stuff here – like of course they’re going to have all the usual buttons in a reasonable configuration, and that NFC reader wasn’t a surprise to anyone who’s dropped money on Amiibo. But let me point out some of the especially cool stuff:
The Right Joy-Con includes an infrared camera that can determine the shape and distance of an object.
We’ll see how Xbox-Kinect-like this little gimmick becomes, but if anyone can nail ridiculous, kind of stupid, but somehow fun anyway, it’s Nintendo. They demoed the camera by showing off that you can play Rock-Paper-Scissors with the system. Perfect! Can’t wait to see the crazy secret handshake I’ll have the learn in the new Zelda game.
The Left Joy-Con has a capture button.
This in and of itself isn’t especially shocking – both Microsoft and Sony have included some form of quick-share capability in their latest consoles. But this is the first time Nintendo has jumped on the game capture bandwagon. Now the world can finally see how bad I am at Smash Bros. rather than just take my word for it!
The Joy-Cons feature “HD Rumble”.
I’m curious to try this particular feature out for myself. I found it a little odd that they showed off the feeling of ice cubes in a glass, but the implication is pretty cool. As you may be aware, I’m a huge fan of classic adventure games. How much fun would it be to be able to pick up each object in a game and really get a feeling for what that feels like? And it’s not like such technology hasn’t been seen before – some of the best VR rigs have these “HD Rumble” type constructs to help pull you into the experience as best they can. It’ll be interesting to see how spot on this particular feature of the Switch is.
Finally, let’s talk games.
As I said, Bethesda has officially partnered with Nintendo and Skyrim is confirmed for the Switch, although a release date was not given during the initial announcement. And with a lot of unnecessary build-up, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was announced as the major launch title for the Nintendo Switch, surprising literally no one. Other big names that have brought up hype are Splatoon 2, Super Mario Odyssey, Xenoblade 2, Fire Emblem Warriors, Fifa, Shin Megami Tensei, and several Dragon Quest titles. There are something like 80 games in development, though, so I’m sure the hype train will just keep on rolling.
That being said, 1-2 Switch looks like a title that will get lost to time as quickly as it can. This is the first game that was shown off, and the entire idea was that this was a video game that you didn’t look at the screen for. What? You actually want me to look my fellow man in the eye? Fuck that. I’m going to look intensely at a screen and do as little actual interacting as humanly possible, thank you very much. That being said, if you want what looks to be an odd – but probably Wii Sports level of fun – collection of mini-games, this is probably going to be a good one. Most likely the one you show off to a parent or great-Aunt when they ask you why you spent $300 on yet another video game console. It’s either that or the game Arms, which is literally a boxing game with go-go-gadget fists of fury. Either way, someone’s “accidentally” going home with a black eye.
Obviously there’s a lot more we can expect to hear about the Switch as we get closer to March 3rd. The only big question left now is – do I get the system that just has the black Joy-Cons, or do I go for the one that has a Red and a Blue Joy-Con?