Explained: The Nintendo Switch – what we know so far

3 min read

For months, Nintendo’s next console has been surrounded by rumors, “leaks”, and hearsay. With that, it may be difficult to separate rumor from fact. Now that the NX has been revealed as the the Nintendo Switch proper, let’s break down what we know so far.

Console/Handheld Hybrid

switch-handheldFirst and foremost, the Nintendo Switch is a hybrid device that functions as both a home and handheld console. The Switch unit is essentially a thinner Wii U Gamepad with all the hardware built-in. As a handheld device,it can be taken anywhere your 3DS or Vita can. If you want to play at home on your TV, just plug it into the dock.

The controls on the Switch unit are similar to the Wii U Gamepad; two analog sticks, D-Pad and face buttons, shoulder and trigger buttons. The main difference is the asymmetrical stick layout and the individual D-Pad button design. The main gimmick of the Switch is that these sides can detach and be used to play either docked or on the go.

joy-consJoy-Con L and Joy-Con R

These controllers, dubbed the Joy-Con L and Joy-Con R, are wirelessly connected to the Switch, so these can be used similar to the Wiimote and Nunchuck with no wire connecting the two. Each side can also be used as its own controller for local multiplayer. The asymmetrical stick and D-Pad designs makes more sense in order to have the same layout on both controllers.

Joy-Con Grip and Switch Pro Controller

If you’d rather have a solid controller over a piece in each hand, you have two options. The Joy-Cons can slide into the Joy-Con Grip to function like a regular controller. Any other functionality hasn’t been detailed, but the Grip does seem to have battery indicators for each controller. It could either be just for info or that the Grip would be able to charge the Joy-Cons.


For a more traditional controller design, the Switch Pro Controller is practically identical to the Wii U Pro Controller with asymmetric sticks. It also has the standard D-Pad if you prefer having that over separate buttons. All of these controller options will work with the Switch when docked and on the go. You’re also not forced to use the Joy-Cons if they’re slotted into the Switch.

Confirmed Features

There are also a few more features that are confirmed at this point. As far as games go, the Switch doesn’t not have an optical drive. Instead, games will be on cartridges like the 3DS and Vita instead of discs. This console is also confirmed to not have backwards compatibility with the Wii U and 3DS. It’s possible that digital titles could be adapted, but it definitely won’t be able to run Wii U discs or 3DS cards.

As for the screen, Nintendo describes it as a “high-definition” display. This means that the screen has to have a minimum screen resolution of 720p. It has not been confirmed whether or not the Switch has a touch screen, but it would be unsurprising if it does.

Nintendo has also stated that the Switch is a single-screen console. Even if it has touch controls, the Switch will abandon the dual-screen design of the Wii U and 3DS. This also means that the console can’t be played out of the dock and display on the TV at the same time. Anything else beyond this are just rumors and speculation.

What’s Next?

With a reveal for a console that’s under 6 months away from release, there’s a lot we don’t know about the Switch. It’s really easy to speculate, but don’t get your hopes up for features that haven’t been confirmed yet.

Luckily, we won’t have to wait too much longer. The rest of the Switch info will be announced in a special presentation on January 12th, 2017. It’s fully expected that the specs, games, and the all-important price will be announced here. Hopefully, I’ll have a more complete wrap-up for you then!