I can hear the furious typing of so many bloggers as I write this, but boy is this a fun part of a console’s life cycle. There’s nothing but potential ahead, and the newly christened Nintendo Switch looks like it has plenty of that to spare.
So let’s just take it step by step and look over the various details Nintendo’s wordless trailer has let slip. No details have been officially written about the system, but quite a lot can be gleaned from the video if you pay attention. For starters, we were all right about the home/handheld console hybrid and about the break-away controllers and plenty of other things. The above image shows the portable screen in its docking bay, which likely only functions as a charging station for both the screen and the wireless controller.
As we see here, the screen can be removed from the dock and two halves of a controller can be slipped onto the screen, which in the trailer is not shown to be a touch screen. We can also see here that the left set of buttons is not a connect D-pad (another confirmed rumor) but a set of split buttons. The reason for this being…
When portable, you can take the two controller halves off of the screen and assign them to separate players, so each gets an analog stick and four face buttons instead of one getting a stick and connected D-pad, both halves are kept symmetrical for split controller local (portable) multiplayer. I have some thoughts on that, but on to the next screenshot.
Yup, it uses game carts. All the rumors are true, we can clearly see the words “game card” on that flap and just moments before this screenshot in the trailer the player is shown inserting a roughly SD card sized object into that slot. Note that the game card goes into the portable portion of the console, not the dock. Another indicator that the processing power of the system is located only in the removable screen portion and not the dock.
The system will probably have an optional “pro” style controller for sale which we see features an offset analog stick set up, a connected D-pad unlike the controller halves, four (rather big) face buttons, a Plus and Minus button (in place of Start and Select), a Home button, a Power button, and an unnamed square button. Out of the image are at least two shoulder buttons. Frankly, this looks like a prototype controller, but I’ll get into that more later.
Here we can see the screen in its dock with the controller halves being slotted into the screen and just to the right is a controller frame for the halves to slot into when playing off of a TV. This will probably be the default way of using this system with a TV, and won’t feature hand grips or the connected D-pad of the pro controller in the previous screenshot.
So overall, it looks pretty much like what everyone had been told it would be from all the rumors (or leaks, I guess). A lot has already been said about that kind of system, and I’ve said it would be a pretty neat idea to give everyone a bit of what they want out of Nintendo while also simplifying their job by merging the handheld and home console business. A lot of people want to be able to play their home games on the go (the Vita has proven an imperfect tool for that on Sony’s end), and a lot of people want to play portable games on a nice big TV screen with a full controller (I know I do!). This could be a net positive for a lot of people.
So those controller halves that split and allow for remote local multiplayer sure is interesting. It’s shown to be limited to two players per console in the above image, but the pro controller is shown to have four lights underneath it indicating the system can still support four players locally. I honestly don’t know how much use this is going to get in the real world and it seems to be played up considerably in this trailer. For that reason alone I feel like this system mustn’t cost a great deal and that is another reason I believe it won’t be pushing any performance barriers (aside from Nintendo historically avoiding doing so). If the console’s guts are located solely in that screen, then I don’t see how it could possibly push anything comparable to Sony or MS’s systems. And it seems doubtful, given the quick transitions between docked and undocked play, that the dock will perform some kind of performance boost. My bet is the dock is only an HDMI pass-through and a charging station for the console itself, which is the that ~4.5 – 5 inch screen.
And while I’m speculating, I bet we’ll see a very different rendition of the pro controller seen in this video. Something about its build quality looks prototypical to me, especially for a Nintendo controller. An unnamed button, flat matte hand grips, semi-transparent plastic – just something about it seems a tiny bit unpolished. It’s nothing major, they showcased an unrelased version of the Wii U Gamepad before release that had circle pads instead of normal analog sticks. Anything seen here could be superficially different come March, and I think that pro controller is a likely candidate. And the system color – black? Moving away from Apple-white, are we? Maybe they’re trying to put distance from the Wii/Wii U’s branding style or maybe it’ll launch in white after all.