It’s not a big secret that each console manufacturer have a “retail” and a “dev” versions of their consoles. The debug units are typically sent out to trusted developers to test their games during development, and usually have some differences compared to the retail units, such as more Ram (to test games before optimizing them) or access to hidden functionality of the device.
What is a Nintendo Switch Dev Unit
Dev units are usually not super useful for hacking purposes, but they can help understand some of the underlying functionality of the device, and, more importantly, are pretty cool collector’s items on the grey market.
Typically, Dev units require an activation token to be refreshed regularly, otherwise they become “deactivated” and pretty much unusable. This is to prevent unlicensed users to acquire them on the black market.
Dev units for the Nintendo Switch have randomly surfaced in video game conventions and other places, where software teams have been showcasing early demos of their games on these test consoles.
The first public picture of a Nintendo Switch Dev unit was reported by Nintendeals earlier this year.
Nintendo Switch dev units were accidentally shown in a Nintendo Portugal video, have 64gb of internal storage vs 32gb in production models. pic.twitter.com/qVgJkQfeHG
The screenshot showed that the Dev units have 64GB of internal storage (instead of 32GB for retail units).
More recently, a Dev unit was apparently inadvertently showing its debug menu at Gamescom. The clear screenshot confirms what was already visible in the older leaks, such as the possibility to install games from the SD card, for debugging purposes.
Interesting menus include a Debug menu, an Error log, as well as Firmware information. Hackinformer recently dug into some of these menus to show what they contain:
Screenshot from Hackinformer
The debug menu lets developers play with the initial state of the Ram of the console, Handle exceptions with specific code (this is probably overridden by the firmware’s exception handler in retail units), Overclock the CPU, selectively choose what kind of errors get logged, and more.
Besides the Debug menu, other dev menus on the Nintendo Switch Dev unit include multiple diagnosis tools for the controllers, Network, Timezone, and more.
Overall, none of these are particularly groundbreaking, but could lead to more information on how the Nintendo Swtich operates.