OK, the newest Nintendo console finally has an official name, and it also looks damn cool. We’ve got some questions, though.
How fast and powerful is it?
Nintendo has been releasing notoriously underpowered consoles for over a decade now. The GameCube, Wii, and Wii U could only pull off a fraction of the cool graphics tricks of their competitors. Will the Switch be another system that embraces cartoonish graphics because it can’t compete with the realism of what Sony and Microsoft provide?
What’s the resolution of the little screen?
The Switch console has a big display built in. It looks to be between 15 and 18 centimetres wide. We figure it’s got to be, at bare minimum, a 1080p display. Since Nintendo is using a new Nvidia Tegra processor, then the Switch should be able to churn out 4K graphics on the handheld Switch monitor. Though that would potentially destroy the device’s battery life. Speaking of which...
What’s the battery life?
Watching people play the graphics-heavy games on the Switch on an aeroplane looks incredible. So does the shot of people crowded around it playing Mario Kart in a car. But how long does that gameplay actually last?
Nintendo portable devices are known for their exceptional battery life. I have a Game Boy Advance Micro I haven’t charged in four years that I can still power on. But its previous portable systems have very tiny screens. The Switch screen is huge. How large of a battery did Nintendo squeeze into this thing?
What will graphics look like on TVs?
If it can churn out 4K graphics on a little handheld monitor, the Switch should easily be able to handle a 4K television, which has a lower pixel density and actually requires less graphical oomph from a CPU and GPU.
But TVs are currently undergoing big changes, and Sony and Microsoft have both been focused on providing new mid-cycle updated consoles that can do fancy tricks like HDR colour. If the Switch can’t handle HDR, it will definitely be trailing behind the curve.
The Switch Dock could be a hint. Like the external processor for PSVR, it might give the Switch the additional power it needs to push out higher quality graphics to TVs.
What are the cartridges for?
In the trailer you can briefly see a cartridge being inserted into the Switch. Old-school Nintendos often offloaded some of the processing duties to the cartridges to supplement the underpowered consoles. The current mobile console from Nintendo, the 3DS, uses SD cards as gaming cartridges. So the ones spied in the trailer could just be games. A 30-hour Zelda adventure in 4K would take up a lot of storage, and offloading all of it to a cartridge makes sense.
Yet Nintendo, like every other console manufacturer, has embraced game downloads for big boy consoles. So perhaps the cartridges are expandable storage?
Is it backwards compatible?
The cartridges used by the Switch might not even be Switch games. Perhaps the Switch can play Nintendo 3DS games. Nintendo has a great tradition of making its consoles backwards compatible. If this one doesn’t use discs that means Wii U and Wii games are out. If it uses cartridges then games from its previous portable systems are back in.
Is this replacing the Wii U, the 3DS, or both?
The Switch appears to be that incredible dream console that will let you hop between home and mobile play seamlessly. So which console is it actually replacing? It definitely seems to be taking ideas introduced with the Wii U to the next level, but a whole lot of the trailer was focused on what a great mobile platform the Switch could be. Both of Nintendo’s current consoles might find their days numbered.
Did Nintendo kill motion control?
The Wii made motion control so popular that Sony scrambled to try and ape it. A generation of living room bowlers was born. Yet Nintendo quietly distanced itself from motion control with the Wii U, and the trailer for the Switch doesn’t show a single moment of motion control.
Is it for kids?
Did you see a kid in that trailer? I didn’t. It appears Nintendo’s coveted child-friendly market might be a thing of the past.
How much is it going to cost?
So far there’s no word on pricing or on which of the peripherals will actually be included with the Switch. Will the dock cost extra? Will the clever Joy-Con that splits in half be included? The more traditional Switch Pro controller will almost certainly be sold separately, like every other traditional controller since the launch of the Wii. But what will this thing cost?
We expect to see details trickle out in the months ahead, but we can’t wait until they’re all answered when the system launches in March 2017.