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The Wii U put Nintendo into a rough spot; it followed up Nintendo's best selling console by being their worst-selling system aside from the Virtual Boy. The reasons for this were varied, but one of the more commonly cited ones was that its GamePad controller failed to capture people's attention like the Wii Remote did. However, most Wii U owners agreed that the GamePad had one good feature going for it: Off-TV Play. While games with second-screen featuresnote  didn't catch on, most games for the system did not require a television to be played, as they could be played on the GamePad screen. While this gave players the ability to enjoy their Wii U games even when a TV was unavailable, it lacked the versatility and flexibility of a true portable system since the GamePad only worked within a short range of the console.

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Meanwhile, despite an initially slow and painful start to its place in the industry, the Nintendo 3DS managed to maintain Nintendo's place in the portable gaming market. It defeated the PlayStation Vita in a Curb-Stomp Battle and proved that dedicated gaming devices still had a place in the market despite Mobile Phone Games gaining dominance in the 2010s. And so, Nintendo found themselves with a poor-selling home console whose best aspect was that it didn't require a television 90% of the time, a very good selling portable console that retained Nintendo's crown as rulers of handheld gaming, and a continued desire to find new ways for gamers to play.

Of course, there were even more issues to consider, namely the divide in gaming preferences that Japanese and Western gamers exhibited. In Japan, portable gaming is more popular: the Nintendo DS had become a cultural landmark during the 2000s and directly led to the subsequent dominance of dedicated handhelds and smartphone games in the region. In the West, home consoles and PCs are vastly more preferred by gaming audiences, with the desire for greater graphical power trumping on-the-go play. The end result was that most developers couldn't easily leverage both markets: Western developers found that porting games from home consoles and modern gaming PCs to handheld consoles was damn near impossible unless the game they were trying to port was deliberately designed with older/lower-end hardware in mind, while Japanese developers found porting their handheld games to be similarly burdensome due to the additional costs inherent in HD development and the need to rework gameplay for form factors that lack a touch screen.

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All of this was dealt with elegantly in one single move with the Nintendo Switch.

The Nintendo Switch is Nintendo's seventh home gaming console which was released worldwide on March 3, 2017. The console was first announced in March 2015 by Satoru Iwata, just months before his death, under the codename "NX" and with the promise that it would be a "brand-new concept". On October 20, 2016, the console was officially revealed as a hybrid video game system consisting of a tablet-like touchscreen monitor that docks into a station at home for TV play: removing the console from the dock switches it from a home console into a portable console.

The Nintendo Switch uses a pair of controllers, known as Joy-Cons, that attach directly to the system for portable play, while also being capable of being used with a grip or held in each hand individually, similar to the Wiimote and Nunchuk for both the system's home and portable configurations. In addition, the Joy-Cons (known as Joy-Cons L and R) can be used separately, allowing for local two-player gaming without the need to buy additional controllers, hearkening back to how the Nintendo Entertainment System came bundled with two controllers itself. note  The Switch also has a more traditional "Pro Controller" available, and it too can be used in both configurations. Each Switch can support up to eight individual Joy-Cons (or four pairs of Joy-Cons/four Pro Controllers) and can connect locally with up to seven other Switch consoles.

Like the DS and 3DS, the Switch stores physical copies of games on Game Cards, a proprietary type of ROM cartridge based on the SD Card (flash memory) format; continuing a tradition for handhelds, but breaking the three-generation streak of Nintendo's home consoles storing games on optical discs. As a result, the Switch is the first cartridge-based home console since the Nintendo 64 twenty-one years prior. It is also the first Nintendo home console system to be region-free, something Nintendo themselves noted during the Switch's launch presentation.

The Switch also introduced Nintendo's first paid online infrastructure in September 2018, aptly known as Nintendo Switch Online or NSO. (Online play for games like Splatoon 2 was free prior to the launch of NSO.) For only US$20 a year you gain access to online play, cloud saves, exclusive titles, and a downloadable library of NES and SNES games. A higher paid tier, known as the Expansion Pack, was released in 2021 for $50 that also gave acces to Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games. Despite its low entry fee, NSO has been heavily criticized for its inconsistent utilization of cloud saves, poor implementation of basic features such as voice chat (a separate phone app is required and it only works with friends), and the infamously poor netcode of games such as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate that bring the need to pay for online into question.

Nintendo initially claimed that the Switch would act as a "third pillar" to the Wii U and 3DS, only to then announce the Wii U's discontinuation not too long afterward. Similar statements were made for what the DS was to Nintendo GameCube and the Game Boy Advance, and similarly enough, the GBA was quietly discontinued in the late 2000s in the face of the DS's success. The key difference is that Nintendo was clearly hedging their bets in the latter case, as the Game Boy Advance line was still doing incredibly well in sales: should the DS have failed, they had an easy out and could dismiss the dual-screen device as a fun experiment. In contrast, the Wii U was an undeniable flop by the time the Switch was even announced. Everyone knew it would be pointless to try performing an act of necromancy upon it, and that there would be no quick fall back plan if the Switch was dead-on-arrival.

Much can be and has been said about how confusing the Wii U was from the moment of its reveal, with Nintendo being unable to clearly communicate that it wasn't a pricey add-on for the Wii for the entire lifespan of the product, in the rare event that they were even able to make consumers aware that the product existed. Nintendo learned from this, and from day one, advertising for the Switch far more clearly communicated the console's key feature (the three play modes and the ability to easily alternate between them), and there are more frequent ads for the console itself and its growing game library year-round. Not only that, but the Switch cemented a stronger brand identity by abandoning everything related to the Wii brand outside Miis, which can still be used as system avatars and appear in a small selection of games.

Despite some hardware issues that still persist as of 2021, the most common being "Joy-Con drift", where the Joy-Con control sticks start exhibiting inappropriate movement due to dust and debris entering its internals, the Switch became an overnight success, selling 2.74 million units by the end of its first month (making it the best launch for any Nintendo system to-date). The console would outsell the Wii U's entire lifetime in less than a year, followed by the GameCube and Nintendo 64 the following year, the SNES in its third year, and the NES in its fourth. Nintendo themselves predicted that the Switch could sell as much as the Wii by the end of its life cycle, and there are projections suggesting that, by the end of the Switch's life cycle, it could sell nearly as many units as Wii, if not more.

One year after release Nintendo would try to increase that success by innovating the system even further with Nintendo Labo, a series of DIY development kits for the Switch that consists of gaming software and cardboard cutouts that can be assembled into accessories called Toy-Cons. Releasing on April 20, 2018, the first sets were released: the "Variety Kit" and the "Robot Kit". The "Vehicle Kit" would be released in September and Labo "VR Kit" the following April.

On September 20, 2019, Nintendo released the Nintendo Switch Lite, an entry-level, budget alternative to the original (costing $200USD vs. $300USD). The Lite foregoes the core feature of its older sibling, its hybrid nature, to serve purely as a handheld console. In addition to lacking TV-out, the controls are integrated with the system, so any games within the Switch library that require individual Joy-Con use, such as 1-2-Switch, require external Joy-Cons to be connected to the system; HD Rumble and the IR Camera are also removed, and the split D-pad is swapped out for a standard one, so those missing features also require external controllers. Alongside the Switch Lite, Nintendo also released a revised version of the original Switch that incorporated a more power-efficient chipset, thus increasing battery life and reducing heat output, in addition to improved build quality to address physical Joy-Con issues present in some builds of the previous batches of the Switch.

On October 8, 2021, Nintendo released the Nintendo Switch (OLED model), positioned as a $350USD premium option in the Nintendo Switch family. As the name suggests, this version of the system boasts a larger 7 inch OLED screen, a bigger kickstand, 64GB of built-in memory, and improved onboard speakers for better sound quality in handheld/tabletop mode. A revised dock released alongside the OLED model would add a dedicated wired LAN port, replacing the USB 3.0 port of the previous revision; the original dock could only utilize a wired network connection via a USB-to-Ethernet adapter. The new dock can be used with previous models of the standard Switch.


Technical-specs

Processors

  • Powered by a NVIDIA Tegra X1 system-on-a-chip, chip number ODNX02-A2.
    • CPU: Octa-core, 4x ARM Cortex A57 + 4x ARM Cortex A53 using a proprietary core migration system devised by Nvidia, all cores run at 1.02GHz regardless of mode. The Switch has a 64 bit CPU with a 128 bit GPU bus. Also, the system will only report 4 cores as each A57 core is “shadowed” by a A53 core and the scheduler on the SOC will decide which core to use based on workload.
    • GPU: Second-generation NVIDIA Maxwell with some ISA/CG backported from Pascal note , 256 CUDA cores, runs at 768MHz in console mode or 307.2MHz in handheld and tabletop modes. Can reclock its speed on the fly as the device switches between console and handheld/tabletop modes. Games can also force the GPU run at 768MHz.

Memory

  • 4GB of RAM provided by two 2GB Samsung LPDDR4 modules, uses HSA to share video and system memory. Low compared to the PS4 and Xbox One, but more than adequate when compared to a contemporary mainstream Android tablet or TV box. RAM operates at 1.6GHz in console mode and 1.33GHz in handheld/tabletop mode. The memory management unit has the capability of reclocking the RAM's speed on-the-fly as the device switches between console and handheld/tabletop mode. Games can also force the MMU run at 1.6GHz.
  • Internal storage is 32GB for Switch models with LCD screens (the 2017 and 2019 models, as well as the Switch Lite) and 64GB for the 2021 OLED model. Interestingly, this is mounted on a removable breakout board. The Switch also accepts MicroSDXC cards for storage expansion, with the maximum compatible card size said to be 2TB, and unlike the 3DS MicroSDXC cards do not need to be reformatted from exFAT to FAT32 to be usable, though they do require a small update.note  The card reader is claimed to be UHS-I compliant, theoretically offering a maximum read speed of up to 95-104MB/s and a maximum write speed of up to 60-65MB/s. However, while the Switch will support the new-as-of-2020 UHS-II cards, it will not benefit from the triple speed increase offered by such cards.
  • Like the Nintendo DS and 3DS, it uses proprietary flash memory cartridges called "Game Cards". Unlike previous cards, these have dimensions very similar to those of a standard SD Card. The minimum storage capacity of these cartridges is 1GB and maximum is 32 GB. Multiple software applications (as in, separate titles in Switch menus) can be loaded onto a single card.note  Due to the cartridge's size presenting a possible choking hazard, Nintendo has each one sprayed with denatonium benzoate, the most bitter chemical compound known to exist, in order to make sure a child spits it out right away if they attempt to swallow it. Naturally, it became a brief trend among grown adults to lick the cartridges out of sheer curiosity.

Graphics

  • The console have a 1280x720 capacitive 10-point multi-touch screen, with said screen being LCD or OLED depending on the model.
  • When docked and connected to an external display, the system can output resolutions up to 1920x1080 or 1080p at 60hz. Some games render internally at lower resolutions and then upscale the video to 1080p when docked to keep frame rates high, while others use dynamic resolution scaling and adjust their render resolutions in real-time to keep frame rates smooth.

Connectivity

  • Dual-band 802.11-AC WiFi with 2T2R MIMO matrix for better reception.
  • Ethernet port (HEG-007 model dock only).
  • Bluetooth 4.1 for communication with the Joy-Cons and Pro Controller. The Switch originally had no native compatibility with Bluetooth headsets, with the feature being added in the Version 13.0.0 system update. Prior to this, USB and auxiliary Bluetooth adapters were the only option for wireless audio.
  • One USB Type C port. Can be charged while docked or while outside of the dock using any USB Type C compatible charger.note 
  • The dock contains 3 USB Type A ports: 2 2.0 ports on the outside of the dock and a 3.0 port on the inside with the AC and HDMI outputs (HAC-007 model dock only).note  These can be used to charge wireless controllers and connect wired controllers, as well as to use other accessories like USB Ethernet adapters.
  • When the Switch is docked, most standard and cordless USB devices are supported, such as keyboards and audio devices. USB mice are supported in handful of games, namely Fortnite and Game Builder Garage. Many of these accessories can also be used in portable mode as well if they support USB-C or by using a USB C-to-A adapter or hub.

Other

  • All variants of the console utilize active cooling systems not unlike those found on a standard laptop.
  • For the first time ever on a Nintendo home system, and for the first time on a Nintendo handheld system since the original Nintendo DS, games are region-free.
  • Powered by a 4310mAh Lithium-ion rechargeable battery. The 2017 V1 model and the Lite that can last from 2 to 6.5 hours on single charge, depending on the demands of a given game. The 2019 V2 model and 2021 OLED model sport a more power-efficient chipset, increasing battery life up to 4.5 to 9 hours. The battery is not designed to be user-replaceable, though it can easily be accessed by removing the back cover.
  • The Joy-Con controllers have accelerometers and gyroscopes for motion control and HD Rumblenote  for more precise tactile feedback. The Joy-Con R has an NFC reader on the control stick for amiibo functionality, as well as an IR camera for tracking movement & distance, and recognizing shapes. Each has its own batteries which can be charged while attached to the console. Interestingly, the Joy-Cons use a standard Bluetooth HID profile and work with PCs (both Windows and Linux), Macs, and Android devices out of the box.
  • When the Switch is not docked, a kickstand in the back can be opened to prop up the unit, and played with the Joy-Cons detached. This is referred to by Nintendo as "Tabletop mode".
  • The Switch features a hard fork of the 3DS operating system, known internally as Horizon, with many components rewritten. The kernel is derived from the 3DS kernel, though some code from the FreeBSD kernelnote  was used according to the system software's licensing information. Nintendo also used some high-level libraries from Android such as the Stagefright multimedia framework, NFC library and cURL downloader library. Nonetheless, due to the kernel, the proprietary NVN API and the proprietary binary executable format, it is not capable of running Android apps, although due to the use of high-level Android libraries, porting is as simple as making some minor adjustments and recompiling the source code to target the Switch (which is probably Nintendo’s intention, to woo developers.)note  The console also makes use of the ARM TrustZone instead of a security coprocessor.
  • Unlike previous Nintendo systems, the emulators used for Virtual Console are built into the system instead of the software. NES was the first system released that the console could run without an emulator, followed later by the SNES.
  • Parental Control settings.
  • The Switch retains the Miis introduced all the way back on the Nintendo Wii and introduces new customization features. However they seem to be heavily Demoted to Extra - rather than being available forefront in the main menu, their tab is tucked in the back in the Settings menu, and there's no connectivity with Miis from the Wii U or the 3DS. The only way to transfer an old Mii is by having one stored on an amiibo figure.


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NOTE: Games with an asterisk (*) also have a "Special" version which start you near the end of the game, usually with the best equipment. A double asterisk (**) denotes games that have two separate "Special" versions.

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Nintendo Switch: Girl vs Boy

This is from the Nintendo Switch TV Spot from the Super Bowl 2017, a Girl and a Boy play the 1, 2, Switch! Game facing each other on a Western Showdown

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