Now that the Nintendo Switch has been unveiled, we're thankfully past the stage of particularly unlikely rumours and 'leaks' getting the web all hot under the collar. After all, the scope for exaggeration is greatly reduced now that the system is visible, and reports can focus on sensible considerations such as what parts will be included in the box at launch.
There are also, of course, a number of other practical questions. What games will be there on day one? How much will the system cost? What's the exact release date? Will Nintendo actually produce enough stock for demand? What about the features we weren't shown - why be coy over whether it's a touchscreen, what about the User Interface, social features, an eShop?
So yes, there are a lot of relatively sensible questions up in the air, as would be expected considering we've only had a short preview trailer and Nintendo claims more information will now wait until early 2017. Yet we as a site and myself as an individual have had plenty of people sending us tips for this article on Polygon, and considering the amount of interest in it I thought I'd provide what I think is a fair perspective on it. After all, there are a lot of people that seem to be hoping it's onto something big in terms of NX secrets, and though the principle of the article in question isn't wrong, as such, there's a danger of unrealistic expectations taking hold.
The focus of the article and others that decided to follow its lead was on a series of Nintendo patents that have popped up over the last 12 months (many of which we shared out of interest when they emerged), and it asked the simple question - are these some 'secrets' yet to be revealed for Switch? Even though the source article makes clear it's being speculative, evidently a number of people have combined the highlighted patents with some rather excitable expectations.
For example, there's the suggestion that an August patent points to the device having "a touch panel, a vibration motor, microphone, speaker, geomagnetic compass, camera and GPS receiver". Some of those seem possible based on what we've seen and heard (such as clever force feedback / vibration), but from what can be discerned from the device (dummy or actual) in the trailer there doesn't seem to be a built-in camera, for one thing. As for features like GPS, it's certainly not impossible, but we should also consider that all of these things come with a cost, which is where doubts creep in.
A key patent that is also being discussed is one that we reported back in March, which was one of a couple that focused on motion / gesture recognition through infrared, with one interpretation being that it could also mean the system can somehow project an image onto a small area, such as a player's hand.
Nintendo being the way it is, I know better than to scoff and rule anything out with 100% certainty - undoubtedly some patents have showcased elements eventually prominent in the Switch design, such as detachable controllers. But just as I'm not saying such features found in patents are impossible for the Switch system, I encourage all to be very cautious about expecting a lot of these ideas to appear in the hardware.
Switch likely has more tricks up its sleeve, but let's all consider this - it has to arrive at market with a sensible price. We're already talking about a tablet-style unit with a decent screen, detachable controllers and a dock that allows you to instantaneously switch play to the TV. The game concepts shown and the marketing message are also pitching it as a home gaming system, too, so it'll need to have decent graphical power, certainly by 'tablet' standards considering its form factor. Remember, it's the handheld that is the 'console' here, it provides the power while the dock is seemingly either completely or mostly passive. That'll be a lot for a relatively small and thin unit to deliver, right off the bat.
With that in mind, it's wise to be careful when considering more ambitious patents; they're interesting to look at, for sure, and we've shared plenty of them, but the formula isn't patent = upcoming console feature. The proviso is always the same - patents are often simply concept-driven, ideas that are possible but not necessarily practical on a mainstream level. Nintendo's continually submitting them, also, regardless of where it is in a console cycle; often, too, they're filed but never acted upon. One example from the Wii era that I've always enjoyed is below; it's a bizarre cushion for simulating activities like horse riding.
Not all of the old patents being dug up and linked to Switch are outrageous - Polygon highlights a dial-control add-on control that was patented, for example. It's not beyond possibility that variations on the Joy-Con controllers will arrive as accessories, perhaps even bundled with relevant games. After all, Nintendo released a keyboard with Learn With Pokémon: Typing Adventure and Wii Remotes with party games in the recent past. Some of these patents may have some clues to concepts that could yet be realised with Switch.
Nevertheless, let's try and stay realistic. Nintendo will be releasing hardware that will hopefully be at a competitive price, and the company normally has a policy of utilising affordable technology in creative ways. I'd avoid any expectations around complex gesture recognition and miniaturised projections, for example, especially as it seems doubtful the Switch even has a camera at this point.
There are plenty of conventional and realistic mysteries still to be solved for the Switch; let's not anticipate miraculous technology from a Nintendo console targeting a mainstream audience.