In case you hadn't heard, Nintendo has a new console coming out in March.
Yep, that's right, the company behind the hugely popular Wii, the pretty popular 3DS, and the not-so-popular Wii U is about to release another quirky machine that's sure to catch the eye of gamers around the world.
It's called the Nintendo Switch, and until very recently it had been shrouded in secrecy. In a recent video presentation, however, the Japanese console maker answered most of our burning questions. So now that we've got barrels of juicy information at our fingertips, there's really only one more question left to answer: is the Switch worth your hard-earned cash?
To help you decide, we've put together a concise explainer that lays out exactly what the Nintendo Switch is, and what to expect if you do decide to take the plunge.
Before we get into the nitty gritty, let me break down the Switch. In a nutshell, it's a games console you can play at home or on the go. It'll set you back £279.99 (in the UK, at least) when it launches on March 3, and for that you'll get your hands on the console itself, a dock, two Joy-Con controllers, and a grip - along with all the necessary cables and manuals.
Wait. Joy-Cons and docks. What on earth am I talking about? Okay, that's a fair point. Let me break it down. The Switch is being pitched by Nintendo as a home console with portable aspirations. The system itself takes the form of a 6.2-inch, 720p HD touchscreen tablet, but you can slide two Joy-con controllers — miniature gamepads with built in motion controls — onto either side of the device to turn it into a fully portable handheld.
Alternatively, you can slide the Switch into a dock (connected to your TV) to play all of your games on the big screen. For those of you wondering if this is just another 3DS, it isn't. The Switch can play full-fledged console titles like Skyrim and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The only difference is, now you can play those games in front of your telly or on the move. The choice is yours.
It's an innovative concept, and one that has to be seen to be believed. So, take a look at the trailer at the top of the page to see the Switch in action.
Okay, so who's it for?
That said, Nintendo has been showing off the device's multiplayer capabilities, with the company revealing that the Switch supports eight-person local multiplayer. That means up to eight people can play in the same room at once, but thanks to the Switch's unique design, everyone will have their own screen.
Nintendo has also announced plans to establish its own premium online service; something similar to Microsoft's Xbox Live or Sony's PlayStation Network. Details as to what the service will provide are still thin on the ground, but reading between the lines this surely means Nintendo plans to double down on its online multiplayer offerings in the weeks and months ahead.
Console gaming on the move
But what if you're more of a lone wolf? Well, the Switch gives you the power of portability. And for many, being able to play true console-quality games when they're out and about will be the biggest selling point. Still, in order to do that you'll need some games to play, and right now the only big-hitting launch titles — that is, games available from day one — are The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and 1-2-Switch. Others like Mario Kart 8, Skyrim, Minecraft, Splatoon 2, and Super Mario Odyssey are scheduled to launch later this year, but that doesn't help anyone looking for something to play on March 3.
Some titles in the Switch line-up, like the mini-game filled party title, 1-2-Switch, will cater to families, while others like Zelda and Skyrim will appeal to those to after a meatier experience. So, right now it looks like Nintendo is keen to appease both its casual and more traditional fans. It's a bold tactic, and one that will only pay off in the long-term if it can continue to build out and diversify its game roster.
History suggests this is the area where the company struggles the most, with the Wii U failing in part due to its lack of eye-catching software. Will it be different this time around? Well, we'd like to think Nintendo will learn from its mistakes, but there's no denying that if you pick up a Switch on March 3, you're taking a gamble.
Our advice, then? Unless you're a sucker for new technology, or absolutely desperate to play the new Zelda on March 3 and don’t have a Wii U, you might want to wait a month or two before picking up a Switch. By then the initial rush will have died down, and there'll be a wider selection of games to choose from. Win-win.
Chris Kerr is a blogger with an interest in all things tech. From gadgets to gaming, he is always on the look-out for the next big thing. When not testing the latest FPS or RPG, he can be found watching Sean Bean films and contributing to publications including Gamasutra, Stuff and IB Times. Find out more at http://www.chriskerrwriter.com/.