Despite last week's hour-long Tokyo event, there's still a lot we don't know
Last week's press conference and follow-up hands-on events for Nintendo's next console answered many of the most obvious questions around the proposed March launch, but not everything. We now know the launch date and price of the Switch (March 3, $299), the launch-window game lineup (pretty weak, outside of the new Zelda game, Breath of the Wild) and how the hardware works (waggle, IR reader camera stuff that most games will ignore, not-great battery life). There's still plenty we don't know, and most of our remaining questions are around how the device will actually run the things that we genuinely care about.
How much will Nintendo's online service cost, and what will we get?
Eager fans that buy the Switch at launch and in the first few months will have free access to its new online service until sometime this Fall – Nintendo then plans to charge a fee for the service, which is something it's never done before. Currently both Microsoft's Xbox Live and Sony's PlayStation Plus service are $60 a year, but Nintendo's equivalent is unlikely to roll out with anywhere near as many features, so will it be cheaper? Like their competitors, Nintendo will also provide free games each month for subscribers but unlike Microsoft and Sony, those free games will only be playable during the month they are offered, expiring whether you've downloaded them or not. Both Xbox Live and PlayStation Plus free games are yours to access and play for the duration of your subscription, only expiring should you leave the service.
Are we getting any kind of achievements with the new service?
Super Mario Run on mobile has all kinds of achievements that are tied to your MyNintendo account, so it's safe to assume that Nintendo is cooking up something for Switch games, but how will this work? Will it be tied into a larger MyNintendo gamerscore-type-thing like Xbox Live?
How will Virtual Console work on Switch?
The fate of your current Virtual Console game collection is still in question, although things look kinda hopeful for them transferring to Switch, although it's unclear how much hassle will be involved. Previously purchases were tied to devices rather than accounts, which was a colossal pain in the ass. The new Nintendo accounts should take care of that – so it shouldn't be a case of you having to buy yet another copy of Donkey Kong Country. "We now have the capability to tie consumers' purchases to a particular account," said Nintendo of America president and walking quote-machine Reggie Fils-Aime. "So, that opens up a range of executions for us to address that consumers desire and need." That clears that up completely, right?
How will that SNES online functionality work?
Nintendo announced that it will be adding online multiplayer stuff to old Super Nintendo games, but didn't give any further details on how this would work, or how it might affect the way that these games show up in its store. Are the games being dramatically reworked? Are they being emulated and tweaked? Does that mean there may be other changes to them too?
Does the Switch allow for enhanced effects when docked?
While it's confirmed that Switch's graphics processor runs faster when docked and slower when in handheld mode, we don't yet know how differently games will run on a TV versus the console's own screen. In terms of resolution, we know that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe runs at 1080p docked and 720p on the tablet but there's no sign yet if there are other improvements. Will we see framerates/smoothness improved? Greater draw-distance? Will games run better in any other ways? Could there be features, other than split-screen multiplayer, that we only see on our TVs?
What does the capture button spit out, and where does it go?
Switch controllers are confirmed to have a capture button that will save screenshots, and Nintendo has confirmed that it will eventually allow you to save video clips too. Where this content will actually live is still uncertain beyond a vague promise of "social media channels." Presumably it will save to your Nintendo account profile, and we'd guess that Nintendo will match Microsoft and Sony's services that let you post to Facebook and Twitter – but none of this is actually confirmed. What's also uncertain is whether the system will embrace any kind of livestreaming service. There were unsubstantiated rumors ahead of the announcement that Nintendo may follow Blizzard's Battle.net lead and feature Facebook Live streaming baked into the system software, but there's no indication of that just yet.
What TV apps and image quality can we expect?
Anyone looking for the Switch to be their smart TV might want to wait. Nintendo hasn't ruled out Netflix, but it won't be there at launch – and neither will any other TV or movie streaming services. We also don't yet know if the console can output 4K video in addition to the confirmed maximum of 1080p for gaming. Unlikely as it may seem, there is actually a slight chance – the chip that sits at the heart of the Switch is Nvidia's Tegra X1, which last saw duty in its 4K-capable Shield console.