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Nintendo Switch: Everything we still don’t know

There’s just a few more weeks to go


Back in the fall, Nintendo left us with a mess of questions following its first Nintendo Switch teaser. When the company announced it would answer many of them in January, during a long-form presentation streamed live around the world for press and fans alike, we thought the event would wrap and we’d emerge with much more clarity about the console.

Instead, the livestream invited even more questions about the upcoming hybrid console, which can be played both in the home and on the go. Although Nintendo has continued to give more details about the Switch since last week’s conference, there’s plenty more that we’re waiting to figure out.

Online connectivity

The Nintendo Switch’s set of online features remains one of the most mysterious parts of the system. Although we know that it will have online multiplayer that will cost some set fee starting this fall, that’s about all Nintendo has been upfront with us about.

How much will the online service cost?

We have no sense of what we should expect to pay to go online with our Nintendo Switch games. Nintendo hasn’t required users to pay for multiplayer in the past. We’re not even sure if it will be a monthly or annual subscription, or both, or neither. At least we won’t have to worry about paying for it until this fall, when the free trial for all owners ends.

How will Nintendo’s free monthly game downloads work?

Nintendo will essentially loan out a classic game per month to subscribers. We know these are free downloads that players can access for just a month, and that they’ll then have the option to buy them afterward. But is that for the entire month that they’re available? Just for 30 days after a player downloads them?

Nintendo also said that these SNES and NES games will come with online play, however. How does that work? Does that mean these aren’t straight ports or emulations, but games that have been completely reworked?

All the announced features of the Nintendo Switch’s online service.

Will all online features require the use of an app?

Nintendo will launch a mobile app to accompany its online service. Strangely, Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America, has made it sound like that app is the only way players can access any of the platform’s social features.

“The smartphone app that we’re creating, that will be part of our online service, we believe is going to be a very compelling part of the overall proposition because that’s how you’ll voice chat, that’s how you’ll do your matchmaking, and create your lobby,” Fils-Aime told GameSpot in a video interview.

It’s an answer that’s fairly explicit and yet invites plenty of follow-ups. Is this smartphone app really the only way that we’ll be able to voice chat and find other players to compete with? It sure sounds like it, but we’re still a little miffed that there’s no way to do any of this on the actual Switch itself.

Nintendo Accounts

Nintendo launched the Nintendo Account system to unify all of its separate social networking interfaces. The Nintendo Account doesn’t seem to do much — yet.

The Switch could certainly be the time and place to put that setup to work, especially since we know it’s meant to tie mobile and console platforms together by transmitting game notifications and allowing for the creation of cloud saves. We also know that players must have one in order to access the console’s online features.

Will eShop purchases be connected to the Nintendo Account?

Something that was frustrating about older Nintendo systems is that all purchases were locked to the individual system. For example, if you bought 100 Virtual Console games on your Wii and then lost the console in some kind of disaster, well, you lost your Virtual Console library along with it. We hope that’s not still the case with the Nintendo Switch, but Nintendo hasn’t explained how digital games will be managed on the new console.

Will there be a way to tie old purchases to a Nintendo Account?

We still desperately hope that our old games will be playable on the Switch, although we know the system doesn’t support physical backward compatibility with Wii U and 3DS. The jury’s still out on digital versions of those games, however, so we remain hopeful we can access those on the Switch.

If the Switch does rely on the Nintendo Account to tie games to the system, is it possible to get our old digital copies of games attached to our Nintendo Accounts? Would that help port them over to the console? It’s all up in the air for now.

Xenoblade Chronicles X had its own in-game achievement system.

Will there be a trophy or achievement system?

Whatever the main user platform is for the Switch, we hope it will let us begin to collect and display in-game achievements. Individual Nintendo games allow for this, and the new My Nintendo interface also has achievements with reward incentives. But if this became standardized like it is on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, we trophy hunters would be thrilled.

Switch specs

We know a bit about the Nintendo Switch’s hardware specifications. There are still some questions about the console’s graphical capabilities that remain unanswered, however.

How much RAM does the Switch have?

Again, unclear. For comparison, the PlayStation 4 has 8 GB of RAM, which is 16 times more than the PlayStation 3. The Wii U uses 2 GB of RAM, which is 20 times more than the Wii, but much less than the PS4.

Backward compatibility

This remains one of the Switch’s biggest gray areas. We know for a fact that the console will not play physical Wii U and 3DS games. What we don’t know is if it plays digital versions, or if there are any other digital games it’s compatible with.

playing Super Mario Bros. on Nintendo Switch
The Virtual Console lets players revisit Nintendo’s history through its retro library.

Will the Switch have a Virtual Console?

The Wii, Wii U and 3DS all have a library of older titles made playable on modern hardware. The Virtual Console has become a veritable Nintendo staple by this point, but the company has stayed eerily quiet about the platform and whether it has a place on the Switch.

Those NES and SNES games that online service members gain access to suggests that the Switch will have a Virtual Console in some fashion, but we still have plenty of questions about those downloads will be dispensed. We’d be really shocked if the Switch wasn’t able to play older Nintendo titles in some fashion, but it’s peculiar that Nintendo hasn’t broached the subject yet.

Will games already in the Virtual Console library work on the Switch?

Assuming the Switch even has a Virtual Console, we’re hoping we don’t have to re-buy the Virtual Consoles we paid for on Wii and Wii U to get them working on the Switch.

The Wii U famously did not allow Wii owners to play their old Wii games on the console, unless they switched into the more limited Wii mode and paid to download them again. We’d really rather not have to go through that whole rigamarole again with the Switch.

Will we be able to play 3DS and Wii U games digitally, if not physically?

This would be a nice solution for the lack of physical backward compatibility. But perhaps Nintendo is kicking it truly old school and requiring fans to just hold onto all of the old consoles that served as home to their favorite Nintendo games.

What else don’t we know?

We’re sure we’ll continue to have questions about the Switch as we await its March 3 launch. Perhaps we won’t have to wait until then for more answers, though — at least, we hope we won’t.

Nintendo Switch Details We Do Know