In a worldwide broadcast on January 12, Nintendo announced the release details for its new hybrid console, the Nintendo Switch. The system will launch on March 3 for $299. Games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Edition will be coming at or near launch. The console will be getting new online features and will also be region free.
But we still had more questions. GamesBeat sat down with David Young, Nintendo of America’s assistant manager of public relations, at the Switch event in New York City. We still don’t know plenty of information about the Switch or how Nintendo is approaching some of its features and services, but Young was able clarify several questions that we had.
Actually finding a Nintendo system can sometimes be tricky. The NES Classic release last fall was plagued by inventory issues, and the Wii was also known for being quite hard to find. The Switch launch on March 3 isn’t that far away, and some retailers have already stopped preorders. Is supply going to haunt the Switch as well?
“What we’re doing is, of course, we want to meet demand, right?” Young said. “I mean, it doesn’t do us any good not to, right? I mean, it’s in our best interest, and we certainly will do our best to meet that. Mr. [Nintendo president Tatsumi] Kimishima announced that during that launch window, you know, he announced a worldwide number of what’s available — I believe he said there was two million … so that’s in that launch window. So that’s the, you know, sort of the starting point, and then, we’ll have ways to react depending on what happens there, right? I mean, there’s probably some levers to pull if we need to accelerate things.”
We previously reported what we believed would be the Nintendo Switch specs. Now that more details about the system are out there, we tried to see what we could find out about the inner hardware of the new console.
Young did say that the system is “more powerful than Wii U.” The console tops out at 1080p (no 4K) in TV mode and goes up to 720p in handheld mode. It also only uses Wi-Fi and will not use 4G or LTE for any type of wireless connection, Young believed. For surround sound, it does not have an optical out, instead handling sound passing via HDMI.
Nintendo has claimed the Switch can have up to six hours of battery life, but some games — like the Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild — will drop the length to around half that.
Young said that two factors figure into the battery life. It depends on the game — how much it is using components like the GPU and CPU — and also confirmed that the Switch will have user settings like screen brightness that players can use to try to maximize the life of the battery.
The future of the 3DS
Most of the titles shown for the Switch were console caliber offerings. With the system also being portable, however, I wondered if it would ever see smaller 3DS-style games that we could also play on a TV.
Young emphasized that the Switch is a home console that can be taken on the go, not the other way around, and that the Switch launch won’t mean the end of the 3DS.
“The Nintendo 3DS line is very healthy,” Young said. “We’ve had a great year. We’ve had several months of year-on-year growth … so that’s not going away. You know, we’ve got a good lineup of games we’re talking about in 2017 … so yeah, that business is strong. It’s not going anywhere. So, we’re still a company that makes, you know, the on-the-go games for the handheld system and these great experiences for the home console. But now, you can take your home console with you.”
For Switch’s online ecosystem, Nintendo is for the first time moving to a paid model. The online services will be free at launch and then will start charging sometime in the fall. Players who subscribe will be able to play Switch games online, use a smart phone app for online lobbies and voice chat, and also get to play a free NES or SNES game each month (but only for that month). Yet, it’s still another cost for people in an area where Nintendo has traditionally struggled and lagged behind the competition.
“Yeah, you know, this’ll allow really a more robust kind of environment and development of that online,” Young said.
And as for voice chat, it sounds like that functionality will only be in the smart phone app, not something that is actually going to be part of the Switch system itself.
“Right,” Young said. “That’s what we’ve been discussing, is that this app will allow you [to use] the voice chat.”
Young, however, didn’t have anything to share regarding the Virtual Console plans for the system.
“That is another wait and see,” Young said.
Nintendo first revealed the Switch in October and then didn’t talk any more about the console until the event this week. That left plenty of time for leaks, with Nintendo fans eager to learn more about the company’s latest device.
I was curious how it felt for someone who worked at Nintendo to see information spread in such a fashion and if they were even aware of the information that has been coming out.
“Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we keep our eyes open on those kind of things,” Young said. “And it is disappointing because, you know, you want to deliver a message with the maximum impact, right? And so, we design things like today, right? And like the broadcast from Japan last night. You want to have things that are synchronized and timed and sometimes, when [there are] leaks, it will interfere with that. But, you know, we do the best we can, right? Sometimes, these things happen when you have this information spread in a broad way, you know. There’s somebody that always wants to say, ‘Hey, I know something you don’t know,’ and post things. And that stuff happens. But I think, for the most part, we did pretty well on moving through and sharing the information. And today, I think, is going really great for us.”