Nintendo’s hybrid console, the Nintendo Switch has been a runaway success since its release in 2017. Positioning itself as both a home console and a handheld, the little tablet that could has held its own against direct competition with Sony and Microsoft thanks to a library of indie hits, last-generation ports, and quality first party content.
Upon first glance, you wouldn’t expect much from the unassuming machine. Weighing in at under a pound, the Nintendo Switch is, simply put, a tablet, flanked by two controllers, called Joy-Cons, positioned on each side of the screen. When slotted into the dock, the Nintendo Switch can output its signal onto a television or monitor, allowing for a traditional console experience. To resume control, simply slip the Joy-Cons off the system, place them into the included Joy-Con Grip and continue playing. The transition (or switch, if you will) from docked to handheld and back again is seamless and doesn’t interrupt gameplay at all.
Comprised of an Nvidia custom Tegra processor, an Nvidia GM20B GPU, 4GB of RAM, and a mere 32GB of internal storage, the Nintendo Switch is significantly behind the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in terms of power, and miles behind their 4K revisions, the Xbox One X and PlayStation Pro. This is because the Nintendo Switch is powered by mobile hardware, having more in common with an Nvidia Shield then a PlayStation 4.
The Nintendo Switch is no powerhouse, but that doesn’t mean other aspects of its design aren’t impressive. The Joy-Cons, for example, include a gyroscope, accelerometer, an NFC sensor, and an IR motion camera. It also features HD Rumble, a haptic feedback system that allows users to experience more subtle feedback in games.
The tablet itself is Wi-Fi capable, features a 6.2-inch touch screen able to display games at 720p, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a kickstand on the back, which stabilizes the Nintendo Switch in what Nintendo calls “tabletop mode”. You can also upgrade the internal memory with a microSD card. Interestingly, the Nintendo Switch is cartridge-based, bucking the disc-based trend that has been commonplace since Sony introduced the original PlayStation in 1995.
Accessories for the system include the Joy-Cons and Joy-Con wrist straps, available in a myriad of different colors, the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, charging docks for both Joy-Con and the Pro Controller, a wired LAN adapter for online play via Ethernet cable, and a variety of carrying cases for the system.
As a portable, the Nintendo Switch holds its own and feels almost like the successor to the Nintendo 3DS rather than Nintendo’s previous console offering, the ill-fated WiiU. Nintendo must have felt the same way when they introduced the Nintendo Switch Lite in 2019.
The Nintendo Switch Lite is a portable only version of the system, featuring all the bells and whistles of its older brother, with three key differences – the screen is slightly smaller, the price is $100 cheaper, and the Joy-Cons are fully integrated into the main unit and cannot be removed. While most of the Switch’s library can be played on either console, some games, such as 1-2 Switch, require a separate Joy-Con to be used.
Fans of Nintendo don’t come for the hardware, they come for the games, and this is where the Nintendo Switch shines. Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Animal Crossing: New Horizon, and Pokémon Sword & Shield are just some of the first-party offerings that were released to both critical and commercial acclaim, quickly becoming some of the bestselling titles of this console generation.
In addition, the Switch has become the favored home for many popular indie darlings like Stardew Valley, Dead Cells, and Undertale to name a few. Rounding out the systems library are ports of older games from previous generations and some “impossible” ports of graphically demanding current generation titles like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, The Witcher 3, and Doom 2016.
Even with the upcoming release of the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 on the horizon, Nintendo seems confident in their hybrid console. According to Bloomberg.com, Nintendo plans on increasing their production by 20%, raising their goal to 30 million units produced in the fiscal year.
The Nintendo Switch has enjoyed much success as of late, thanks to the affordable Nintendo Switch Lite, the runaway success of Animal Crossing: New Horizon, and increased interest in gaming due to the global pandemic. Bloomberg also suggest that an upgraded, 4K-ready Nintendo Switch model is on the horizon, but Nintendo has declined to comment.