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Nintendo’s Switch is one console you can take everywhere — here’s what you need to know

Let's take a closer look at the Nintendo Switch's UI

After months of speculation, following the release of a teaser trailer in October 2016, we finally have some concrete details about the Nintendo Switch. Announced at an event in Tokyo, Japan, Nintendo threw back the curtains and finally gave us a release date and price point. The Nintendo Switch will hit store shelves on March 3, 2017, with a starting price of $300.

The event was jam-packed with developers, who came out and teased their upcoming projects, but the star of the show was the console itself. Pre-orders were made available from Nintendo and a number of retailers shortly after the event concluded, and Nintendo will be letting players get their hands on the Switch on six different dates, at six different American cities.

Click here for our hands-on impressions of the Nintendo Switch.

But let’s dig into the new details, shall we?

How does the Switch work?

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The Nintendo Switch is 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. Players can change between the console’s home and portable configurations on the fly, hence the name “Switch.” The transition between modes of play is remarkably seamless, and the most you have to do for the Switch to register a screen change is press the L and R buttons simultaneously.

TV Mode

All of the processing power in the Switch lies within the tablet portion, with an HDMI-connected charging dock, and a pair of Joy-Con controllers that can be removed from the sides of the console. This unique configuration allows the Switch to adopt a number of different form factors for both single and multi-player games.

You can play with the Joy-Cons attached to the included Joy-Con grip for a more traditional control scheme. With the simple press of two buttons, the Joy-Cons detach from the grip, allowing you to play with one Joy-Con in each hand, or even with a single Joy-Con (used like a Wii remote). The Joy-Con straps assist and add comfort to the free-form control schemes by adding SL (Shoulder Left) and SR (Shoulder Right) bumper buttons.

The Joy-Cons have a more fine-tuned range of controls than Wii remotes. The HD rumble makes the Joy-Con controllers feel as if marbles are rolling around inside of it. This feature allows for a much more precise motion-based experience than the the Wii.

Nintendo also showed off the Nintendo Switch “Pro” controller ($70) during its official unveiling of the system. It’s shaped similarly to the “Pro” controller available on the Wii, but the analog sticks are placed asymmetrically in a similar fashion to the Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

Tabletop Mode

The Switch’s 6.2 inch LCD screen has 1280 x 720 pixel resolution, and provides two different modes of play: tabletop mode and handheld mode.

Users who want to play local multiplayer games away from home can then detach the Joy-Con controllers from the sides of the Switch, and turn them sideways to become two discrete “classic” controllers similar Nintendo’s Wii remote. A kickstand on the back of the Switch lets the console stand up on its own, which will allow for players to use a more traditional control scheme if playing alone — without having to touch the system itself.

Each Joy-Con controller has a camera and motion detection. The right Joy-Con is also equipped with an infrared motion camera which can detect distance and even discern simple hand-gestures, like telling “Scissors” from “Rock” in a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. The Joy-Con controllers will also feature a “Share” button which will — at launch — allow users to share screenshots with the touch of a button.

Handheld Mode

This mode is essentially a Wii U controller you can take with you anywhere. The Joy-con controllers snap to the sides of the tablet, making the device handheld. It’s about the same size of the Wii U controller too, though a bit less bulky overall.

The Switch’s portable display will pull double-duty as a multi-touch screen, borrowing from the DNA of the Nintendo DS. That was a big part of the design philosophy behind the Switch, according to Nintendo, to build on the legacy of all past consoles.

The touchscreen will use Immersion’s haptic technology, but will only be utilized in-game when in tablet mode with the Joy-Con controllers detached. The touchscreen will be capacitive, meaning it is capable of registering multiple finger presses at once. Although, for many games, it appears the touchscreen will only be used in menu screens and for typing messages.

More: There won’t be a shortage of Switch consoles, claims Nintendo of America president

Online Service

After more than a decade of free online multiplayer across the DS, the Wii, the 3DS, and the Wii U, Nintendo will finally be introducing a paid, subscription-based online service to the Nintendo Switch this fall after a free trial period during the console’s launch window.

Once the free trial period has ended, Nintendo’s online service will also introduce an online lobby and voice chat system accessible through a mobile app. This app will allow you to invite your friends into multiplayer matches and even set play appointments when you’re away from your console, and a “limited” version will be available this summer. The app is also the only planned way to voice chat with other players, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime revealed to IGN. Neither Miiverse nor StreetPass — staples of Nintendo’s online platform for years — will be integrated into the Switch.

In a similar manner to Xbox Live’s “Games With Gold” and PlayStation Plus, the Nintendo Online service will include special deals as well as a monthly game download to all paying subscribers. The game will be from either the Nintendo Entertainment System or Super Entertainment System back catalogue, and will include online play for the first time. However, the games will only be available during the month they are introduced — after that, you’ll have to purchase them.

Nintendo has not announced how much this service will cost.

User interface

The Switch UI appears to be starkly different from what Nintendo fans have gotten used to on the Wii U and 3DS. During the Nintendo Treehouse event, a sleek, clean user interface was displayed for just a few seconds. The logged in user’s icon displays in the upper left hand corner of the screen. A horizontal scroll allows users to browse their game library. Below the game thumbnails are six icons. From left to right: Game News, Nintendo eShop, Album, Controllers, System Settings, and Sleep Mode. Three of those live on from the Wii U and 3DS. The album will likely store images captured with the new capture button. Game News likely functions similar to the notifications system on the 3DS, and the Controllers icon, which shows a Joy-Con, may have to do with calibrating the Joy-Con motion features before playing certain games.

Nintendo only officially revealed the white background, but independent developer Nicalis tweeted a picture of the Switch UI with a black background, suggesting that the Switch UI may support multiple color schemes. Additionally the since-deleted image hinted that you will be able to switch between user accounts while games continue to run in the background.

Gaming and gaming first

The Wii, the Wii U, and even the 3DS supported streaming services such as Netflix in an attempt to make the systems the source for entertainment, but Nintendo is taking a different strategy with the Switch, at least at first. Nintendo’s resident squid kid Kit Ellis told Business Insider that multimedia apps, such as streaming services, would not be supported at launch.

This doesn’t rule out the possibility of Netflix or Hulu support coming in the future, however. Given the system’s kickstand and relatively large display, it seems like the perfect fit for watching TV or movies on the go.

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