I played Nintendo’s new game console, the Switch — this is what it’s like

For the first time since the Wii U launched – and subsequently fizzled – in 2012, Nintendo is making a new video game console. It’s called the Nintendo Switch, and it’s a $300 home console/portable console hybrid.

You can play it at home. You can play it on-the-go. You can do both!

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Nintendo

The console is the tablet. You slide it into a dock, and it’s a home console. You slide on the two Joy-Con controllers, and it’s a portable console. Simple!

The Switch is nearly here – it’s scheduled to launch on March 3, which you may notice is pretty soon. Nintendo offered us a chance to try the system at a January 13 press event in New York City. I was there! Here are some thoughts on that experience.


The first way I played the Switch was as a handheld console, like so.

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Here I am playing “Splatoon 2” on the Nintendo Switch, at Nintendo’s debut event for the console on January 13.
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Corey Protin

Here’s a clearer view of what Switch looks like in that mode. It’s a 6.2-inch tablet with controllers (Joy-Con) attached on each flank.

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Corey Protin

Before I say anything about the console, I can say with confidence that “Splatoon 2” was a delight to play.

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“Splatoon 2” is a third-person shooter focused on competitive online play. You’re armed with a paint gun, and your goal is to paint as much of a level as possible before the other team does. It’s a unique and delightful take on the popular shooter genre of games.
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Nintendo

Unfortunately, it highlighted a bizarre focus of the handheld Switch: motion controls. Since the Switch is a screen, tilting it as a means of controlling a game — as is the case with “Splatoon 2” — means not being able to see what’s happening on the screen.

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Tilt sensors are built into the Joy-Con controllers, thus enabling tilt-based motion controls.
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Corey Protin

Thankfully, most of the games shown at Nintendo’s event played to the strengths of a handheld. “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” is a great example of that.

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“Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” is a rerelease of “Mario Kart 8” on the Wii U, Nintendo’s last console, albeit with a bunch of extra content — courses, characters, and a new battle mode. It arrives on April 28 for the Switch, and it costs $60.
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Corey Protin

The delivery of “Mario Kart” on Switch is straightforward: It’s the same game, but now it’s on a portable, handheld console.

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Yoshi biker gang!
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Nintendo

The game looked sharp and played well. My one gripe with using the Switch in handheld mode is that my hands occasionally cramped from gripping the system while pushing a variety of buttons.

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That’s a ton of buttons! The Joy-Con controllers aim to re-create the experience you’d have on a standard gamepad, except they’re much smaller and modular by design. As a result, there are a ton of buttons in a relatively small space.
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Nintendo

For you, however, that may not be a problem. Perhaps you plan on buying a Switch and using it exclusively as a home console? That’s certainly an option.

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And this gamepad is how you’d do just that.
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Corey Protin

This is the Nintendo Switch gamepad. The two sections of the Joy-Con are attached to a plastic shell called the Joy-Con Grip. This is part of the modular nature of the Switch. They slide on along a rail.

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If you want to play games on your TV with the Switch, this is the way you’ll control them while the tablet is docked.
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Corey Protin

Pushing the little circular black buttons is how you release the parts of the Joy-Con. They’re tucked slightly out of the way to avoid accidental detaching. I found it easy to detach and reattach them, though it quickly became a juggling act of where to put things.

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Corey Protin

Lest you forget, the Switch is a tablet. It even has a touch screen. The Joy-Con pieces slide onto the tablet, and it becomes a portable game console.

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Here’s a diagram from Nintendo of what the Switch is — a tablet that serves as the foundation of the modular console. Attach the controllers and it’s a portable console. Slide it into the dock and it’s a home console. Pop out the kickstand and it’s a display with two handheld gamepads.
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Nintendo

Here’s how you dock the Switch at home — remember, this thing is a <em>tablet</em>.

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Corey Protin

Here’s a side view. It’s <em>really</em> easy to slide the Switch into the dock. It has a satisfying click. I encountered zero issues doing this over and over.

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Corey Protin

And here’s what it looks like while docked. The Switch’s screen automatically turns off when it docks, and the image output seamlessly jumps to the TV.

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Ignore the locking mechanism — that’s a measure of this unit being at a press event. The Switch is otherwise a wireless tablet.
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Corey Protin

Frankly speaking, the gamepad is not great. It’s oddly shaped. The Joy-Con Grip — the gamepad-shaped holster — feels cheap. It’s a serviceable gamepad, but it doesn’t stand up to those offered by Microsoft and Sony.

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Nintendo

You could opt to control games on the Switch a few different ways, however. Here’s one way.

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This is how you might control a motion-based game on the Switch.
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Corey Protin

And here’s another option. In this mode, you basically have a two-player game console with you anywhere you go. Pretty rad!

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The Switch has a kickstand so you can use it like a (tiny) TV screen. Each Joy-Con becomes its own gamepad, held sideways, in this mode.
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Corey Protin

Using a single side of the Joy-Con as a gamepad feels a bit strange. Each side is set up slightly differently, and the controller is miniature compared with a standard gamepad.

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I have small hands, and even my small hands felt cramped on this gamepad.
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Corey Protin

Alas, there is a more traditional option — if you’re willing to drop an extra $70. This is the Nintendo Switch Pro controller.

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Corey Protin

The “pro” moniker is a misnomer; in 2017, this is the standard for video game controls on a home game console. It’s a comfy, easy-to-use gamepad. I played the new “Legend of Zelda” game using one and felt right at home. It’s unfortunate that this gamepad costs an extra $70 — it’s the best control method for the Switch that I used.

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Corey Protin

But let’s not end on a down note. The Switch costs $300, and for that price you’re getting a pretty neat game console. It’s a powerful portable game console and a competent home console.

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That you can play a multiplayer game with a friend on the fly is a genuinely cool innovation on Nintendo’s part.
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Nintendo

The game lineup at launch on March 3 is a little skimpy, but the new “Legend of Zelda” looks fantastic and purportedly is huge.

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The graphics style of “Breath of the Wild” is reminiscent of Studio Ghibli. It’s a truly gorgeous game.
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Nintendo

And “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” is just around the corner on April 28 — now’s as good a time as any to remind you that “Mario Kart 8” is the best “Mario Kart” game ever made, and “Deluxe” is fixing the one problem that game had.

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In “Deluxe,” Nintendo is adding a new battle mode that features dedicated courses. It’s a nod to the one complaint people had about the Wii U game.
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Nintendo

Then “Splatoon 2” is planned for launch this summer. If it’s anywhere near as good as the original “Splatoon,” it’s going to be a killer game.

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Nintendo

Most importantly, a crazy-looking new 3-D Mario game is planned for the holiday season. It’s called “Super Mario Odyssey,” and it’s the next game in the “Super Mario 64” and “Super Mario Galaxy” series.

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Nintendo

The Switch isn’t going to replace your iPad — it’s a dedicated gaming machine to the point where it won’t have many multimedia functions at launch, Nintendo’s Kit Ellis told me. Don’t plan to watch Netflix on the Switch, for instance.

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One demo shown in the intro video for the Switch (released in October 2016) was a gentleman playing a game while on a plane.
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Nintendo

Having used the Switch for several hours, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to everyone. It’s still a $300 investment for the system itself, before buying any games or extra gamepads. That could be a hard sell if you already own an Xbox One or a PlayStation 4.

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Nintendo

That said, if you want to play any of Nintendo’s classic franchises, from “Super Mario” to “The Legend of Zelda,” you’ll need a Switch. That could be enough for lots of folks.

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Nintendo

I’m inclined to buy one based on convenience. Being able to play “big” games — the kind of stuff you normally play on home game consoles — anywhere I want is a major bonus for me. I can deal with hand cramps from the Joy-Con gamepad, and it’s not so difficult to bring a wireless pro controller with me.

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Nintendo

Ultimately, you may want to wait until more games are out — <a href=”http://www.businessinsider.com/nintendo-switch-wait-until-holiday-season-2017-1″>the holiday season, for instance</a>. Not a bad move!

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If it isn’t delayed, “Super Mario Odyssey” will mark the beginning of a solid lineup of exclusive Nintendo Switch games. It’s currently planned to launch in “holiday 2017.”
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Nintendo

This video from Nintendo showcases the vast majority of games that are coming to Switch in 2017. If nothing else, this should help you decide if Switch is worth your money.