Nintendo's always had two different sets of products: handhelds, and TV-connected consoles, going back to the Gameboy and the NES. The Nintendo Switch is a fusion.
Announced today, and coming in March 2017, the long-awaited system looks exactly like rumors said it would. It's a handheld system, a gaming tablet and a dockable console in one. You can watch the full launch trailer on Nintendo's YouTube channel.
The Nintendo Switch feels like several products in one: a handheld, a follow-up console to the Wii U and a convertible tablet. But it also seems very focused on multiplayer gaming, especially with others in the same room.
What we know now from the video, and a press release sent afterwards from Nintendo:
- Two controllers add onto the tablet to turn it into a Nintendo Wii U-like game pad. These are called "Joy-Con" controllers. Each one has four buttons and an analog stick, like the Wii U ($180 at Amazon) game pad.
- It's portable like a Nintendo 3DS ($131 at Amazon), but larger. Think iPad or gaming tablet more than pocket handheld.
- The controllers can detach and a kickstand comes out, turning it into a tabletop game system like an iPad and game controller.
- Each Joy-Con controller can act as its own controller, too, like a Wii remote. It can be used for two-player games on the fly.
- The Joy-Con controllers also slide into a Joy-Con Grip accessory to turn into a full stand-alone controller. Alternatively, a full controller called the Nintendo Switch Pro can be used, which looks more like a standard Wii U Pro controller.
- It slides into a dock (the Nintendo Switch Dock) and turns into a TV-connected console. The handheld-to-TV switch happens instantly once the Switch is placed in the dock.
- Nintendo has announced a variety of publishers working on Switch games, including Ubisoft, Konami, EA, Capcom, Bethesda and Epic. Bethesda's classic RPG Skyrim is prominently featured in the video.
- The Switch looks like a completely new platform compared to the Wii U and 3DS, but the trailer shows people playing Splatoon, a Wii U game...and small pop-in cartridges. We don't know if it's backwards-compatible yet.
- Chipmaker Nvidia says it's supplying the innards.
There are still plenty of questions we have about the Nintendo Switch. How much will it cost? We don't know. Will it come packaged with the dock and those Joy-Con controllers, or be offered in various bundles? Is it backwards-compatible? And, does it even have a touchscreen? (In the video and Nintendo's press release, no mention or demonstration of any touch-related functions can be found.)
If the Switch runs its own software that won't play with Wii U or 3DS games, it could mean building a whole library over again. The Nintendo 3DS could transfer older Nintendo DS games, and the Wii U is backwards-compatible with the Wii games and controllers.
We may not know much more until next year.
Update, 11.38 a.m. ET: Added the developer slide, and some more thoughts.