After months of speculation, Nintendo released a trailer announcing that its next console will be called the Nintendo Switch, and will launch in March 2017. Nintendo originally disclosed that it was working on a new console, code-named “NX,” during a March 2015 press conference. While the announcement confirmed many of the leaks and reports released by news outlets and pundits in the last year, there’s a still a lot we don’t know about Nintendo’s new console.We’ll be updating this piece with all the information — official and otherwise — on Nintendo’s upcoming system.
Patents point to new a portable projector and other hardware features
Patents submissions don’t always translate to the features we see in a finished product, but based to a series of patents Nintendo filed prior to announcing the Switch, it appears the console may feature a touchscreen, microphone, speaker, camera, compass, GPS receiver, and even a projector that can “project images onto a screen or the hand of a user.”
The patents also say the technology is capable of “gesture detection” for doing everything from throwing a ball to steering a car and even “holding up the correct number of fingers” to answer questions. Should the patent be representative of its final design, the projector will be in the center of the system’s right side. As Polygon noted, the patent submissions do feature a few differences from the final version of the Switch. The system’s thumb sticks, for instance, are both located at the bottom of the unit, while the sticks are now asymmetrical.
Will the Switch have a Touchscreen?
Thus far, Nintendo’s demonstrations for the Switch have shown a traditional console control scheme with players controlling games with two control sticks and face buttons, but the Switch may also support touch controls using a touchscreen, as well as and an infrared cursor to simulate touch-style controls.
According to a report from Let’s Play Video Games, the Switch’s portable will feature a multi-touch display. A small IR pointer on the bottom of the right “Joy-Con” controller may allow players to use the control as a pointer or remote to replicate the act using a touchscreen. The IR-based cursor would also players to replace the act of using the touchscreen when the Switch is docked in “home console” mode. The IR receiver for the Switch will reportedly be on the dock itself.
What’s a “Switch?”
The Nintendo Switch will be a hybrid console that can be used at home on a TV, and also as a portable console similar to Nintendo’s Game Boy and DS lines. The portable version of the console looks very similar to the Wii U game pad controller — a rounded, rectangular panel with two analog sticks, four face buttons, four directional buttons, and two triggers on either side. There are also + and – shaped buttons, to mirror the + and – buttons on the Wii, a “home” button, and an unnamed square button. In case you’re wondering, the portable console also features a 3.5mm headphone jack.
When using the console at home, the two sides of the device, which Nintendo called “Joy-Con” controllers, slide off of the console and connect into a holster called the Joy-Con Grip, to become the console’s home controller. The portable center clicks into a base station, which connects to a TV or monitor.
While that base station might look like the console, it is actually a glorified charging station. It provides a simple dock for the Switch itself, as well as all relevant outputs to the TV. It does not provide anything in the way of processing power.
All of that is contained within the display module, which the controllers hook on to either side. The main module slots into the dock when you are using it at home and quickly unhooks when you want to take the Switch out and about.
In portable mode, the Switch can also serve as a multiplayer device. The individual sides can be used as discrete Wii Remote-style “Joy-Con” controllers, allowing for two-person local multiplayer. The center of the portable console features a built-in kickstand, allowing players to position the screen for open viewing on a table. Nintendo also said that some games can be played with a single player holding a Joy-Con in each hand, mirroring how players would use the Wii controller and nunchuck.
Rumors that the Switch would serve as a combined home and portable console began long before the console was unveiled. A January 2014 post on Nintendo News, which shared an anonymous tip with specifications for the “Nintendo Fusion.” In July, 2016, Eurogamer reported it had confirmed rumors that the console would be a a “powerful” handheld powered by Nvidia’s Tegra with its own screen flanked by two detachable controllers, and that it would support proprietary cartridges and digital downloads. So far, the majority of that report accurately reflects what Nintendo has revealed about the console so far.
A June 2016 report from hardware manufacturing blog Digitimes claimed to have independently confirmed that the NX will feature a mobile device, which will also “connect to a TV” for players looking for a home console-style experience. According to the report, the mobile component will have a 5- to 7-inch display. A separate report from Let’s Play Video Games’ puts the display’s length at about 205mm, making it slightly smaller than the Wii U’s GamePad. The individual controller segments can be removed with the press of a button. Unlike the Eurogamer report, this information has not been confirmed.