In a live-streaming event tonight, Tatsumi Kimishima and other Nintendo dignitaries revealed a lot more information about the company’s intriguing new hybrid mobile-home console, the Nintendo Switch.
First off, it’ll launch on March 3 in virtually every country, and it’ll be available for preorder here starting, uh, right now (and in other places on January 21). Per Nintendo’s Twitter account, a “limited” number will be available for in-store preorder at Nintendo NYC tomorrow morning — but people are already camped out, so you may be out of luck. And, according to one Reddit post, supplies will initially be very limited, at least at GameStop. Basically, if you see a chance to preorder, whether in-store or online, you’ll want to do it quickly. For reasons no one can quite figure out, Nintendo has a history of failing to meet consumer demand for their consoles and products.
The price at launch will be $299, making it more expensive than the current price of the base PS4 and Xbox One — but not by much.
Perhaps the most interesting bit so far: no more region locking. Any game available in any country can be played on any console.
The truly intriguing bit, though, is how the Switch will function. It will come with a dock that will plug into your TV via a normal HDMI cable, capable of running a max resolution of 1080p. While in this mode, the Nintendo Switch’s Nvidia Tegra X1 chip will run at 768 MHz — a respectable rate that will probably allow it to surpass the visuals of the PS3 and Xbox 360 (though not the current generation of PlayStation and Microsoft consoles).
Take it out of the dock, and it becomes a gaming tablet that runs at 720p, with several different ways to play. (It also becomes significantly slower, leading many to wonder if developers will take the time to program two separate versions of games for faster and slower processors.) The screen allows for multi-touch functionality, but it looks like Nintendo really intends for players to take two “Joy-Con” controllers, attach them to the side of the Switch, and use that as a mobile gaming console. You may want to keep a spare battery pack around as well — battery life will only be two and a half to six hours.
When in mobile mode, the console has a kickstand you can use to set the tablet in an upright position. For games like Mario Kart 8, you can remove the Joy-Con controllers, and play two-player games side-by-side. The Joy-Con remotes will also function like Wii-style remotes, in that physical movement of the remote will translate into action on the screen. The Joy-Con also has sensors that allow it to detect shapes in front of it — for example, the differences between a hand making a rock, paper, or scissors. You’ll also be able to connect to other players to compete against on Wi-Fi.
Titles available at launch will include something called 1 2 Switch (which looks to be a kind of quick-draw game using the Joy-Con controllers) and Arms (which looks a bit like boxing as performed by Stretch Armstrong). Nintendo spent the beginning of its presentation focusing on games that utilize the Joy-Con controllers in interesting ways, versus updates to their established franchises. There was also a video showing off and Splatoon 2 (the sequel to Nintendo’s surprisingly fun paint-splatter shooter) — but it won’t be available until summer.
Surprising no one, there will also be a new Mario game, Super Mario Odyssey — but this one looks surprisingly open world compared to previous titles. Environments include modern-day cities, deep forests, and, uh, also Bowser wearing a top hat? It’s Nintendo — you take innovation in how much they’re willing to push their core franchises where you can find it. This also won’t be a launch title — the release date will be sometime in the 2017 holiday season.
Nintendo also showed off Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Fire Emblem Warriors, which are exactly the sort of titles that get Nintendo fans amped up and draw blank stares from anyone not deeply into the world of Nintendo and Japanese RPGs. The same can be said of the various Dragon Quest and Shin Megami Tensei titles announced — they’re deeply popular in Japan and among aficionados here in the States, but don’t have a wide audience. It looks like none of these titles will be available for launch.
Skyrim (which was shown off heavily in the Nintendo Switch trailer) was also confirmed to be coming to the Switch. Much like a lot of the other titles discussed so far, it’s unclear if it’ll actually be available for launch — despite Skyrim being out for other systems since Obama’s first term.
Electronic Worldwide Studios also came out to announce that a new FIFA game will be available for the Switch “later this year.” More and more, the presentation seemed to auger a a very weak launch lineup for the Switch — plenty of promising games, none of them available on March 3. Though shortly after the announcement of FIFA, Nintendo showed a montage of games, including Rayman, SSX, Mario Kart, and other that weren’t mentioned yet.
To finish out the presentation, Reggie Fils-Aimé teased the release of the biggest possible launch title of the Nintendo Switch, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. After showing off more footage of the game — which looks truly amazing — Nintendo revealed it will be a launch title for the Switch. There will be a bigger event in New York City tomorrow (which I will be attending), where I should get some play time with both the Switch console and Breath of the Wild.
Nintendo abandoned trying to keep up in raw processing power over a decade ago with the release of the original Nintendo Wii, instead focusing on innovative hardware design that allowed for new ways to play games. The Switch looks to continue in that tradition, and it frankly looks like a much more interesting and robust gaming device than the Wii U was. The main problem it may face in the market is that most of the developed world already carries a pretty solid gaming device with them at all times: their smartphone.