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Nintendo Switch: what we're expecting from the new console

The Guardian logo The Guardian 4 days ago Keith Stuart

The Nintendo Switch, a new gaming device, is seen in this undated image released by Nintendo October 21, 2016. © Reuters The Nintendo Switch, a new gaming device, is seen in this undated image released by Nintendo October 21, 2016. This Friday at 4am BST, Nintendo will reveal its big bet on future in the video game industry – the Switch. 

Back in March 2015, the company announced the successor to the beleaguered Wii U, which dramatically failed to match the huge success of its namesake. Originally codenamed NX, we first glimpsed Switch last October, when Nintendo showed the machine’s unusual design concept for the first time.

Billed as a hybrid system, the device is both a home console and a portable gaming device. The built-in 6.2”, 720p display means games can be played outside the home, and a local multiplayer technology will mean owners will be able to meet up and play together wherever they are. But bring it back to your living room and place it into the dock and you can continue to play using your TV screen.

Two controllers known as Joy-Cons slot either side of the screen, creating a standard control set-up (with the screen in the centre, rather like the 3DS), but they can also be slid out and used separately. In an almost quaintly retrospective move, games will be sold on carts rather than optical discs.

That’s currently most of what we know, but this Friday Nintendo promises to reveal more via its Nintendo Direct streaming service. Here’s what we’re expecting:

The release date and price

All we have is the vague March date, and a leaked potential retail price: Y25,000, or about $225/£180 (although due to the import costs and state of the pound, we’re likely see something more akin to £200 or even £250 if this Yen price holds).

More detail on the games

Zelda Breath of the Wild © Provided by Guardian News Zelda Breath of the Wild

So far only a handful of titles have been confirmed, with Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild being the major draw. A teaser shown last October hinted at a new Super Mario Bros, a Mario Kart thing and a possible port of Skyrim, the acclaimed action adventure from Bethesda. All those need to be confirmed, at the very least because they’re bloody exciting. Also, what plans does Nintendo have for its Virtual Console service which lets players download retro games? There’s talk of GameCube support which would be lovely. Super Mario Sunshine in HD? Oh yes.

Technical specs to be revealed

OK, so Nintendo has never been about bleeding edge technology, but we’d at least like to know what’s inside the box. We know there’s an Nvidia Tegra chipset in there (a decent smartphone-centred processor), but we don’t know which one. Can we expect 4K visuals when the machine is docked? We’ve also heard that the processing power may drop by 40% when the machine is undocked – which makes sense for battery life, but how will it affect graphically rich games? And on the subject of battery life, how long can we expect? Wii U’s GamePad launched with a poor 3-5 hours, and that wasn’t doing any of the processing grunt work.

An answer to the question: are the big publishers really onboard?

Nintendo Switch partners © Provided by Guardian News Nintendo Switch partners

Whenever a new Nintendo console comes out there’s this fun diplomatic period when the big powers of the industry – Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Activision, Bethesda, etc) – all make romantic proclamations about the hardware and their ardent support for it. Then everyone disappears faster than your teenage prom date, and Ubisoft releases a Just Dance title. This time, there have been firmer proclamations, including that Skyrim hint, but still – let’s see if we get a Mass Effect, Destiny or – ha ha – Read Dead Redemption 2.

To find out if Nintendo has discovered the internet?

OK, that’s a bit unfair, both the Wii U and 3DS offer a range of interesting multiplayer services: StreetPass, Miiverse, eShop, Virtual Console, as well as local and online multiplayer functionality. But via its tortured Friend Code and Nintendo Network ID systems, it can be complicated to manage your digital games and gaming friendships, and everything is tied to a particular machine – a stark contrast to the ‘download it once and it’s yours wherever you are’ approach favoured by much of the rest of the known consumer electronics universe. So will Switch offer a more seamless, accessible and intuitive digital service? It feels like this is quite important in the 21st century.

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