It’s been a few hours since Nintendo unveiled it’s upcoming Switch system. So a lot of the mystery and speculation can be put to rest but since Nintendo gave us little more than a trailer so there are a lot of things we still want to know!
Before we head off to what we don’t know there has been another reveal. Nvidia has published a blog stating that the Nintendo Switch is in fact powered by nVidia Tegra tech. They also seem to be responsible for the low-level software like the OS and low-level API’s. Another rumor confirmed right there. With that out of the way, on to the questions!
What is the battery life?
This is perhaps the most relevant question and one that will dictate the success of the Switch. With any portable device it’s crucial that you’ll be able to use it long enough for the purpose it’s meant for. So in this case, play games. Problem with games is that they tend to be rather resource hungry. Taking into account the less than stellar track record Nintendo has with battery life (I’m looking at you 3DS & WiiU Gamepad) this is a valid concern. While taking the switch on the plane with you sounds spectacular it’s pretty pointless if it only lasts an hour.
What about those custom looking Gamecards?
In the official Nintendo Switch image gallerygallery Nintendo shows that the Switch uses custom looking Gamecards. They look smaller than the ones the 3DS uses so that raises the question what their role will be? Will they store the full game? Or will they, like one Nintendo’s patent applications suggested that the card would be used more like a proof of ownership containing part of the game with the rest having to download to internal storage. This of course raises the question how much storage will there be? If the gamecards do contain entire games, how big will those games be?
Also, will the games be region-free? Nintendo has always stuck to regions (except for the original DS). Rumors have suggested that Nintendo might finally be truly done with them. Hopefully this is the case.
What kind of connectors will it have?
The reveal video and images show what appear to be ports on the Switch’ dock. But what kind of connectors will those be? We did see a mini-jack for headphones so no Apple courage here. If those ports are USB what will they be for and at what speed? It could be that Nintendo will maintain it’s open approach to extra storage but hopefully adopt the speedier USB 3 standard. But if the storage is tethered to the dock how will you be able to take it with you?
What about those indicators (2×4)?
The Joy-Con controllers both have 4 LED indicators on them. While this isn’t strange for a (Nintendo) controller having them on both does suggest there might be support for up to eight players. Perhaps it’s used to see what pair of Joy-Con controllers belong together. But how does that relate to other controllers like the Switch Pro controller which didn’t appear to have any LEDs.
Given how modular these controllers are, what other controllers might be possible? Looking at the Wii Nintendo has shown they can churn out all kinds of add-ons. What will they dream up for the Switch? Also to what extent will they support motion controls? Hopefully they be consistent here and not support it in one controller (like the Gamepad) and leave it out another (like the WiiU Pro controller). Given how they’ve adopted motion controls as their prefered way of first person aiming it does seem likely that gyroscopes will be part of the deal.
What kind of touchscreen will it have?
When you take gaming on the road the screen is very very important. And just like with the battery life Nintendo’s track record here is far from stellar. Both the (new) 3DS and the WiiU gamepad have poor touchscreens by today’s standards. The upside is that touchscreens are so commonplace these days that getting a decent screen should still be cost-efficient. Nintendo has also confirmed that the screen will be a “bright high definition display”. Knowing Nintendo and looking at battery life ‘high definition’ will probably mean 1080p and not 4k (which is a good thing). This would also be in line with rumors suggesting that Nintendo focussing on delivering 1080p@60 fps gameplay. What’s also possible is that the screen on the Switch itself is only 720p but the device can switch to a higher resolution when you place it in the dock. Perhaps even all the way up to 4k.
What about audio?
Another big question is audio. The reveal video shows that the Switch will support a headset. No word however on wireless headsets. Given the multiplayer aspect support for multiple (wireless) headsets would also be nice. It also doesn’t show anything about the sound performance when the Switch is used on its own. For instance when playing together on your balcony. Images suggest there might be stereo speakers though so hopefully this hasn’t been an afterthought.
What about the gaps everywhere?
Then perhaps the most vague question. What’s with all the gaps. Both the Switch itself and the dock have weird holes and gaps. These could of course be air vents or grips. But perhaps they are extension ports.They would fit the modular nature of the Switch plus Nintendo has put them in a lot of its previous systems (think of the NES disk system, the cancelled SNES CD, the N64 DD and the Gameboy player for the Gamecube).
What about backwards compatibility?
This question was there before the reveal and it’s more relevant now we have more details. Nintendo’s backlog of games are one of its key assets so giving players access seems like something important to Nintendo. In the past compatibility with the previous home system was always present. But with the Switch they have moved to a completely new architecture and dropped optical media. I’m still hoping for something like “Nintendo OS” but I’m not holding my breath.Also, what will they do with old(er) controllers like the Wiimote and WiiU Pro controller?
What does this mean for the 3DS?
Perhaps the biggest question is what all of this means for the 3DS. The WiiU is dead and almost buried but the 3DS had a recent refresh. Given the portable nature of the Switch it seems like serious competition. While it might not be as portable as the 3DS it’s still very much postioned as a portable system. Maybe the Switch will be backwards compatible with the 3DS (as they have the more similar architecture). Nintendo says the Switch will be another “third pillar” like they said about the original DS. But we all know this is replacing the failed WiiU and maybe also the 3DS.