9 crazy Nintendo Switch concepts from before its official reveal

Trigger warning for product design professionals. I’ve enjoyed half a decade of Switch and I thought it would be fun to look back at some of the wacky, speculative ideas about this console from before its official reveal in October 2016.

Nintendo Switch concepts: The Nintendo NX

I scouted around some dusty corners of the world wide web to find out what people were saying about Nintendo’s next home console after the Wii U.

Like other Nintendo console projects including the GameCube (Dolphin), Wii (Revolution), and Wii U (Project Cafe), this one was assigned a not-very-secret codename: NX. That’s top-tier Nintendo Switch trivia.

Bear in mind that Nintendo was under a bit of pressure during this time: While in retrospect the 3DS can be considered a success, it was not exactly a smash hit in terms of units sold and the Wii U was most definitely a commercial flop.  

Nintendo Switch box console concept

So, would Nintendo play it safe with the NX or would they take risks? Early concepts like the above gave off heavy VHS player energy (that shows my age…). Here are some more adventurous designs:

The Smudge’n’Cracked

Nintendo Switch oval screen patent concept

A large number of NX concept creators were a bit obsessed with a United States Patent Application filed by Nintendo hardware designer Masato Kuwahara and his team in September 2015.

The patent, with the catchy title of ‘Game Apparatus and Information Processing Apparatus‘, was spotted by a keen NeoGAF user and quickly became known as the ‘Oval Screen Patent’.

You have to wonder whether Kuwahara et al. had ever observed a child using a touchscreen device before filing this one, or whether they had a cracked screen repair side hustle on the go.

I’ve seen the screen on my nephew’s tablet and, my word, that thing has taken a pummeling. Sticky candy residue plus general hand grime from typical child activities such as crawling around on the floor have congealed into a gooey smudge that covers large areas of that screen. 

The actual Switch should last at least five years with normal use, but I can’t see this NX concept lasting more than five minutes in the hands of anyone who doesn’t don microfiber cloth gloves during every play session. Joy-Cons are expensive, but we should be grateful our grubby palms do not have to hold an actual screen.

I also think that just one totally unfair defeat on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate would be enough for many people to, in a blind rage, turn that pad into a projectile thrown angrily toward the nearest hard surface. I would be fine, though, as all my defeats on Smash Bros. are thoroughly deserved.

Another plus point is that you’d never need to worry about the Switch blue screen of death as your console would be destroyed before that ever became a likely issue.

The Smudge’n’Cracked V2

I did say people became a little bit preoccupied with that patent, didn’t I? 

It’s worth noting that just because a patent is filed does not mean the tech will actually be utilized, but that didn’t stop the avalanche of Oval Screen Patent NX concepts. 

Here’s another one that’s arguably even more unviable than the one above, incorporating detachable controllers that slide over the screen and then become part of the screen themselves:

Nintendo Switch concept with screen on control pads

A concept that screams “We can, but did we ever stop and consider whether we should?”. What’s the point of screen real estate that’s covered by the player’s hands the entire time they are playing?

The Smudge’n’Cracked V3

Nintendo Switch concept oval screen patent playing Breath of the Wild

There are more of these glass monstrosities? To be fair, that one is quite cool (but equally impractical).

The Baby Monitor NX

Undeterred by the commercial failure of Nintendo’s Wii U, whose gamepad closely resembled remote parenting equipment, this designer presented what I like to call The Baby Monitor NX.

Nintendo Switch concept that looks look a baby monitor

The Baby Monitor NX was definitely onto something with the pad made from combining two controllers that could also attach to either side of the display. However, like a lot of these designs, my thumbs hurt looking at the placement of the sticks. 

For all that is wrong in the world, let us at least use this NX concept as a reminder to be thankful that Nintendo shifted its design ideas a long, long way away from bulky white blobs that wouldn’t look out of place as props in a low-budget hospital drama.

The Kitchen Scales 

Nintendo Switch concept that is ergonomically ridiculous

Imagine finding a dictionary of the English language. 

Now imagine opening that dictionary, finding the page containing the entry for the word ‘ergonomic’, ripping that page from the book, folding it into a paper airplane (a terribly designed one, I assume), and throwing it out of the nearest window.

This budding console designer showed a similar disregard to the study of people’s efficiency in their working (or gaming) environment as you did in my scenario above.

Seriously. How are you supposed to hold that? 

It’s potentially possible for someone who has shrimp claws instead of hands but humans with the more common prehensile arm appendage will be cramping up before the console’s startup animation has even begun.

I will concede that Nintendo has missed a trick in one respect here: A simple peripheral (it’s Nintendo so this would be sold separately for $49.99) to stick under the device so that, when flat, the screen lies parallel to a workbench would turn this into a very fancy set of kitchen scales.


Nintendo Switch concept inspired by the 2DS and SCD patent

This design is the best if the metrics for measuring quality include getting the most uppercase letters into your product title. 

I discovered it on a YouTube account that produced some genuinely high-quality speculative NX controller and console designs based on contemporary information available from patent filings and other sources. 

In addition to the Oval Screen Patent, one other filing that caught people’s attention was the ‘Supplemental Computing Device’ (SCD) patent – which describes the use of a secondary device to provide extra resources to a console via hardware or the cloud. 

This concept could be used as a standalone 2DS-style handheld console, or connected to an SCD for a home console dual-screen experience. It’s the first NX concept in this article that I actually like!

This account also posted videos covering speculation that the Switch processor would be more powerful than the PS4. That didn’t turn out to be the case – the Switch is much less powerful than the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X.

The Low Effort 

Low effort Nintendo Switch concept

This minimalist NX concept – which also appears to include an SCD – comes from a NeoGaff thread somewhere. 

I’ll put as much effort into my analysis as the designer put into the original work. so, there’s nothing more to say here.

The Souped-up SupaBoy

Nintendo Switch concept that looks like Hyperkin SupaBoy

No prizes for guessing where deviant art user akumatnt got their inspiration for this NX concept from. 

But I’m not complaining, because I think the Hyperkin SupaBoy is one of the coolest-looking handheld gaming devices on the market right now.

I actually really like this concept: Finally, we have a pad that looks like it actually might feel OK in an average human’s hand for a decent play session. I also like the face buttons in the old-school SNES colors juxtaposed against the matte black finish of the shell.

They’ve even managed to make the SCD box in the background look cool – the lovechild of an XBOX One X and the NES. 

I would have bought this.

The Really Close NX 

Nintendo Switch concept with Joy Cons and portrait mode functionality

In the summer of 2016, many big gaming sites, including Eurogamer, began reporting that the NX would be a portable, handheld console with detachable controllers.

That shifted the focus of our concept-creating friends toward designs that are a lot closer to the console that Nintendo eventually revealed to the world later that year.

This one caught my eye in particular for its portrait mode capabilities – something that the team behind the Flip Grip for Switch has tried to make a reality for the console. 

I am also a big fan of the clear/off-white colorway shown in this design. I think the lack of clear-shell consoles on the market these days is one of the biggest travesties in video gaming. 

Bonus – Breath of the Wild Box Art Concept

Nintendo Switch box design concept for The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild

I thought this box art concept was really cool. My favorite – and most used – games console growing up was my Game Boy Advance. 

My collection of GBA game boxes took pride of place on the bedroom shelf and I have yet to see a system box design come close to how good those boxes looked.

Switch game cases are big for various reasons but, if I had to change one thing about this console, it would be them. 

Not only does this concept look great, but using a small amount of cardboard would also go a long way to helping the video game industry become more sustainable

Nintendo Switch concepts – Conclusion

It was genuinely good fun hunting through old forum threads and news articles to find these Nintendo Switch concepts (or NX concepts, I should say).

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to ridicule some of the crazy stuff that was created by passionate gamers. To be fair, though, some of it was clearly terrible even at the time. Some of the best indie games on Switch are individual passion projects but, clearly, it’s best to leave the hardware to the teams at Nintendo.

However, creativity is what drives industries like gaming forward and the seeds of the next great innovation may grow from even the stupidest or least feasible initial ideas.

Long may console concepts continue to be created (but, please Nintendo, do not base the next Nintendo console entirely on wacky forum concepts).

You might also like…