Today Nintendo has properly pulled back the covers on their new console, the Nintendo Switch, and given us a better look at how it all works, along with some of the games we’ll be playing.
Most importantly of all, they’ve announced both the release date and the retail price! For two markets, anyway.
Nintendo Switch will have a simultaneous launch around the world on March 3rd, 2017.
In Japan the expected retail price is 29,980 yen. In North America it will be $299.99 according to the President of Nintendo, Tatsumi Kimishima. That price may only be accurate for the US market.
Europe (and Australia) will have to check with their local retailers closer to release. If Australia gets a straight currency conversion based on today’s rate the Switch will come in at $399, so we’re all crossing our fingers the Australia tax is forgotten. (Update: EB Games Australia is listing the basic bundle at $469.95)
Two basic bundles will be available, both containing the 6.2″ capacitive touch, 1280×720 resolution console/screen itself, one left and one right Joy-con, two straps for same and a grip, plus the dock, HDMI cable and power adaptor necessary for TV play. The only difference will be one bundle will be all-grey while the other will have one red and one blue Joy-con. More on this later.
There’ll also be a “Pro Controller” which you can purchase separately.
The Switch will, of course, have multiplayer over the internet, with the initial offering to be free and a paid service commencing “Fall 2017”. Local multiplayer, whether on one console with multiple controllers or multiple consoles chained together, will presumably remain free.
In surprising, but very welcome news, the Nintendo Switch will not be region locked as standard. There seemed to be a little wiggle room in that statement, so some titles may still end up locked away. But for people who usually have to import either an entire console or fiddle with region unlocking hacks this will be brilliant!
Nintendo were keen to point out all the features they’ve pioneered over the years, from touch screens, analog sticks, portability and so on. These are all now combined into one device, the Nintendo Switch. Ignoring the other platforms that actually had some of these features first, some seriously smart stuff is going on with the hardware and how you interact with it.
It starts with the different ways the console can be set up and played with.
The most obvious setup is the old school console approach. Plug the portable screen into the dock, run a HDMI cable to a TV and use the controllers from your couch.
If someone is using the TV, or you just want to get off the couch, you can pull the screen from the dock, attach two of the “Joy-con” controllers, one to either side of the screen, and you end up with something very like the portable screen system for the Wii U. And it’s a seamless transition, you don’t need to save the game and reload or any of that nonsense.
The other option is to put the screen down on a table or other surface – it has a kickstand – and use one or more Joy-cons separately. There’s a controller dock you can slide them into, or you could give one Joy-con to a friend and get some multiplayer going.
In reality a lot of people will probably only use one or two of these options regularly, but the option is there. And if you’re in a portable mode the screen has a simple USB Type-C connector for recharging while continuing to play. It’s not a proprietary nonsense port, which is nice.
Depending on the game being played the battery life for the console was cited as being between 2.5 and 6.5 hours, which is quite a large difference. Joy-con (ugh!) battery life wasn’t stated.
The Joy-con slabs themselves seem small, comfortably fitting in the hand of each person shown using them. They’re also packed with tech! Each one has an analog stick, which can be clicked. The right Joy-con has standard ABXY buttons, as well as a Home button. They’ve also managed to squeeze an NFC reader into it, meaning Amiibos can be read.
The left Joy-con has a screenshot button in place of the Home button, which will also be able to take video captures at some point. These will be shared via Social Media.
Both Joy-cons come equipped with accelerometers as well, which are read individually meaning they can be moved in different ways, depending on what you’re doing. A force feedback/rumble/vibration feature is also in there, with it being claimed to be so accurate as to allow you to feel the difference between an imaginary glass with one, two or three ice cubes in it. That seemed a little silly, but if they’ve actually made an advance in that field it would be a marvelous thing.
But wait, there’s more! Each Joy-con also has an IR sensor at the bottom, capable of detecting the classic rock/paper/scissors hand shapes as well as distance between the sensor and an object. Not entirely sure what this will be used for, but presumably they have some ideas.
Last but by no means least, you can “strap on the joy” with locking straps that also work to extend the two shoulder buttons. The Joy-cons don’t look big enough to break a TV, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Also, you can get them in red or blue. They’ll be the same price as the grey ones, just redder or bluer.
As a demonstration of some of the gameplay enabled by these new controllers, Nintendo revealed the first game of the presentation, “1, 2, Switch!” Seemingly a collection of party game style tech demos, it opened with an Old West style gunslinger duel that looks like it would be a ton of fun to play.
Players actually square off with each other, drawing and “shooting” with the Joy-con. The screen can show winners and other details, but it’s almost entirely played out in the real world. Which should be pretty neat, if it works!
1, 2, Switch is coming March 3rd, 2017. Sort of expected it to be a launch title, and it is.
The other gameplay demo shown for the Joy-con showcase was an arena-based punchy game called Arms. You have long springy ribbons for arms and oversized boxing gloves at the other end and you have to try punching your opponent, who can duck and weave using motion controls. It looked like fun, but probably not a game you could play on a small screen.
Arms is coming Spring 2017.
In other “not coming yet” announcements… Splatoon 2! They missed an opportunity by not calling it Spla-two-n, but the gag also wouldn’t translate well into Japanese. So it’s okay.
Coming Summer 2017, Splatoon 2 will have a new weapon, dual-wield splatter guns that can propel you around the arena, as well as the usual new maps, weapons and other updates. If you liked Splatoon, you’ll love… etc.
Next… Woohoo! It’sa me, Mario!
At last there’s a new Mario game on the horizon. Initial footage showed Mario in what looked like a fairly normal cityscape, jumping off taxis, bounding off walls and so on, but later scenes were set in more fantastical locations, which seem to be reached by airship.
Mario also has a new gimmick, “only possible thanks to the Switch”, taking his hat off and tossing it outwards, where it will briefly spin in midair, allowing Mario to use it as a stepping stone. This change also means his hat now has eyes for some reason. Just go with it, it’s Mario!
Super Mario Odyssey is scheduled for Holiday 2017. Probably don’t hold your breath on that date.
A couple of titles were all bunched together after this announcement, with Xenoblade 2, a new Shin Megami Tensei, Square Enix bringing Dragon Quest X & XI plus Dragon Quest Heroes 1 & 2, and something called Project Octopath Traveller?
And then Todd Howard showed up to confirm that yes, Skyrim really will be coming to Nintendo Switch! You’ll be able to take Skyrim with you wherever you go… if you don’t already have a laptop capable of running it. There’s no details on when this will be released, nor what compromises might be made to get it running on the hardware. They also did not mention modding, which has recently become a thing even for consoles.
It’s still Skyrim though. Awesome.
After Skyrim was revealed Suda51 popped out on stage, was weird, didn’t announce anything much, then left. The translator was struggling a little, either because Suda was talking too fast, had gone off script or maybe the translator was just a massive fan of the weird dude. The only notable thing here was that there might be another No More Heroes title in the works. Maybe.
Patrick Söderlund? EA is returning to Nintendo! Or is at least bringing Fifa across, with a version of the game “custom built for the Switch”. A soccer game would seem an ideal fit for the console, with the small controllers being easy to pass around among a crowd of mates, or taking it portable and playing in the bathroom.
Let’s face it, that’s going to happen.
Rounding out the event was the announcement that both Europe and America will have a series of hands-on events over the coming weeks for people who’d like to touch the Switch before buying it. Japan will also have demonstration stations available. We’ll try and get our hands on specifics for these as they’re announced.
Last but by no means least… Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The game still looks gorgeous and everyone is waiting on tenterhooks for that release date…
March 3rd, 2017! Yes, that’s right, Zelda: Breath of the Wild is going to be a launch title for the Nintendo Switch. At last, Link will return to screens around the world.
Is that enough to convince you to pick up a Nintendo Switch?