Last year was both a successful and frustrating time for Nintendo. There was the runaway victory of Super Mario Run on mobile and the big launch of Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon on the 3DS, but there was also the NES Classic fiasco, which saw supply shortages worldwide rob people of the chance to even consider purchasing the company's ode to their classic titles.
The company is looking to reward the faith of its fans with a brand new console in 2017: the Nintendo Switch. The company describes it as a "best of" of all their older systems in one new package, complete with an innovative design that can switch (get it?) between a home console and a handheld system in mere moments. Late last night, the company streamed a global event to detail what the Switch is capable of, and here's what we learned.
1. THE LAUNCH DATE AND PRICE ARE CONFIRMED.
During the Nintendo Switch event, the company announced that the system will be released in Japan, the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong, and major European countries simultaneously on March 3, 2017 for $299.99. For reference, the Playstation 4 was $399.99 when it came out in November 2013, and the Xbox One retailed for $499.99 at launch. The Switch will debut with two versions: one with grey Joy-Con controllers and one with neon red and blue controllers. Both versions of the system will retail for the same price.
2. ONLINE SERVICE WILL BE A PAID SUBSCRIPTION IN FALL OF 2017.
For a brief trial period, the Nintendo Switch's online services will be free, but once fall rolls around, it will become a paid subscription service like Xbox Live. Details on what the service includes haven't been released yet, but if Microsoft's model is anything to go by, it should include enough perks to make the subscription price not sting quite as much.
3. THERE ARE THREE DIFFERENT WAYS TO PLAY THE SWITCH.
The Nintendo Switch offers gamers the chance to utilize three different play styles. The first is the traditional console setup that connects to your television. The second involves disconnecting the Switch console from the dock, flipping the kickstand, and setting it up on a flat surface to play anywhere you want. This works because the console has a display screen that turns the whole thing into a portable TV of sorts. This setup works best when multiple players want to crowd around one screen.
The third mode of play, and perhaps the most impressive, is the handheld play-style. Here, you disconnect the console from the port like before, but now you slide the two small Joy-Con controllers on each side of the console, turning the whole thing into a handheld gaming device, similar to a super-powered DS. There's no single-screen multiplayer this way, but you can connect with other Switch users in the area for certain titles. The battery life will vary by game, anywhere from two and a half to six and a half hours.
4. THE CONTROLLERS ARE MORE COMPLEX.
The entire Switch system revolves around the Joy-Con controllers, which look like two small joysticks you can hold in each hand—somewhat reminiscent of the Wii Remote. Some games will use both of these controllers at once, while others will use only one flipped horizontally, allowing you to give the other to a friend for multiplayer titles. There's also the obligatory motion sensors and object detection built in, allowing your body to control the action on the screen like the Wii U. This was highlighted in a trailer for the motion-controlled title 1-2 Switch, which is filled with mini-games centering around these new Joy-Cons and the Switch's portability:
Both Joy-Con sticks can also be joined together in what's called a "Joy-Con Grip" to create a more familiar gaming controller when playing traditionally on a TV. If all of this switching isn't for you, Nintendo will also sell an optional "Switch Pro" controller, which doesn't have to be assembled together like Voltron; instead, it's just a standard gaming controller that will likely work with a majority of titles.
5. MARIO TRAVELS TO THE REAL WORLD IN SUPER MARIO ODYSSEY.
One of the biggest surprises of the Switch event was the announcement of Super Mario Odyssey for a holiday 2017 release. In this game, Mario leaves the Mushroom Kingdom to explore an array of new worlds, including New York City. But this isn't a cartoonish version of Manhattan—this is the real deal, complete with populated streets, a barrage of billboards, and famous landmarks, like the Flatiron Building.
Seeing Mario's portly physique clash with the skyscrapers and business attire of the working world might take some getting used to (so will Bowser's all-white suit, honestly), but there will be other worlds to explore as well that fit more with the classic Mario aesthetic. Nintendo is touting Odyssey as being in the same vein as Super Mario 64's expansive (for its time) explorable world:
6. THERE WILL BE MORE THIRD-PARTY SUPPORT.
In addition to all of the new games that will be announced before the Switch's launch, perhaps the most encouraging sign is the old favorites coming to the console. During the event, both Skyrim and FIFA were shown in some detail, while NBA 2K18 was briefly glimpsed during a video montage. These franchises may be old, but they signal a big win for Nintendo.
The limited power and niche design of the Wii U caused the company to lose out on support from third-party developers like EA and Bethesda. Now, with a more traditional control scheme to go along with the innovative Joy-Cons—plus the option to go handheld—it looks like some of the bigger names in the industry are returning to Nintendo.
7. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD IS A LAUNCH TITLE.
Kooky controllers, Mario in the Bronx, and some motion-controlled games are all well and good, but the biggest reveal was the fact that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is going to be a Switch launch title on March 3. Announced all the way back in 2013, the game has had an infamous development process, with delays causing it to miss out on a relevant Wii U release date. Fans can rest assured, though, that Zelda will be in their hands the moment they pick up their Switch. If you need more convincing, take a look at the new trailer: