What is Nintendo Switch and will your kids want one?

Actually that’s a silly question: the Switch is a new games console from Nintendo, so of COURSE your children will want it. But what is the Nintendo Switch, when is it released, how much will it cost, and is it worth the money? We’ve got the answers you need.

The Switch is the successor to Nintendo’s Wii U console, which came out in 2012. It had some inventive features and games, but hasn’t sold as well as rivals the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo revealed the new console in October 2016, but this morning (13 January) it held an event to talk about the all-important launch date, details and some of the games that will be coming to the Switch in 2017.

Key facts: it’ll cost £279.99 here in the UK (that’s $299 in the US) and will go on sale on 3 March, although you can pre-order it from games stores, websites and Amazon from today. It’ll initially come in grey or red-and-blue versions.

The big deal about the Switch is that it’s both a home and portable console: you’ll be able to connect it to your TV via its dock device, but you can also carry it around with you and play games on its 6.2-inch screen, with a promised battery life of more than six hours – although that will depend on the game being played: some may see that figure drop to three hours.

The console comes with two “Joy-Con” controllers which slot into the sides of the Switch for mobile play; can be detached and used alone (a mode that will remind you of the Wiimote controllers that came with Nintendo’s Wii console); or can connect to a “grip” to make them a more traditional console joypad.

Nintendo hopes that the portability will see Switch owners gathering for multiplayer games – up to eight of the consoles can be connected to a Wi-Fi network to play with one another. That could be fun for groups of children who all have one, although given the price, buying a Switch for each child in a household will be out of the budget of many parents.

What about the games? The big title on launch day is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which has been attracting plenty of oohs and aahs since being shown off at the event this morning. It’s the latest in the extremely child-friendly Zelda series, promising an absorbing adventure with plenty of puzzle solving. It’ll cost £59.99 though: factor that in if you’re thinking of buying the console.

Also available on launch day will be 1-2-Switch, a quirky multiplayer game that’ll see players “staring into each other’s eyes instead of at the TV screen: from Wild West gunslinging to copying each other’s dance moves”. It sounds like fun for children and parents alike, and will cost £39.99.

Among the other Nintendo Switch games coming later in the year will be Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on 28 April – this is the one our seven year-old is super-excited about – which includes among its features something called “smart steering” which is billed as a way to make staying on the track “easy for novice players and kids”. A good thing!

An inventive boxing/shooting game called ARMS will launch in spring, then Splatoon 2 – the sequel to an innovative action game on the Wii U – will follow in summer. But perhaps the biggest game on the way is Super Mario Odyssey, a “sandbox” (i.e. free-roaming exploration) game starring Mario. You’ll have to wait until nearer Christmas for that though.

There are two non-Nintendo games confirmed for the Switch that will get plenty of children excited too: FIFA and Minecraft. Nintendo says that more than 80 games are in development overall, so there should be plenty of choice by Christmas, even if the launch-day fare seems a bit limited.

The other main announcement this morning was Nintendo’s plans for online gaming on the Switch. The console will come with a service for players to log on and play against friends online, as well as chatting to them. It’ll be free from launch as a trial, but from the autumn you’ll need to pay a subscription if you want to continue using it.

£340 for a Nintendo Switch and the Zelda game isn’t a trivial amount of money, although many hardcore fans won’t think twice about splashing out for it on launch day. Many parents may prefer to wait – partly for more games and to see if the price drops, and also because it’s the kind of purchase that qualifies as a “big” Christmas present.

We’re intrigued and excited to see whether the Nintendo Switch can bring some new angles to gaming, so we’ll keep you posted on news about it in the months ahead.

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