We’re at the start of a new year, which promises to bring both great new games and two (2) new gaming consoles. The Xbox Scorpio is a topic for another time, since very little is known about it (though Microsoft and AMD let a few new tidbits of information slip out at CES last week.) The Nintendo Switch, however, is another matter. Nintendo has already shown the console’s form factor, first through a Youtube teaser, and later in an appearance By Reggie Fils-Aime and Shigeru Miyamoto in “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon.
Now Nintendo is revealing the remaining details about the system in a special event on January 12th, 2017, followed by Nintendo Treehouse videos showcasing the system and the games on January 13th, 2017. There are rumors about the Switch’s hardware internals, which, contrary to the PS4 and Xbox One, are not x86/AMD (PC hardware) based, but ARM-based (mobile hardware designed for cellphones and tablets.) The specific System-on-a-Chip (SoC) will be provided by NVidia, and at least the latest devkits have the following configuration:
CPU: Four ARM Cortex A57 cores (theoretical max 2GHz)
GPU: 256 CUDA cores (theoretical max 1GHz)
Architecture: Nvidia second-generation Maxwell
Texture: 16 pixels/cycle
Fill: 14.4 pixels/cycle
Memory Bandwidth: 25.6GB/s
Storage: 32GB, max transfer rate 400MB/s
USB: USB 2.0/3.0
Video Output: 1080p60
Display: 6.2-inch IPS LCD, 1280×720 pixels, 10-point multi-touch support
Not exactly cutting edge, I’m afraid. This is the hardware that powered last-year’s Nvidia Shield TV console, as well as the new redesign announced at CES. It is capable of running some older games (such at Metal Gear Rising, Doom 3 and Borderlands The Pre-Sequel) at 1080p resolution, as well as 4K video streaming, but those hoping that Nintendo had finally wised up and designed a console competitor to the PS4/PS4 Pro and Xbox One/Scorpio will be disappointed. Already we are seeing press releases from publishers like EA and Rockstar that their triple A titles like Mass Effect Andromeda and Red Dead Redemption 2 are not coming to the Switch, while Ubisoft pledged support and even a timed exclusive (Beyond Good and Evil 2), and Gamestop leaks show Skyrim and Nintendo first-party titles will be available on Day One.
So, will this be a success with consumers? I would never underestimate the power and allure of Nintendo’s first-party games, but the Wii U had plenty of those, and it was a dismal failure. But that box also had a terrible name and a pretty muddled marketing message. Nintendo has learned from that mistake, and are emphasizing portability and playing with friends as the main attractions of the Switch, as well as affordable pricing ($250, if the rumors are true.) However, there is one thing that Nintendo must announce on Friday, if the Switch is even to have a chance in today’s marketplace: a unified online account system, complete with console-independent game purchases and library (ala PSN, Steam and Xbox Live), as well as easy multiplayer, friends list and chat and messaging features. They have to, because, they are expected in today’s gaming industry, and because they cannot compete with the PS4 and Xbox One otherwise. And because I absolutely refuse to have to buy Super Mario Bros again.
We’ll see what the Nintendo Switch’s OS and online features are like this Friday. And, no matter what it does or does not do, at the very least 2017 seems like it will be an interesting year for gaming.