Nintendo will reveal its new console in a Tokyo event, which will be live-streamed online Thursday night, starting at 11 p.m. Eastern time. The company's fans have for months expressed their hope on social media that this new console can meet their growing mobile needs — and help the beloved firm recover from its disappointing 2012 Wii U console.
That console also had a two-screen layout, but it was clunky and created playability challenges not even Nintendo could conquer. Without killer games or any other compelling reason to buy a Wii U, gamers didn't pick it up, and Nintendo's profits and credibility took a serious dive. The Switch seems to build off the idea of the two-screened Wii U but tries to avoid its pitfalls with a more practical, consumer-friendly idea of the second screen's function: a way to take your games with you.
That concept is a big shift for Nintendo. It shrugged off pleas from analysts and fans to embrace mobile gaming for years, even as players flocked to convenient casual gaming on smartphones. Now, Nintendo is working to prove itself to the many fans who've written it off as a dying company that's incapable of doing anything besides capitalizing on nostalgia. (That business tactic does, after all, do well for the company, which sold out an updated version of its Nintendo Entertainment System last year.)
Despite a clearer vision of a console for a new age of gaming, Nintendo hasn't offered many details about the Switch since an October preview. Prospective buyers still have more questions than answers. It's not clear, for example, whether the console needs a cellular data connection or requires WiFi. Nintendo hasn't said what its storage capacity or battery life are. It's also still a mystery how good its graphics are going to be. Nintendo has shown the portable screen playing older but still graphics-intensive titles, such as 2011's Skyrim, but has not offered any specifics. It's also not even clear whether the portable version of the console has a touch screen.
And then there's the price — a tricky one for Nintendo to navigate on a large and small scale; its decision to sell its latest Mario app for $10 rather than use micro-transactions upset critics and fans. Most expect the Switch to be about $250, which would be significantly cheaper than its prime competitors from Sony and Microsoft and even than most smartphones.
A price advantage could help Nintendo, which has never recaptured the blockbuster success of 2006's motion-controlled Wii — despite repeatedly making games starring its bankable stable of beloved characters. Still, Nintendo faces a mobile gaming space dominated by smartphones, and a consumer market that's moved away from single-use devices.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the number of years its been since Nintendo last released a console. This version has been corrected.