Nintendo Switch
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Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch
Switch logo
Nintendo-Switch-Console-Docked-wJoyConRB.jpg rameless
A Nintendo Switch console in docked mode (above) and portable mode (below)
NX (code name)
Developer Nintendo PTD
Manufacturer Foxconn, Hosiden[1]
Type Hybrid video game console
Generation Eighth generation
Release date
  • WW: March 3, 2017[a]
Retail availability 2017-present
Introductory price
Units sold 19.67 million (as of June 30, 2018)
Media
Operating system Nintendo Switch system software
System-on-chip used Nvidia Tegra X1
CPU Octa-core (4×ARM Cortex-A57 & 4×ARM Cortex-A53) @ 1.020 GHz
Memory 4 GB LPDDR4
Storage Internal flash memory: 32 GB
Removable storage microSD/microSDHC/microSDXC up to 2 TB
Display 6.2-inch, 1280 × 720p LCD @ 237 ppi
Up to 1080p via HDMI while docked
Graphics Nvidia GM20B Maxwell-based GPU @ 307.2 - 384 MHz while undocked, 307.2 - 768 MHz while docked
Sound Linear PCM 5.1ch (via HDMI)
Stereo speakers
Headphone jack
Controller input Joy-Con
Pro Controller
Touchpad Capacitive
Connectivity 2.4/5 GHz 802.11ac Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 4.1
1 × USB 3.0 (on dock)
2 × USB 2.0 (on dock)
1 × USB Type-C (on unit)
Power 4,310 mAh, 3.7 V lithium-ion battery
Dimensions 203.1 mm × 102 mm × 13.9 mm (8.00 in × 4.02 in × 0.55 in) (Console only)
239 mm × 102 mm × 13.9 mm (9.41 in × 4.02 in × 0.55 in) (Joy-Con attached)
Weight 297 g (10.5 oz) (Console only)
398 g (14.0 oz) (Joy-Con attached)
Best-selling game Super Mario Odyssey, 11.17 million (as of June 30, 2018)
Predecessor Wii U
Website www.nintendo.com/switch

The Nintendo Switch[b] is the seventh major video game console developed by Nintendo. Known in development by its codename NX, it was unveiled in October 2016 and was released worldwide on March 3, 2017.[a] Nintendo considers the Switch a "hybrid" console: it is designed primarily as a home console, with the main unit inserted onto a docking station to connect to a television. Alternatively, it can be removed from the dock and used similarly to a tablet computer through its LCD touchscreen, or placed in a standalone tabletop mode visible to several players.

The Nintendo Switch uses the wireless Joy-Con controllers, which include standard buttons and directional analog sticks for user input, motion sensing, and high-definition tactile feedback. The Joy-Con can attach to both sides of the console to support handheld-style play, connect to a Grip accessory to provide a traditional home console gamepad form, or be used individually in the hand like the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, supporting local multiplayer modes.

The Nintendo Switch's software supports online gaming through standard Internet connectivity, as well as local wireless ad hoc connectivity with other Switch consoles. Nintendo Switch games and software are available on both physical flash-based ROM cartridges and digital distribution via Nintendo eShop; the system does not use region locking. The Nintendo Switch competes on the console gaming market with contemporaries being Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One.

The concept of the Switch came about as Nintendo's reaction to several quarters of financial losses into 2014, attributed to poor sales of its previous console, the Wii U, and market competition from mobile gaming. Nintendo's then-president Satoru Iwata pushed the company towards mobile gaming and novel hardware. The Nintendo Switch's design is aimed at a wide demographic of video game players through the multiple modes of use. Nintendo opted to use more standard electronic components, such as a chipset based on Nvidia's Tegra line, to make development for the console easier for programmers and more compatible with existing game engines. As the Wii U had struggled to gain external support, leaving it with a weak software library, Nintendo preemptively sought the support of many third-party developers and publishers to help build out the Switch's game library alongside Nintendo's own first-party titles, including many independent video game studios. While Nintendo initially anticipated around 100 titles for its first year, over 320 titles from first-party, third-party, and independent developers were released by the end of 2017.

The console shipped nearly three million in the first month of its launch, exceeding Nintendo's initial projection of two million, and within a year of release achieved over 14 million units sold worldwide, outselling total lifetime sales of the Wii U. Since then, it has sold nearly 20 million units. It is the fastest-selling console in Nintendo's history, and is the fastest-selling console of all time in Japan and the United States. Nintendo Switch sales were highly tied to the critically acclaimed titles The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Super Mario Odyssey, which became best-sellers for the system, with over nine, ten, and eleven million copies sold respectively by June 2018.

History

Development

Nintendo had seen record revenues and profits in 2009 as a result of the release of the Wii in 2006, but in its subsequent years, its revenues had declined. With the release of the Wii U in 2012, the company had posted an operating loss and continued to see declining revenues. Nintendo saw 2014 as one of its largest financial losses in its modern history, attributed to weak hardware sales against mobile gaming.[3] Previously, the company had been hesitant about this market, with then-president Satoru Iwata considering that they would "cease to be Nintendo" and lose their identity if they attempted to enter it.[4] About three years prior to the Switch's announcement, Iwata, Tatsumi Kimishima, Genyo Takeda, and Shigeru Miyamoto crafted a strategy for revitalizing Nintendo's business model, which included approaching the mobile market, creating new hardware, and "maximizing [their] intellectual property".[5] Prior to his death, Iwata was able to secure a business alliance with Japanese mobile provider DeNA to develop mobile titles based on Nintendo's first-party franchises, believing this approach would not compromise their integrity.[6][7] Following Iwata's death in July 2015, Kimishima was named as president of Nintendo, while Miyamoto was promoted to the title of "Creative Fellow".[5]

Initial conception for the Switch started shortly after the release of the Wii U in 2012.[8] Kimishima stated that when Nintendo was evaluating what new hardware they wanted to produce, they "didn't just want a successor" to either the Nintendo 3DS or Wii U, but instead asked "what kind of new experience can we create?"[5] In an interview with Asahi Shimbun, Kimishima stated that the Switch was designed to provide a "new way to play" that would "have a larger impact than the Wii U".[9][10][11]Nintendo of America president and COO Reggie Fils-Aimé emphasized the console's appeal as a device that would provide gamers the option to play at home or on the go, and noted that it would enable developers to create new types of games.[12]

Part of the inspiration of the Switch's design was from feedback players had given Nintendo on the Wii Remote, according to Shinya Takahashi. With the release of games like Wii Sports and Wii Fit, players had asked Nintendo if they could make the Wii Remote in a smaller form factor, potentially strapped it to a part of their body. This led to Nintendo envisioning what a smaller form-factor controller could provide in both hardware and gameplay, and led to the idea of a console that was small enough with these new controllers to also be portable.[13]

One market area that Nintendo wanted the Switch to satisfy was to create a device that could play "leisurely" video games along games that are aimed to be played "deeply", attempting to bridge a polarization of the gaming market at the time, according to Shinya Takahashi and Yoshiaki Koizumi, general manager and deputy general manager of Nintendo's Entertainment Planning & Development division (EPD), respectively.[8] Takahashi considered that the Switch's design addresses the cultural differences between Western and Japanese gamers, particularly students; while Japanese students generally spend more time together after school and where gaming is integral to that social time, Western students tend to have busier schedules that limit this, making the portability features of the Switch capable of meeting both lifestyles.[14] In some cases, games for the Switch are designed to encourage social interactions in groups, such as 1-2-Switch which requires players to look face-to-face rather than at the screen. Kimishima said that, as Nintendo is an entertainment company, they see games on the Switch that encourage enjoyable social interactions as supporting their ultimate goals.[15] Two key elements that were set to address the mixed market were the ability for the unit to play both on a television screen and while used as a portable, and the use of detachable controllers.[8] The "Switch" name was selected not only to refer to the console's ability to switch from handheld to home console modes, but to present "the idea of being a 'switch' that will flip and change the way people experience entertainment in their daily lives".[16]

Koizumi served as the general producer of the Switch during development.[14] According to Miyamoto, the Switch's development within Nintendo was headed by younger employees, with him saying "...it's really been them that have put this forward and designed this system".[17][18] Miyamoto said of the younger employees: "I always look for designers who aren't super-passionate game fans. I make it a point to ensure they're not just a gamer, but that they have a lot of different interests and skill sets."[18] Miyamoto, Takeda, and Iwata were less involved, but provided necessary oversight on the Switch's development principally around the cost of implementing new features that would make the Switch stand out.[19] Around five different prototypes were developed for the Switch before they finalized on the released design. This included developing different methods of how the Joy-Con controllers would physically connect to the console, including using magnets to hold them in place.[8] For Miyamoto, his limited involvement allowed him to spend more time on Nintendo's software titles being developed at the time, such as Super Mario Run.[17]

The development of the Switch continued Nintendo's blue ocean approach for the competitive console marketplace. Rather than trying to compete feature-for-feature with Microsoft or Sony's offerings, Fils-Aimé said that Nintendo's goal for the Switch was "creating products and experiences that are unique and really can't be copied by our competition".[20] Takahashi said that for Nintendo, "we feel like we're an entertainment company rather than necessarily a games or a graphics company", and described the Switch as "a system that really has the best balance of being able to create fun and new ways to play, but doing so with the graphic quality that's still good enough while also being one that's easy to develop for."[14] Miyamoto said that some broad concepts of the Switch extend from the "lateral thinking with seasoned technology" design philosophy of Gunpei Yokoi that Nintendo has used over the last couple of decades.[19]

In addition to the form-factor design, Nintendo needed to balance the power and speed of the console's central processing unit with battery life and the unit's size, coupled with limited development resources and deadlines set by Nintendo's management. One choice made by the development team was to use an existing system on a chip (SOC) rather than creating their own as they had done on previous consoles. Koizumi said that this break from tradition was done to gain more third-party support for the console by using an SOC that developers could easily port to. Nintendo was not focused on raw processing power, but were instead looking to balance the overall features of the system, including battery life and size, as well as keeping in mind their limited development resources and timeline. Koizumi said "The most difficult part was on how to take an overall balance while we were getting entangled with all of those in complexity."[8] To achieve this balance, they did not opt to use the more powerful hardware they could have used, instead using a middle-ground approach to achieve their vision of the Switch.[21]

Speaking to investors in January 2018, about ten months after the Switch's release, Shinya Takahashi said that the Switch could have a lifecycle longer than the typical five-to-six years that current home consoles have. Nintendo has brought a number of "junior" developers within the company to help brainstorm ideas that would "create interesting products" using the Switch hardware that could further reach a wider audience, thus aiding in extending its lifecycle.[22]

Announcements and release

The first public news of about the Switch's hardware happened alongside the announcement of Nintendo and DeNA's partnership on March 17, 2015. At this stage, Nintendo referred to the console under the codename "NX", and described it as a "brand new concept".[23] At an investor's meeting in April 2016, Nintendo announced that it planned to release the NX worldwide in March 2017.[24][25] While Nintendo did not unveil the NX's hardware at Electronic Entertainment Expo 2016 in June, it did announce that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which was originally announced as Wii U-exclusive, would also be released for the NX. At a Nintendo shareholders' meeting following the conference, Miyamoto stated that the company had concerns that competitors could copy ideas from the NX if they revealed it too soon.[26][27] The following month, rumors began to surface surrounding the nature of the console, including its use of Nvidia Tegra hardware, and being a "hybrid" device intended for both home and mobile use.[28][29][30]

On October 20, 2016, Nintendo officially announced the console under the name Nintendo Switch, alongside a trailer that demonstrated the hardware's nature as a hybrid device.[31] At the time of the trailer's release, Nintendo did not provide many details on features of the platform, though they planned to have events in 2017 to provide more details about the console. The company did state that there are additional features that were not presented in the introductory trailer.[32][33] Miyamoto and Fils-Aimé presented the Switch to host Jimmy Fallon on a broadcast of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in December 2016. In addition to showing more of the console's hardware and functionality, Fallon was given the opportunity to play part of Breath of the Wild live.[34]

Nintendo revealed technical details of the Switch, including its worldwide launch date and price, at a press event in Tokyo on January 13, 2017.[35] The event was livestreamed,[36] with an English voiceover provided by Nintendo of America through their broadcast and regional Twitter accounts relaying details in other languages. A Nintendo Treehouse event occurred the following day to reveal the full launch lineup and upcoming games for the Switch.[37]

The Switch was officially released on March 3, 2017 worldwide, notably in all key markets, but excluding some parts of Asia, including India and mainland China.[2] However, the Nintendo Switch continues to be officially released in particular markets, such as Argentina on August 15, 2017[38] and in South Korea and Taiwan on December 1, 2017.[39][40] Independent resellers have been trading the console in Brazil since March 2017 due to Nintendo's exit from the Brazilian market back in 2015.[41] Nintendo has since assigned NC Games as their local game distributor in May 2017,[42] and the local company has committed to sell some officially imported Nintendo Switch units in small quantities.[43] In April 2018, CD Media, Nintendo's official distributor in Greece and the Balkans since 2016, announced after opening their new offices in Istanbul, Nintendo's products will officially be distributed in Turkey later in the year.[44] Nintendo abruptly withdrew from the Turkish market back in June 2012 when then-distributor Nortec Eurasia closed.[45] CD Media released the Nintendo Switch in Turkey in July 2018.[46][47]

Marketing and promotion

Nintendo sought to avoid the struggles it had with communicating the capabilities of the Switch's predecessor, the Wii U, whose GamePad (left) some mistook as a tablet-based system rather than a controller for the console.

A key part of marketing the Switch was to be "crystal clear in our communication of what the product was and what the product could do", according to Fils-Aimé, so as to avoid similar issues with how they presented the Wii U.[48][49][50] While the Wii U was designed as a home console unit, Nintendo's lack of clarity on this point led to a general assumption that the unit, principally the Wii U GamePad, was more like a tablet, overshadowing the Wii U's other features (such as dual-screen play modes). Nintendo also believed that some consumers had mistaken the Wii U GamePad as being an accessory for the existing Wii console, rather than being the flagship feature of an entirely new platform.[51] Instead, for the Switch, Fils-Aimé said the company was "very aggressive and clearly communicating the proposition that it's a home console you can take on the go wherever and whenever you want".[48]

For example, the October 2016 trailer (considered significantly unlike Nintendo's past marketing efforts, according to Bloomberg[5]) was designed to show the various ways that the Switch can be used so that viewers would recognize that "each of its forms offer different play experiences for people to enjoy".[16] Kimishima said that the intent of the trailer was to show that the device was aimed across all player demographics, showcasing features that core gamers would recognize and appreciate to carry this intent.[5] A large amount of Nintendo's launch marketing for the console focused heavily on the launch title Breath of the Wild; Nintendo of America marketing executive, Nick Chavez, stated that the decision to showcase the new Zelda game was meant to promote it to both older viewers, who may have grown up with the franchise's earliest games and are accustomed to modern open world games, and to a new generation of players.[52]

Nintendo aired its first-ever Super Bowl ad during the United States broadcast of Super Bowl LI. Set to the Imagine Dragons song "Believer",[53] the ad showcased the various play modes with the Switch and its launch titles, particularly Breath of the Wild, and upcoming releases; while an ad to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Pokémon was broadcast the previous year during Super Bowl 50, this ad was paid for by The Pokémon Company and not by Nintendo.[54][55][56] Chavez said of the ad, "There's no bigger stage in the U.S. on which to showcase the platform. I think it speaks to our confidence in the system."[52]

Additional television commercials are expected to follow the Super Bowl spot, which are to demonstrate Switch's use cases among different demographics, as well as "casual" and "core" gaming audiences.[52] Such ad venues included the 2017 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament, the 2017 Kids' Choice Awards, and on programming blocks for Nickelodeon, Adult Swim, and Comedy Central.[53] Chavez emphasized that Nintendo's overall marketing for Switch would not be "just a six to eight week launch campaign", but "really a 15 month campaign for us, to say nothing of our plans for 2018".[52]

The Grand Palais in Paris, France during the Switch media event on January 15, 2017

In addition to advertising, Nintendo had planned several ways for players to try the system before its release through various "sampling events". Kimishima felt that it was important, particularly for "career gamers", for Nintendo to get the Switch into players' hands, so that players could understand how the system differs from Nintendo's previous offerings. Kimishima also said that the company was "running a guerrilla marketing program where we're just dashing around and trying to have as many events as possible and get it in the hands of players so they can experience the difference."[15] The North American and European press had special events on January 13, 2017, following the Tokyo presentation.[57][58] Various Switch demonstration events were run in North America, Europe, and Japan during January and February 2017.[59][60][61][62] Nintendo offered demonstrations of the Switch at gaming conferences including PAX South, South by Southwest, and RTX.[63][64][65] Nintendo also promoted the Switch through an "Unexpected Places" campaign in February 2017, temporarily setting up living-room style spaces in three United States locations and inviting fans and players, including John Cena, to try out the unit.[66]

Nintendo announced it was partnering with the Disney Channel to help produce Nintendo Switch Family Showdown, a televised competition where families would compete in challenges around various Switch games. The competition is expected to run during August 2018.[67]

Hardware

The back of the Nintendo Switch, showing the kickstand, MicroSD slot, charging port and intake vents

The Nintendo Switch is a hybrid video game console, with the main system comprising the "Switch Console", the "Switch Dock", and the "Joy-Con" controllers. Although it is a hybrid console, Fils-Aimé stated that the Switch is "a home console that you can take with you on the go".[68][69] Fils-Aimé said that the Switch and their primary handheld console, the Nintendo 3DS, are meant to co-exist,[68] with Kimishima considering the 3DS an entry-level product for younger players.[70] The company had planned to diminish production of the Wii U in anticipation of the Switch's release, and formally announced the end of its production on January 31, 2017.[71][72]

Console and Dock

The main unit of the Switch is the Console, a battery-powered tablet-like monitor that comprises an LCD screen measuring 6.2 inches (160 mm) on its diagonal, the same as the Wii U GamePad.[73] The unit itself measures 203.1 by 102 by 13.9 millimetres (8.00 in × 4.02 in × 0.55 in) and weighs 297 grams (10.5 oz).[74] The screen supports ten-point multi-touch capacitive sensing and includes haptic technology from Immersion Corporation.[75] The LCD screen supports resolutions up to 720p (1280×720 px).[76][77] The Console includes a 3.5 mm audio jack, stereo speakers on the bottom of the unit, a USB-C port for charging while out of the Dock, and a kickstand on the back side.[78][79] The unit also includes slots for a game card (cartridge-based media) and a microSD external storage card to be installed or removed. The Console has rails on the side, into which the Joy-Con controllers can be slid when removed from the base.[80] An ambient light sensor on the front of the Console can be used to control the screen's brightness.[81]

The Nintendo Switch Dock
The back of the dock, opened

The Console, with or without Joy-Con attached, can be placed into the Switch Dock, a docking station with electrical connectors to connect the Console to a power supply to charge its battery, and to a television via an HDMI connection for video/audio output.[31] The Dock also includes two USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 port (which, as of March 11, 2018, has yet to receive an update enabling 3.0 functionality).[80] While docked, the unit can support resolutions up to 1080p and maximum frame rate of 60 frames per second,[82][83] though the maximum resolution varies depending on the game. As an example, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild runs at a maximum 900p and 30 frames per second while the Switch is docked.[84] The Dock measures 173 by 104 by 54 millimetres (6.8 in × 4.1 in × 2.1 in) and weighs 327 grams (11.5 oz).[74][85]

There are three gameplay modes that can be used with the Switch; "TV Mode" with the Console docked within the Dock to support play on a large television, "Tabletop Mode" with the Console placed on a table or other surface using its kickstand for shared gaming away from a dedicated screen, or in "Handheld Mode" as a standard portable tablet device.[86][82][77] Users can switch between these modes simply by placing the Console in the Dock or removing it, extending or retracting the kickstand, and detaching or connecting the Joy-Con.[77] Games may be designed to play only in specific modes; for example, Voez, which relies on touch-screen controls, initially could not be played in TV Mode.[87]

Nintendo stated that the Switch is a "single-screen experience", in that the player either sees the content on the Console when it is out of the Dock, or on the screen attached to the Dock when the Console is docked. The Switch cannot feature dual-screen functionality that was offered through the Wii U via its GamePad.[88]

Nintendo patented a means of using multiple Switch consoles to create a multi-monitor configuration, by arranging them on a flat surface and spanning a single gameplay environment across their screens. This technology was ultimately leveraged in Super Mario Party.[89][90]

Joy-Con

The gray Joy-Con L and Joy-Con R controllers
The neon red and blue Joy-Con attached to the Joy-Con Grip controller

The Nintendo Switch comes with controllers collectively called Joy-Con, individually called the "Joy-Con L" and "Joy-Con R".[81] The controllers are attached to the Switch Console via side rails using a locking mechanism, with a small release button on their rear face to allow them to be detached. When detached, they can be used as a pair by a single player, attached to a grip that emulates a gamepad form factor, or used as separate controllers by two individual players. A single Switch console can support up to eight Joy-Con connections.[91] Straps can be attached to the sides of Joy-Con when they are detached.[81][82]

Each Joy-Con includes four front-facing action buttons (Joy-Con R featuring Nintendo's signature ABXY buttons, and Joy-Con L featuring directional buttons), an analog stick which can be pressed down as a fifth button, a plus (+) or minus (-) button and two trigger buttons. Within the rail are two additional buttons (SL and SR buttons) which can act like left-and-right shoulder buttons when the Joy-Con is held horizontally.[91][34][92] Each Joy-Con contains an accelerometer and gyroscope for motion control support,[93] while Joy-Con R also contains an infrared depth sensor that can be used to identify objects and motion gestures.[93] Both Joy-Con contain a haptic feedback system known as "HD Rumble", which can generate fine tactile feedback.[94][95] Joy-Con R contains an NFC reader, allowing functionality with Nintendo's Amiibo line.[78] Each Joy-Con measures 35.9 by 102 by 13.9 millimetres (1.41 in × 4.02 in × 0.55 in) and weighs 49 grams (1.7 oz) for Joy-Con L and 52.1 grams (1.84 oz) for Joy-Con R. When measured from the top of the analog stick to the tip of the ZL/ZR trigger it has an extreme depth of 28.4 millimetres (1.12 in).[74]

Joy-Con can be obtained in several colors as part of the Switch bundle or through added purchases. In addition to the slate gray that the rest of the unit offers, consumers can opt to get Joy-Con in neon red and blue colors. In mid-2017, Nintendo introduced neon yellow Joy-Con, launching alongside Arms[96] as well as neon green, and neon pink Joy-Con which launched alongside Splatoon 2.[97]

Technical specifications

The Switch uses a system-on-chip from the Tegra family of products, developed in partnership with Nvidia.[76][98] No specific details were revealed beyond that it is a "custom" Tegra chip "based on the same architecture as the world's top-performing GeForce gaming graphics cards" that are common in personal computers, and has a custom API known as "NVN", which is designed to "bring lightweight, fast gaming to the masses".[31][99] Takeda described the Nvidia chipset as being critical for delivering gamers a level of performance similar to that which they experience on personal computers, helping to achieve "high performance but low power consumption" for the Switch.[100] Prerelease reports, unconfirmed by either Nintendo or Nvidia, stated that the SoC would be an Nvidia Tegra X1 SoC with 4 ARM Cortex-A57 CPU cores and 4 ARM Cortex-A53 CPU cores along with 256 Maxwell based CUDA GPU cores.[101][102] This was later corroborated by an analysis on the console done by Tech Insights in March 2017.[103][104] The CPU cores are clocked at 1.020 GHz, as revealed by DigitalFoundry. The GPU cores vary between 768 MHz and 307.2 MHz depending upon whether the device is docked; however, they can be boosted to 921 MHz and 384 MHz, respectively.[105] A later iFixIt teardown of the final product confirmed 4GB of LPDDR4.[106]

The Switch offers dual-band 802.11ac wireless connectivity and is compliant with 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac modes.[98] Up to eight Switch Consoles can be connected in a wireless ad hoc network for local multiplayer games, and multiple players can play on each of the connected Switches.[107][31][108] In the case of at least one game, Splatoon 2, ten Switches can connect in the ad hoc network, though only eight can play directly while the other two can watch as spectators.[109] The Switch uses Bluetooth 4.1 for wireless communication between the console and its controllers.[81][98] Users can purchase a third-party USB LAN adapter for wired connectivity when the Console is docked for TV mode.[98] Nintendo's own Wii LAN Adapter accessory is also compatible.[110]

The Switch is primarily powered in portable mode by a non-removable 4310 mAh, 3.7 V Lithium-ion rechargeable battery.[80][111] The battery life is estimated to be between 2.5 and 6.5 hours, depending on the software being used. Nintendo gives the example of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild supporting approximately three hours of battery life.[76] The battery can be charged either while in the Dock, or through a standard USB-C connector on the Console.[77] The estimated recharge time while the unit is in sleep mode is about 3 hours.[83] Nintendo offers the means for replacing batteries through its customer support.[98] Each Joy-Con has its own non-removable 525 mAh, 3.7 V Lithium-ion battery separate from the Console, with an estimated twenty-hour lifespan.[81] These batteries are automatically charged if they are attached to the Console while it is charging itself. Additional accessories have other means to charge the Joy-Con.[112] While the basic Joy-Con Grip that ships with the Switch does not offer charging capabilities, a separate premium Joy-Con Grip includes a USB-C connector port that can be used to charge the Joy-Con batteries while they are connected to this Grip.[113]

The Switch includes 32 GB of internal storage, and can be expanded up to 2 TB using a microSD, a microSDHC or a microSDXC card.[76][114][98] If the microSD card is used, the Switch will only store game save data on the internal memory, leaving data that can be re-acquired on the microSD card.[115] Save data will always be stored on the console, regardless if the source is a physical Game Card or a digital download copy. At launch, there was no way to transfer save files from the internal memory to the microSD card or another Switch console,[116][117] though save game and profile transfers between Switch consoles were added in a system's 4.0.0 update in October 2017.[118] While microSD and microSDHC support was available at launch, microSDXC card support was later added to device's software via a system update.[83][98] The Switch does not support external storage units at launch, but Nintendo stated that they were looking into adding this feature in the future.[115]

The Switch console contains a 3.5 mm headphone jack. The unit does not directly support Bluetooth wireless headphones, though they can be connected with third-party wireless adapters via the headphone jack.[119][120] A system update in October 2017 enabled support for wireless USB headphones when the receiver is connected to the USB port on the console.[121]

Other controllers and accessories

The optional and more conventional Pro Controller

Though not revealed in the October 2016 reveal, the Nintendo Switch supports a wide array of additional accessories, according to Kimishima. Kimishima suggested that the Switch is part of a large ecosystem of devices, though the Switch unit remains the core console element.[122] Takahashi suggested the possibility of other units besides the Joy-Con that could attach and/or connect to the Console to serve as alternate input devices and change how the Switch can be used.[14]

A charging grip is available for the Joy-Con, which provides a means to attach a USB-C cable for power.[112] Alongside that, Nintendo released a charging strap that allows players to charge an individual Joy-Con via embedded AA batteries.[96] Nintendo offers a Joy-Con Wheel, a small steering wheel-like unit that a Joy-Con can slot into, allowing it to be used for racing games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.[123] The Switch supports a wireless Pro Controller, which has a more traditional design reminiscent of the Wii Classic Controller Pro and Wii U Pro Controller.[79][124][125] Standalone Docks are available, which include a power adapter and HDMI cable.[123] Third parties also support the Switch with additional accessories, such as carrying cases and screen protectors.[126] The 4.0.0 system update enabled support for GameCube controllers attached via USB with the Wii U GameCube adapter, allowing the user to use a GameCube controller with most games compatible with the Switch's Pro Controller.[127][128]Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, an upcoming Switch game, will also support the GameCube adapter and controller.[129]

In January 2018, Nintendo announced Nintendo Labo, a child-oriented platform that combines games coupled with do-it-yourself cardboard projects that attach or wrap around the Switch Console and Joy-Con, effectively creating toys around the Switch to interact with games. These cardboard units, which may also include string, rubber bands, and other pieces, are referred to as Toy-Con. The game software provides instructions for the Toy-Con construction and provides the interface to control the Toy-Con. Such examples given include a remote-controlled "car", where the two Joy-Con attach to the car and their vibration feedback provide the motion for the car, controlled from the Switch, a fishing rod where the Joy-Con are part of the reel and handle of the rod and their motion controls used to simulate the act of fishing in the mini-game, and a small toy piano.[130]

Amid complaints about the Switch's kickstand, Nintendo released an Adjustable Charging Stand for the Switch on July 13, 2018 after it was announced on May 9, 2018, which allows users to place the Console onto the stand as to play in Tabletop mode, providing better support than the Console's own built-in kickstand, and allowing the user to optionally charge the console.[131][132]

Tatsumi Kimishima stated that Nintendo was investigating the possibility of offering a virtual reality headset for Switch in the future, "if we are able to resolve the issues with playing comfortably for long hours." Nintendo did submit design patent applications for a virtual reality accessory similar in design to those intended for smartphones, in which the device would be inserted into an enclosure, and its screen viewed through lenses to achieve a stereoscopic effect.[133]

In August 2018, a Twitter user who writes Homebrew applications and Modding tools for the Switch found a screen on the system while reverse-engineering the Switch, suggesting that Nintendo is possibly testing a VR mode for the Switch. The screen allows VR mode to be enabled, splitting the screen into two equally sized displays. Another Twitter user found code added to the Switch's 3.0.0 update, supposedly allowing the user to enable VR mode.[134][135] Hackers also found that the code related to a possible VR mode had been hidden in the Switch for over a year.[136]

Production

The Switch is produced between Taiwan-based Foxconn and Japan-based Hosiden, with Foxconn accounting for the largest volume.[1] Nintendo did not plan to sell the unit below manufacturing cost, as they had done for both the 3DS and Wii U at their respective launches;[137] Nintendo affirmed that the Switch would be profitable from launch during its 2016 fiscal year earnings report, as the company saw the console as a key earnings driver for 2017 and beyond.[138] Fomalhaut Techno Solutions, a Japanese product teardown firm, estimated that the Switch cost $257 to make compared to its $299 MSRP, with the Console and Dock at $167 while each Joy-Con cost $45.[139] Kimishima said that they may be able to see further profitability on the Switch when they can achieve volume discounts on components once they reach a level of about 10 million Switch units.[140]

Prior to launch, Nintendo anticipated shipping two million Nintendo Switch units by the end of the console's first month, and assured that its supply chain would be able to meet demand following the launch period to avoid the shortage situation with the NES Classic Edition in late 2016.[141][68][142] Kimishima anticipated that the Switch will have lifetime sales numbers similar to the Wii, which sold 101 million units by 2016.[70]

Following the initial sales report numbers in April 2017, the Financial Times reported that the company was seeking to produce 18 million Switch units in its 2017 financial year as to avoid "customer tantrums" with poor supply levels, particularly near the 2017 holiday season and the release of Super Mario Odyssey on October 27, 2017.[143] Fils-Aimé said in September 2017 that their 2017 production target for the Switch could be hampered by bottlenecks in individual components.[144][145]DigiTimes reported in October 2017 that Nintendo had further shifted the production rate for the Switch up to 2 million per month, with plans to ship 20 million units by the end of the year; the newspaper also stated that the production rate was limited by component availability, and not by other factors of Nintendo's production process.[1]

Software

The main menu screen of the Switch console

The Switch's user interface features tile-based access to games that are either present in the game card slot or stored within the unit's storage devices. It includes quick access buttons for a News feed from Nintendo, eShop access, and a photo album for screenshots captured during gameplay;[83] the 4.0 update to the software in October 2017 also enabled capturing and sharing video from select games.[118] A single Switch console supports up to eight user profiles, which each can be tied to a Nintendo Account user ID.[115] Profiles can be represented by either a pre-made avatar from an internal gallery, or using a Mii. The Mii creator was upgraded with increased color options for aspects such as hair styles; however, it is integrated into the system settings, rather than being an independent application.[146][115][147][148]

Prior to the 4.0 update, players discovered that the Switch's firmware included an easter egg to allow players to play the NES Golf title via a built-in emulator. While Nintendo has not confirmed its presence, journalists and players believe this is a tribute to Nintendo's former president Satoru Iwata; Golf was programmed by Iwata, and the game can only be accessed if the system clock is set to July 11 - the day that Iwata died - and the Joy-Con are moved similarly to how Iwata would move his hands in his Nintendo Direct presentations. Some Japanese users referred to this as a omamori (charm) left by Iwata himself.[149] With the 4.0 update, the executable code for this Easter egg appears to have been wiped by Nintendo.[150]

Security

Nintendo continued its white hat security program that it had with the Nintendo 3DS. With help of third-party website HackerOne, Nintendo will award up to $20,000 to the first user to identify any vulnerability that impacts piracy, cheating, or potential sending of inappropriate content to younger users, the amount based on the severity of the security flaw.[151]

In April 2018, two separate groups discovered a means to use an exploit chain in the Tegra chip system that can be used to boot other software on the Switch, which could have both beneficial or malicious uses. The exploit is unpatchable as the necessary support to update the Tegra's ROM was not included on the Switch systems as shipped. Both groups had notified Nvidia and Nintendo of the exploit before public announcement of their findings.[152] Users studying the hardware determined that Nintendo has the capacity to permanently ban specific Switch consoles used to obtain software via this exploit from the Nintendo Network, as the Switch console includes a unique device identification code used as part of the validation to the Network. As games downloaded from the Nintendo Network include encrypted information that ties the Nintendo ID to the console, which is transmitted to Nintendo when users start playing games, Nintendo can track unapproved software downloads and take action.[153] Nintendo has reportedly fixed the vulnerability in newer Switch units as of July 2018.[154]

In June 2018, two hackers found a way to be able to run the Switch's system's developer software Devmenu on non-developer Switch units, allowing hackers to be able to directly load games onto SD cards or create custom avatars for their user profile, including pornographic and NSFW pictures which violate Nintendo's terms of service. A Nintendo spokesperson responded to Kotakus article on the topic, saying that "Modified Nintendo Switch systems have been banned".[155]

Online services

Logo of Nintendo Switch Online, the dedicated online service for the console due to launch in September 2018.

The Nintendo Switch software includes online functionality, including online multiplayer, downloading and purchasing games via regional Nintendo eShops, an online lobby service, and voice chat. Unlike previous Nintendo consoles, and in line with current Microsoft and Sony consoles, access to online multiplayer, lobby, and voice chat services will later require purchase of a paid subscription to the Nintendo Switch Online service.[156][157] Until the launch of the subscription platform, which is expected to occur in September 2018, these features are currently available to all users on a free preview basis.[158][159][160]

Some features of this online service, such as the voice chat, are enabled through a companion mobile application that was first released on July 19, 2017, just prior to Splatoon 2s launch.[15][161] Nintendo plans to provide other incentives to subscribers, including exclusive access to offers and Classic Games Selections, games from Nintendo's older consoles (similar to the Virtual Console) but including additional online support in some; initial titles will include the NES games Super Mario Bros. 3, Balloon Fight, and Dr. Mario.[160] Access to the Classic Games Selections will continue to be available to users as long as they have an active subscription.[162][163][164] Twenty such titles are expected to be available on the service's launch, with more added regularly.[165] The service will also allow subscribers to back up their game saves to cloud storage.[165]

The service was initially targeted for a launch in 2017, but has since been delayed to September 2018;[166] Fils-Aimé explained that the delay in providing the subscription service was the "need to get our digital environment world class", recognizing that they needed to be able to justify the subscription costs to consumers by making sure that both the planned features and the entertainment service support were ready to go when it launched.[167] At launch, the online service is only available in select countries, but it is expected to extend to other countries after the Switch's launch.[168]

Kimishima stated in interviews in January 2017 that the annual cost for the service in Japan would be between two and three thousand yen (between $17-27 USD); media outlets noted that should this pricing be similar in other regions, it would be approximately half the annual cost of the subscription services on PlayStation and Xbox consoles, discounting the fact that the two services include features not contained within the Switch online services.[169][170] Kimishima stated that this price point range was a subject of importance in designing the Switch's online services, and that regardless of what competitors were doing, "it's a matter of getting our content to the consumer at a price point that will make them happy, and then we're willing to look at what else we can do going forward."[15] Price details were released in June 2017, with a 1-month subscription costing $3.99, a 3-month subscription costing $7.99, or a year costing $19.99.[160] Nintendo Switch Online preorders went live on July 25, 2018 on Amazon.[171] Nintendo announced on August 9, 2018 that Nintendo Switch Online would be releasing in the second half of September.[172]

Nintendo Switch offers integration with third-party social networking services to provide social and sharing features. Unlike the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, Nintendo does not plan to offer first-party social networking services, such as Miiverse or StreetPass, the latter owing to Nintendo's promotion of Switch as primarily being a home console.[173] Players can register friends through Friend Codes as with previous Nintendo systems, searching for friends in the local network, through past multiplayer interactions, or through Nintendo Account profiles registered as friends on Nintendo mobile apps such as Miitomo and Super Mario Run.[174] Nintendo said it plans to provide other methods for registering friends, including through third-party social media and via Nintendo Network IDs.[175] The Switch has no native support for Nintendo Network IDs, but users can link their Nintendo Network ID credentials to a Nintendo Account profile, which enables the ability to add friends that they had already registered on their 3DS or Wii U, and share an eShop balance between all three platforms.[176]

The Nintendo Switch supports a companion mobile app called Nintendo Switch Parental Controls, providing a suite of parental control features.[156][177]

Media support

The Switch did not initially launch with many multimedia-oriented features, such as a web browser or support for video streaming services.[178] Fils-Aimé said that because the Switch is geared as a gaming console that is far different from what their competitors offer, they had focused on achieving that goal first and foremost, and did not see media support as a differentiator from their competitors.[179] Nintendo did not rule out providing a full web browser or apps for services in the future,[180][115][15] and Fils-Aimé said that they are in discussions with providers like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon for such support.[179]

Niconico, a popular Japanese video service, launched for Switch in Japan in July 2017, the first third-party media app in any market.[181] Hulu was the first video streaming application for the Switch in North American markets, released on November 9, 2017.[182] As of January 2018, Netflix had stated it was looking into a Switch app for the service, but had no definitive plans yet.[183]

Despite the lack of an end-user web browser, a NetFront-based infrastructure is integrated into the Switch's UI, which allows the system menu to support several browser-like functions, such as authenticating for Wi-Fi hotspots.[184] This lightweight browser was found to use a six-month-old version of WebKit containing a set of vulnerabilities collectively known as Trident that has the potential to allow the Switch to be hijacked by code execution in the browser.[185]

Games

Distribution

The Nintendo Switch's game cartridge

Games for the Switch can be obtained through either retail channels or digitally through the Nintendo eShop. Games distributed at retail are stored on proprietary cartridges, similar in design to the game cards used for Nintendo DS and 3DS games, albeit smaller and thinner than the DS/3DS cartridges.[186] Because of their small size, Nintendo coats each cartridge with denatonium benzoate, a non-toxic bitterant used to discourage children from ingesting them.[187] Nintendo offered a suggested retail price for Switch games at the console's launch of $60, equivalent to the price for new games on either the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 console.[188] Nintendo otherwise allows publishers to set the price for a game, only requiring the list price be the same for physical and digital releases, if a physical release is made. This has caused some games also available on other consoles to be priced higher on the Switch due to the costs of manufacturing the game card for the Switch version. Online media outlets colloquially refer to this price hike as the "Switch tax".[189][190] Game cards at the time of the Switch's release had a 32GB capacity; Nintendo had planned to introduce 64GB game cards by the second half of 2018, but had to push this back until 2019.[191] Some physical games may still require content to be installed to internal storage, with some games using a significant portion of the internal memory if a microSD card is not available.[192] Other physical games which have a large amount of content may require a microSD card to be present in the Switch, such as NBA 2K18; such games are clearly marked on the cover to show these requirements.[193]

Unlike previous Nintendo home consoles, the Switch is region-free, allowing players to use cartridges or downloaded content from any part of the world, though Nintendo recommends using the appropriate regional eShop for digital purposes for obtaining the best post-purchase support if needed.[82][115] Nintendo opted to go region-free to reduce the amount of workload and cost to both themselves and developers in having to manage two or more regional certification processes and different ROM cartridge production pathways for those regions.[194] Further, eShop purchases, while still tied to the Nintendo Account, are not tied to the specific Switch console, as was the case for previous Nintendo hardware. Once the user re-registers their account to a Switch, they have access to download all previous purchases; however, a user can only have their account registered on one console at a time, and downloaded software tied to an account cannot be used if that account is not registered to the device.[176] The Switch does not support optical discs and is not backwards compatible with the 3DS and Wii U game media.[195] The Switch is not backwards compatible with other digital titles from previous consoles.[115] The console will not have games from older Nintendo systems branded under the Virtual Console name as with consoles like the Wii, but Nintendo will still provide these games through other distribution means, such as part of the Online service membership benefits or through the eShop.[196][197] Kimishima said that the Switch is powerful enough to emulate titles from previous Nintendo consoles, but currently does not support controllers or controller emulation for these titles.[15]

Third-party support

One of the generally perceived failures of the Wii U was a lack of support from third-party developers, leading to a weak library of games.[198] Nintendo was more aggressive in trying to bring on third-party developers early in the Switch's development, to ensure a stronger lineup of games. Takahashi and Koizumi reached out to many of the third-parties directly to help gain their support early on.[14] Electronic Arts' executive Patrick Söderlund said that Nintendo had taken a different track with attracting third-party developers to the Switch and have engaged Electronic Arts and other major developers throughout the development of the Switch, listening to their input, to help make the Switch more successful.[199]

Nintendo also began gaining support of independent video game developers in the middle of 2016 to provide assistance to help them bring games to the Switch, led by Nintendo's head of partner management Damon Baker.[200] They had tried to draw in indie developers near the end of the Wii U's lifetime, providing indie game demos that were highlighted during E3 2015, but by this point, the Wii U had already been considered a failure.[200] Nintendo sees games such as Snipperclips as a model of their target for indie games, in which they worked to help provide Switch implementation support and software tools to these parties early in the console's lifecycle, according to Takahashi and Koizumi.[14] Some, like Yacht Club Games, who have ported Shovel Knight to the Switch, noted that some of the major innovations in the Switch, such as the Joy-Con, were not revealed to them until just prior to the January 2017 announcement.[201]Nintendo of America reached out to many independent developers and publishers, including Chucklefish, Team17, and Devolver Digital, to gain titles for the platform and make the process of publishing easier. Nintendo still curates which titles they allow on the system, using the company's past portfolio for evaluation, and still carefully time releases to keep a steady stream of new content. However, once a game is greenlit, pushing out patches and updates can be done rapidly and at no further cost to the developer.[202][203] Nintendo also offers the Switch's dev kit at 50,000 yen, or about $450, far under the cost of a comparable dev kit for other consoles, making it more amenable for smaller developers to afford and build for the unit.[204] Nintendo offers several of these indie games as "Nindies" through the eShop. Nintendo had anticipated that they would have at least sixty indie games released for the Switch through 2017, but ended up with over 320 titles by the end of 2017 as a result of the console's popularity.[205][206][207] Indie developers have found that Nintendo has also had a significant role in the promotion and marketing of their games, including using the games to help promote the Switch itself, in contrast to Microsoft or Sony. These developers also found Nintendo tries to keep a better rapport with fans of Nintendo's products, and help these fans identify Switch indie games they feel they will like the most, including those games that build on Nintendo's classic games from the NES, SNES, and Game Boy eras that can draw in a more global audience.[200] Baker says that while they do try to encourage indie developers to release their games as a Switch console exclusive, they do not force developers towards this, knowing that the developers must have a good business case for doing so.[200]

While many independent developers have praised Nintendo for better support for the Switch, others, speaking anonymously through Nintendo Life, noted that Nintendo seemed to have a "walled garden" approach with independent developers, a remnant from the WiiWare program that allowed a great deal of shovelware to be pushed onto it. These anonymous developers found that Nintendo was either eschewing some developers completely, or requiring them to have a well-known publishing partner or an inside person within Nintendo to be able to gain the rights to publish for the Switch.[208][209] Baker said that they encourage self-publishing, but do also place value on trust of established partners for their recommendations of what games would be best for the Switch.[194] Another factor limiting Nintendo is the availability of dev kits and other hardware at the start of the console's life. However, Baker does anticipate that Nintendo will be much more open in the future, once they have addressed the necessary issues for curation and discovery of titles via the eShop.[207]

During its official unveiling in October 2016, Nintendo deliberately opted not to provide a list of games for the system, as they "want people to touch the device in January [2017] and experience the software for themselves", according to Kimishima.[122] Instead, Nintendo announced some of the partners that had committed to supporting the Switch; contrasting Nintendo's struggles to gain third-party support on-launch for previous platforms, the company initially listed 48 third-party publishers, studios, and middleware developers.[31] Among these partners, Nintendo listed major publishers such as Activision, Bethesda, Electronic Arts, Sega, Square Enix, Take-Two, and Ubisoft.[31][210][211]

In the past, Nintendo had previously relied more on providing its own internally developed tools and libraries that third-party developers would use to develop games for earlier systems. With the Switch, the company went a different route. According to Takahashi, "we have been aiming to realize an environment in which a variety of different third-party developers are able to easily develop compatible software", taking advantage of the Nvidia chipset's support for many standard libraries that allows for ease of transition from other platforms to the Switch.[212]Unity Technologies, Epic Games, and the Khronos Group pledged support to help developers bring games to the Switch using their game engines and middleware, Unity, Unreal Engine 4, and the Vulkan and OpenGL graphical APIs, respectively;[213][214][215] for instance, the Unreal Engine toolkit was updated in February 2017 to provide beta testing for native support for Switch games, with full support added by May 2017.[216][217] In March 2018, Nintendo announced it has also gained support of YoYo Games' GameMaker Studio 2 engine for the Switch.[218] Miyamoto said that Nintendo's own developers have "mastered" engines like Unreal, so that while it would be unlikely that Nintendo would release a first-party title using such software, they can help support developers using these tools on the Switch.[212] Several indie developers who have previously worked on Nintendo's consoles said that the Switch was "the least demanding Nintendo console" they have developed for.[219][200]

Library

At the January 2017 press event, Nintendo said that there were at least 80 third-party titles in development for the system from over 50 developers/publishers, and by Nintendo's fiscal report to investors on January 31, 2017, Nintendo had confirmed over 100 titles from over 70 developers/publishers.[142] Prior to the console's official unveiling, Sega, Square Enix, and Ubisoft had already confirmed specific third-party titles in development for Switch, including Just Dance 2017,[220]Sonic Forces,[221]Dragon Quest X,[222] and Dragon Quest XI.[223] Various indie developers also announced or considered game titles for the Switch.[224]The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, originally announced as a Wii U exclusive, was released for the Switch as a launch title.[26][225][226] The console's reveal trailer showcased footage from new titles in Nintendo franchises, including Super Mario Odyssey, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Splatoon 2, as well as footage from NBA 2K18 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.[227] Although Nintendo and third-parties stated at that time that these were not necessarily representative of Switch titles,[228][229][230] all five titles were confirmed as Switch releases during the January 2017 press events.[77]

The Switch did not launch with any bundled games, nor had any pre-loaded games or game demos; Fils-Aimé stated that once they had decided on the price point and evaluated the forthcoming game lineup, they opted to allow consumers to choose which games to get rather than include one in the bundle and increase its price.[231][232] At least ten games were shipped or digitally available alongside the Switch in North America during launch day, including Nintendo's first-party titles The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and 1-2-Switch. Six first-party Nintendo games, over a dozen third-party games, and over 60 indie games are scheduled for release during 2017.[77][233][234][235] Fils-Aimé said that Nintendo plans a "steady cadence of content" for the Switch after launch, avoiding the perceived situation with gaps between major releases for Wii U software.[236] Kimishima said that Nintendo scheduled its first-party releases "to continue to provide new titles regularly without long gaps", as this "encourages consumers to continue actively playing the system, maintains buzz, and spurs continued sales momentum for Nintendo Switch."[142] Journalists noted that Nintendo appeared to be pledged to this approach following their schedule of planned released for first-party games for the Switch as announced during the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2017, with a new title roughly every month into early 2018.[49]

Reception

Pre-release

Market analysts had a mixed response to the October 2016 announcement of the Nintendo Switch.[32][33] Following the financially under-performing Wii U, analysts had expected that Nintendo would recognize their vulnerable position in the console market when developing their next console, believing that the company would find a means to draw back the core gamer market. Instead, initial promotion of the Switch appeared to appeal to an audience that fell between the core gamer and casual gamer markets, the latter being mobile game players who would want a more engaging experience but would not be willing to play for hours at a time, according to The New York Times.[32] Analysts were unsure if such a market existed in large enough numbers to justify the Switch.[32] Other concerns about the Switch's announcement were related to yet-to-be-confirmed details that could make or break the system, such as its retail price, whether the unit includes a touchscreen, the unit's battery life, and the type of games that development partners would bring to the console.[237]

Others saw more positive traits in the Switch. Stock research analyst John Taylor expressed the opinion that Nintendo "checked off an awful lot of boxes with [the Switch]".[12] Taylor also approved of the company's decision to introduce the console prior to the holiday season, when Microsoft and Sony would attempt to attract casual gamers to their consoles.[12] Rob Fahey, writing for GamesIndustry.biz, noted that within Japan, many young adults do not own a high-definition television, which had affected console sales such as the PlayStation 4, and the Switch would be an attractive product for this demographic.[238] Sam Byford for The Verge also noted that physical space is a premium in Japanese homes, and home console units there have failed to sell as well as portable game consoles, so the compact Switch unit could help revitalize the sluggish Japanese video game economy.[239]

Further debate among analysts arose following the January 2017 presentation of the unit's price and specifications. Several noted that the Switch's price point of $299.99 was higher than the anticipated $250; these analysts observed that this is about the same cost as the current Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles, but the Switch does not appear to be as powerful as these units.[240][241][242] Some pointed to the small numbers of launch titles as a concern, with the success of the Switch being tied to the critical reception to 1-2-Switch, a key launch title aimed to showcase the Joy-Con technology.[243] Other analysts were more optimistic, stating that the higher price and online subscription cost help to distinguish the Switch as a more robust system compared to Nintendo's previous consoles, and would likely sell better than the Wii U, with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild being a key sales driver.[241] Some added that the console fills an appropriate gap in hardware for those seeking more complex gameplay that is not offered in tablet and mobile gaming but don't have the need to purchase a powerful "boxy" console.[244] Most analysts agreed that the success of the Switch depends on Nintendo's support and avoiding mistakes the company had made in marketing and promoting the Wii U.[244]

Investors in Nintendo have been more cautious about the Switch, leading to a significant drop in its stock price, which had otherwise been trading at their highest values over the previous five years.[245] The company's stock price, which rose by 4% on the day before the Switch's October 2016 announcement in anticipation,[237] fell by 7% the next day.[32] Analysts attribute the drop to the lack of surprise of the announcement given the prior year of product teases and information, giving investors no catalyst to invest further.[246] Following the technical presentation of the Switch in January 2017, Nintendo's stock price fell by more than 5% the following day, with one analyst stating that the markets were concerned if the Switch would attract new gamers outside of the core Nintendo fan group.[247] Nintendo's stock value continued to drop, and by early February 2017, had fallen below the September 2016 price. Fahey said that investors are wary of the new approach that Nintendo had taken with the Switch, along with its new mobile gaming initiative, representing significant and difficult-to-assess risks to the company's prospects in the future.[245]

Game and hardware developers were more positive towards the Switch, seeing the system as "a more unifying experience between their handheld and console divisions", but expressed concern on unanswered hardware specifications, and how Nintendo would market the unit to draw in developers.[224] About half of 4,500 developers interviewed in a January 2017 survey believed that the Switch would outsell the Wii U.[248] Ubisoft managing director Xavier Poix noted that unlike the Wii U, Nintendo had demonstrated a clear concept of enabling continuity, stating that "The way it changes the way you play doesn't come necessarily with the controllers, because they were here with the Wii as well ... but in the way it is mobile."[249]Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft's Xbox division, said he was impressed with Nintendo's ability to "state a bold vision and build a product that delivers on that vision".[250]

Hideo Kojima compared the notion of the Switch to his idea of "transfarring" that he presented in 2011, allowing players to take a game from a home platform to a portable one, which became the basis of Sony's Cross-Buy program. He said that the Switch was "an extension of that idea. The fact you can play something at home and take it outside, this is the gamer's dream. The Switch is an evolution of that."[251] Capcom stated that while they are committed to releasing titles for the Switch, they "do feel that there are differences in the desired direction and the play-style of the Nintendo Switch and those of the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One" and may not be releasing cross-platform games for the new console.[252] Bethesda's Todd Howard stated, "I think Nintendo is the only company that could pull something like this off," commenting on the Nintendo Switch's design and functionality. Bethesda is releasing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on the Switch, and Howard has stated that Nintendo reached out to Bethesda for possible support of the console.[253]

The October 2016 trailer became Nintendo of America's most-viewed video on YouTube within 24 hours, and was the top trending video on YouTube for about a day.[254]Engadget editors were generally impressed with the Switch on reveal, seeing it as a means to bridge home consoles with portable devices, experiments that Nintendo had tried before with inter-game connectivity between the 3DS and Wii U. The editors potentially see the Switch as a unified console and handheld device, aimed to be a console gamer's second device and where the player does not need the time investment to sit down and play most console games. One editor did express concerns on the hardware's durability given its modular nature.[255]

Analyst firm DFC Intelligence estimated that while the Switch might have a slow commercial start due to existing consumer trepidation toward Nintendo and Nintendo's lack of stock, it would overcome this by the end of 2017 and sales would reach around 40 million units by 2020.[256] Analysis firm SuperData also predicted that the Switch would have a slow start due to its relatively high price, but would eventually sell about 5 million units worldwide by the end of 2017.[257] Retailer GameStop also stated it believed the Switch would be transformative in the market, as CEO Paul Reines stated that the company believes the Switch could be another "game-changer" that could "expand the audience for gaming".[258] Most major retailers in the United States reported that they had sold out of their pre-order allotment of the Switch within a week of the January 2017 media event.[259] According to Media Create, nearly 80% of the total launch stock of the Switch for Japan was pre-ordered by consumers by the end of January 2017.[260] Shortly before release, Nintendo's Kimishima stated that "we are seeing that launch day preorders have nearly reached the maximum available".[15]

Release

At its release, the Switch was praised by reviewers for having a lot of potential, but they were underwhelmed by the limited number of titles available at launch that did not show the full extent of the console's abilities. Reviewers also noted that the initial operating software and features were limited and included software bugs that, while likely to be fixed in time, marred the experience of the system.[261] Even with the day-one update, there were numerous reports of hardware problems, in particular the Bluetooth connectivity of the Switch Console with the Joy-Con L controller, and ease with which the Console screen could be scratched.[262] About a week after release, Fils-Aimé said the company is in "fact-finding mode" to try to diagnose these issues.[263] In late March, Nintendo reported that the Joy-Con L desync issue was a "manufacturing variation" on a small number of the units, which could be easily fixed; as noted by CNet's Sean Hollister, Nintendo repaired affected controllers by placing a bit of foam near the antenna within the unit to better shield it. Going forward, Nintendo said they do not anticipate any other problems with connectivity issues.[264][265] Many users also reported issues with defective pixels on the LCD screen of the Console, which Nintendo has stated "are normal and should not be considered a defect".[266] Other companies in the video game industry, such as Sony, Microsoft, Sega, Bethesda and Ubisoft, have congratulated Nintendo on the Switch.[267]

About six months after release, Nintendo reported their usage statistics for the Switch. Using statistics collected by the system for the primary player on the console, they found that 30% of users operate the console in Handheld/Tabletop mode more than 80% of the time, slightly more than 50% of users operate the console in both TV mode and Handheld/Tabletop mode equally, with the remaining users preferring TV mode. Nintendo stated "We can clearly see that consumers are playing to suit their own play styles."[268]

Following the implementation of hardware revision 5.0, several Switch users began reporting that their consoles became unusable after having been docked within a third-party "portable" dock manufactured by Nyko. Nyko commented on the issue, stating that they were aware of the issue and thought it to be caused by the Switch's handling of A/V output, while Nintendo advised users against docking their systems inside unlicensed docking peripherals. After purchasing the dock at a Walmart store in Jacksonville, Florida, and losing usability of his console upon using the dock, Switch owner Michael Skiathitis filed a class action lawsuit against Nyko, alleging the dock to be "prone to causing numerous problems to the devices they are intended to support" against the knowledge of purchasers, as well as noting that Nyko hadn't put much effort into warning consumers about the issue. Other Switch owners reported having their consoles bricked upon using various other different third-party docks, including one made by FastSnail and Insignia.[269]

Sales

Life-to-date number of units shipped, millions
Date Japan Americas Other Total
Hardware Software Hardware Software Hardware Software Hardware Software
2017-03-31[270] 0.60 0.89 1.20 2.86 0.94 1.71 2.74 5.46
2017-06-30[271] 1.12 2.45 1.95 6.49 1.63 4.66 4.70 13.60
2017-09-30[272] 1.95 5.26 3.11 12.25 2.56 9.97 7.63 27.48
2017-12-31[273] 3.72 9.82 5.94 23.65 5.20 19.10 14.86 52.57
2018-03-31[274] 4.38 13.15 7.14 30.37 6.27 25.44 17.79 68.97
2018-06-30[275] 4.89 16.10 7.81 38.74 6.97 32.09 19.67 86.93

The Switch's initial sales were strong, with Nintendo reporting that based on its first week's numbers, the Switch was the company's fastest-selling console.[276][277] In Japan, first weekend sales exceeded 330,000 units, which was on par with the PlayStation 4 during its launch period.[278][279] Sales during this initial period were strong in the United States, the UK, France, and Germany.[280]Media Create estimated that more than 500,000 Switch units were sold in Japan within its first month, beating out the PlayStation 4 to this figure.[281][282][283][284][285]

Nintendo issued the Switch's first month's performance in their 2016 fiscal year results (which ended March 31, 2017), reporting that more than 2.74 million units had been sold worldwide, exceeding their target of 2 million.[286][287] Retailer GameStop reported that initial sales of the Switch were "phenomenal" and on track to surpass the Wii U based on their historical sales data, with merchandising director Eric Bright saying the Switch has had "one of the highest attach rates of software and accessories to a device that we've seen in a long time".[288] Retailer GameStop reported significant growth in hardware sales in its first quarter of 2017 due primarily to the Switch,[289] while Best Buy saw an unexpected increase in their hardware sales in its first quarter of 2017 buoyed by the popularity of the Switch.[290] Console sales in Japan, which had been languishing due to the strength of the mobile game market, saw its first annual growth of 14.8% in 2017 due to the release of the Switch.[291] Physical sales for Switch games were at 5.46 million worldwide in its first month, with 2.76 million copies of Breath of the Wild for the Switch making up nearly half of those sales.[292] Of Breath of the Wilds nearly 1-to-1 sales with the Switch console, Nintendo's Kimishima said, "This high of an attach rate is more or less unprecedented".[293]

The large sales within the first month forced Nintendo to increase their production capacity,[294] and to temporarily use air freight to ship Switch units instead of their usual overseas shipment, costing an estimated $45 per console, rather than the less-costly overseas shipment.[295] With these changes, Nintendo projected that it would sell at least 10 million Switch consoles during the 2017 fiscal year, alongside 35 million games.[286] Kimishima stated that having a Switch user base of 10 million "will give publishers and the rest of our business partners a sense that the future of Nintendo Switch is more promising" and spur further games development for the platform.[296] Kimishima said that a key goal in their production ramp up will be to make sure they have enough Switch inventory near the end of 2017 for holiday sales, as to avoid the issue with Wii shortages that occurred during its first holiday-season period, while balancing the near-term high demand.[140] According to Kimishima, Nintendo now believes that if they can realize 10 million in Switch sales in 2017, they expect that the Switch will have lifetime sales that are comparable to the Wii, which had sold over 100 million units in its lifetime.[296][140]

The Switch continued to show strong sales throughout its first year of release. In its financial report released in October 2017 for the quarter ending September 30, 2017, Nintendo reported worldwide sales of the Switch at 7.63 million, with the expectation to sell more than 14 million by the end of its current financial year, exceeding the Wii U's lifetime 13.56 million sales. Five software titles have achieved at least one million in sales by this point: Breath of the Wild (4.7M), Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (4.42M), Splatoon 2 (3.61M), 1-2 Switch (1.37M), and Arms (1.35M).[297] Shortly after this financial report, Nintendo reported that Super Mario Odyssey for the Switch sold more than 2 million copies within three days of its release on October 27, 2017.[298] Following this financial report, the Wall Street Journal asserted that Nintendo anticipates to continue ramping production of the Switch in its 2018 fiscal year, with plans to produce between 25 and 30 million units that year or more depending on the 2017 holiday sales.[242] During the November 2017 Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday sales that kicked off the holiday shopping season in North America, Adobe Digital Insights' analysis shows the Switch was one of the top five selling items, outpacing the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. NPD Group adjusted their future performance of the Switch to follow more closely with the Wii's lifetime sales rather than the Wii U's.[299]

On December 12, 2017, the company announced the system had sold over 10 million units worldwide, having reached its sales goal for the 2017 fiscal year within nine months. Nintendo raised its Switch sales expectation to 14 million units for the fiscal year.[300] Shortly after this announcement, Kimishima said that Nintendo has a target of 20 million units sold within the console's second year, along with releasing new games that "enables new ways of playing" to continue the sales momentum.[301]

In its fiscal report for its 3rd quarter of 2017 (ending December 31, 2017), Nintendo reported it had sold 14.86 million units worldwide, with 7.2 million sold in that quarter alone, and officially exceeding lifetime sales of the Wii U of 13.6 million. Sales in the quarter were helped by the holidays as well as the October 2017 release of Super Mario Odyssey which shipped over 9.07 million units and became the console's top selling game.[302][303][304]

Sales of the Switch though March 31, 2018 (the end of Nintendo's fiscal year) totaled 17.78 million units, alongside over 68 million total game sales. The system's highest selling games included Super Mario Odyssey (10.4 million units sold), Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (9.2 million) and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (8.4 million). Nintendo updated its forecast to sell another 20 million Switch units and over 100 million games over its next fiscal year, which is expected to include entries in both the Super Smash Bros. and Pokemon series.[305] The Switch had modest growth in the following quarter, with 19.7 million units sold by June 30, 2018.[306]

First-year sales of the Switch, Wii U, and PlayStation 4 in Japan. (Click to enlarge)

Based on its first year sales, the Switch was considered to be the fastest-selling game console in history in many regions. With 2017 year end Japanese sales data from Media Create, the Switch became the fastest-selling home console in Japan in first year sales, with its total sales of 3.2 million units exceeding the 3.0 million units of the PlayStation 2 during its first year of release,[307][308] while Famitsu reported that these sales had eclipsed the lifetime sales of the Wii U in the country,[309] and helped to support the first growth in sales within Japan's console market in eleven years.[310] Nintendo of America also reported that with 4.8 million units sold in the United States by the end of 2017, 1.5 million units in December 2017 alone, the Switch was the fastest-selling console in the United States in its first 10 months, outpacing the Wii's performance of 4 million units in the same time period.[311][312] Similarly, the Switch was the fastest-selling console in France through the end of 2017, according to Nintendo France.[313] According to analysis firm GBH Insights, the Nintendo Switch was the 5th top-selling technology product in 2017.[314] As of the end of 2017, the Switch has sold 300,000 units in Spain, surpassing the total lifetime sales of one of its competitors, the Xbox One, in the region.[315]

Financial impact

Nintendo's business performance, which had been struggling for several years prior to the Switch's release, soared on its release. By May 23, 2017, the success of the Switch's launch raised Nintendo's stock price to its highest levels in seven years, and an increase in price of over 100% from the previous year. However, the price still trailed Nintendo's peak price by about half, back in 2007 when it had just released the Wii.[316] Nintendo's stock was further boosted a few days later to meet its eight-year high following Capcom's announcement of plans to release the popular Monster Hunter XX for the Switch.[317]

In September 2017, Nintendo announced a partnership with Tencent, a leading publisher for mobile games in China, to bring their title Honor of Kings (also known as King of Glory) to the Switch, to be titled Arena of Valor, following its December 2017 release in Western markets on mobile games. The game has an estimated 200 million players, most in China, and analysts anticipated that Nintendo will be releasing the Switch in China by 2019 as part of this deal. As a result, Nintendo's stock price rose overnight on the news by 7%, reaching a nine-year high.[318][319][320] Nintendo's stock reached its ten-year high shortly after the October 2017 expansion of Switch production to 2 million units per month and speculation that Nintendo would likely start selling the unit in China sooner than anticipated.[321]

Nintendo's quarterly reports, for the period ending September 30, 2017, showed a profit of $209 million, the first profitable quarter in several years, due to both success of the Switch and its mobile gaming strategy.[18] For similar reasons, its following quarter, ending December 31, 2017, was Nintendo's most profitable quarter since 2009, with year-to-year revenues increased by 177%.[304][322]

Retail configurations

At launch, the Switch was sold as a bundle with a MSRP of ¥29,980 (Japan), $299.99 (United States), £279.99 (United Kingdom), and AU$469.95 (Australia); with standardized pricing for the European market varying.[240][77][323] The bundle includes the Switch Console, the Dock, two Joy-Con (left and right), two Joy-Con Straps, the Grip, a power adapter and an HDMI cable.[123] Fils-Aimé said that the company had been aiming to keep the bundle's price point at $300 in the United States, fearing that including any additional hardware or games would raise the price to a level that would discourage consumers and harm sales.[231]

The first Switch pack-in bundle included Splatoon 2 alongside the Switch console for release in the United Kingdom and Japan; additionally, a separate bundle that included neon green and pink Joy-Con (matching the color schemes from Splatoon 2) was offered in Japan.[324] In August 2017, it was announced that this bundle would be released in the U.S. as a Walmart exclusive on September 8, 2017.[325] The Monster Hunter bundle, offered alongside the Monster Hunter XX Switch release in August 2017 for Japan, includes Monster Hunter imagery emblazed on the Switch Dock and Console.[326] A Super Mario Odyssey pack-in bundle was released alongside the game on October 27, 2017, which includes a pair of red Joy-Con and a themed carrying case.[327] A Mario Tennis Aces and 1-2-Switch pack-in bundle will be released exclusively at Walmart on September 5, 2018.[328]

In May 2018, Nintendo released the "Switch 2nd Unit Set" in Japan, exclusively on the My Nintendo Store. It includes the Switch console, Joy-Con controllers, and wrist straps, but excludes all other accessories (including the dock, AC adapter, HDMI cable, and controller grip). This bundle is positioned towards existing owners who wish to provide dedicated consoles for other family members.[329][330] Nintendo does not plan on releasing the configuration in the Americas.[331]

Legal issues

In August 2017, Los Angeles-based tablet peripheral manufacturer Gamevice, Inc. filed a lawsuit against Nintendo in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, alleging that the design of the Switch conflicts with its patent on the design for the Wikipad, an Android-based gaming device that also features a tablet with a detachable controller. The lawsuit sought damages on existing Switch sales and banning further sales of the console.[332] The lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed by Gamevice on October 23, 2017.[333]

However, on April 19, 2018,[334] Gamevice initiated a second patent infringement lawsuit on Nintendo related to a different set of patents. Gamevice also sought action through the United States International Trade Commission related to patent infringement under the Tariff Act of 1930, and was seeking to block imports of the Switch into the United States.[335][336]

Notes

  1. ^ a b The Nintendo Switch has not yet been released in India, China, and other regions.[2]
  2. ^ In Japanese: Nintend? Suitchi (?)

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