Don’t call it the NX anymore; the Nintendo Switch is a real thing, and we’ve finally had so many of our suspicions confirmed about the nature of the console. It’s a handheld/home console hybrid, and it looks like it’s going to finally realize the gaming-on-the-go dream the PlayStation Vita once had.
We saw a handful of applications for the hadware and even a few (possible!) new games. But with a reveal that only takes the form of a three-minute trailer, we’re still left wondering a lot of things about the eventual form the console will take. While we’re likely to learn much more over the next few months, here’s a few of the things we’re scratching our head about.
The Switch will use cartridges, made evident by the scene in the trailer where a guy inserts it into the portable section of the system. But what all will that entail? Will third parties be required to put their games on these little mini cartridges in order to get them on the system, or will the Switch stress digital downloads in a much bigger way than before? Is it proprietary hardware? Will game data be saved onto the cartridge itself, or will it be saved to the system’s hard drive? Nintendo popularizing cartridges for a major console is a fascinating move, but it leaves us wondering exactly what that will look like in execution.
Online Functionality (eShop Carry Over, Friend Codes, LAN)
Nintendo hasn’t always had the best relationship with online functionality, so a new console seems like a nice refresh for the company’s direction. Create a unified gamer ID that will transfer easily from new systems, let eShop purchases carry over from system to system...these are just a few things people have demanded in the past, and seeing them on the Switch would be a welcome change.
But what about some of the other little glimpses at functionality we saw? Will local multiplayer in a similar vein to LAN parties be available? Will the console have some sort of 3G or wifi integration that will support multiplayer on the go? Considering the popularity of streaming and the ever-increasing presence of social media, it’d be wise of Nintendo to give the Switch compatibility with both; launch straight to streaming from the console, take screenshots, and record gameplay clips to upload and share via places like Facebook or Twitter. It’d be nice, but nothing about this was spotted in the trailer today.
Backwards Compatibility/Digital Wii U games
Since the Switch is going from discs to cartridges, what will that mean for backwards compatibility? Will Wii U games be available in some other format, or is the Switch a completely blank slate? Even if it’s just an adaptor or peripheral making it possible, it’d be good to see some sort of backwards compatibility come to the system. Perhaps even a easy-access system in a similar vein to PS Now would suit the platform and make it possible to stream games from throughout Nintendo’s history for a monthly subscription fee? Having new hardware is cool, but it’s also nice to have options and be able to go back to some of the Wii U’s greatest hits.
The Wii U is a great system, but it’s still a power goblin, consuming a massive amount of energy and draining the gamepad battery in a ridiculously short amount of time. If the Switch is going to be a portable hybrid, it’s going to have to aim for something better than the scant few hours of life the gamepad was capable of. But we have yet to see anything about the battery life and expectancy of the Switch, so it remains anyone’s guess how long it might last.
Since the days of the DS, touch screen functionality has been a staple in Nintendo’s hardware. But in this trailer for the Switch, we didn’t see any stylus, no games focusing their experience around touching the screen. Does this mean the screen itself isn’t a touch screen? Does it support multi-touch? Is there a way to play both the portable and home systems at the same time, in a similar vein to the Wii U? Leaving behind experiences like Mario Maker seems like a significant loss, considering the steps it took toward proving the necessity for the Wii U’s gamepad.
Third Party Support
A huge infographic featuring the many different developers, tech companies, and publishers partnering with Nintendo for the Switch was released shortly after the trailer, revealing some heavy hitters like EA, From Software, and Warner Bros. This bodes well, but we also saw this with the launch of the Wii U, which was later all but abandoned by everyone except for Nintendo and a precious community of independent developers.
What will third party support look like for the Switch? Will it get a host of Game of the Year editions and re-releases, or will we be able to play all of the biggest games alongside the other major platforms on the market? Here’s hoping they’re able to do more than merely bring old games bundled with DLC before being abandoned by everyone on the outside once more.
Considering the size of games now, it’s laughable to release a console with anything less than 1TB of internal hard drive storage. Patches and file sizes quickly fill up system’s capacity. And, if they’re planning to use cartridges, what (if anything) will be stored on them? We’re hopeful the console will launch with something larger than the 32G of the Wii U at the very least, but with no details, it’s tough to know exactly.
As the ones who are willing and able to take risks bigger companies could never fathom, indies are growing increasingly valuable to platforms and maintaining a returning user base. Devolver Digital announced earlier today they will be working with Nintendo to put games on the Switch. Which is a great step forward, but does Nintendo have any plans to incentivize developers to put their games on the system? Will they be aiding in funding or publishing for independent projects a la Sony and the PS4/Vita? The Wii U had some amazing, lesser-known indie games deserving of just as much attention as their counterparts. Will Nintendo do more to boost exposure for these teams?
Perhaps the screen is a touch screen and it will allow for multi-touch and other basic touch functionality. What can we expect on the side of haptic feedback? Will there be a physical reaction from the console itself every time a button is pressed? Will it feel good? Will the portable system be flimsy, or the controllers clunky with sticky buttons? These are questions we won’t be able to answer until we have our hands on the console, but the feel of a system’s hardware in your hands can make all the difference when comparing it favorably to other systems.