Nintendo is no stranger to upgrading their base tech, with a long history of making adjustments to modify hardware for their audience. The Game Boy (1989) saw this with the Game Boy Color (1998), the Game Boy Advance (2001) saw this with the GBA SP (2003), and even the two DS base systems saw upgrades with a variety of different branches. As revealed by an investigation by Bloomberg into a new OLED screen, it looks like the Switch is next in line to branch out into something new.
As of yet unannounced, a new Switch model is all but guaranteed through observation of Nintendo’s component purchases. Its newly bought screen appears to consume less power, offer higher contrast ratios, and could even lower display latency, according to input from industry experts. While the maximum output resolution remains low, at 720p, the lower resolution on a smaller screen isn’t such an issue when combined with newer scaling systems like DLSS.
A Probable Direction
Though we don’t have any input from Nintendo as to their direction, extrapolating from previous changes to hardware should give some direction of where they’re going, and what they want to accomplish. The most obvious influence in the last year might not be from Nintendo directly, but rather from the introduction of the new PlayStation and Xbox range of systems.
Ever since the Wii was released back in 2006, Nintendo has taken a different tack than Sony or Microsoft with their flagship consoles. Instead of going for the biggest numbers and the best graphics, Nintendo instead went for offering something unique. For the Wii, the sixth most popular system of all time, this gamble paid off. For the Wii U, the 21st most popular console, they missed the forest for the trees.
The Nintendo Switch is far more the former than the latter, already having sold 80 million units in its journey as the 11th best-selling system yet. A big part of this success is due to its place as a dual console/handheld, the first in mainstream gaming. Taking this route, Nintendo aims to leverage the success of the DS family (the 2nd best selling systems of all time) and combine it with classic Nintendo first-party games to offer something new.
It’s this DS line, specifically the 3DS, which should indicate where Nintendo is going next. This is illustrated by the New 3DS, the name given to the 3DS upgrade which arrived three years after the original system. Capable of playing all the same titles as the regular 3DS, the New 3DS brought improved performance, better battery life, and a more functional redesign. It was essentially in the same vein as the PS4 Pro and Xbox Series X, in that it raised the bar of what the original system could do, without making the older platforms obsolete.
Four years since the release of the Switch and the device is lacking in some regards. Already struggling behind the PS4 and Xbox One, the Switch is now massively outpaced by the new generation, putting it in a prime place for an upgrade. A better screen is a straight upgrade for the Switch, one which will likely be matched by a faster processor and graphics hardware. This could help the Switch remain relevant, and encourage the creation of more ambitious titles like the upcoming Breath of the Wild Sequel. That said, we wouldn’t expect it to completely reshape Switch hardware, as Nintendo would likely want to allow original systems to run new Switch games. This would be similar to what they mostly managed with the 3DS to New 3DS jump.
Gaming as a Platform
The evolution of the Switch is something many spectators expected given Nintendo’s history, but it also makes sense on a greater entertainment-wide level. Today, entertainment systems aren’t so much about being an option as they are about acting as a home-base for all entertainment needs. We saw this attempted with the Xbox One, designed to be the one entertainment home, and it’s something the new PlayStation and Xbox ecosystems strive for.
This same concept applies outside of video games too, as illustrated by online casino games. Online casinos have developed along a similar path, where each website does its best to operate as a player’s online home. Through the introduction of bonuses like free spins and deposit matches, these casinos keep their customers engaged for longer than they might otherwise be. Reviews naturally remain an important cornerstone for helping customers find the best deals. While taking a different tack to Nintendo and gaming in general, the same overarching principles apply.
With Nintendo claiming no imminent announcements of new systems incoming, it’s likely we won’t see the new models of Switch until late 2021 at the earliest. When they do arrive, expect a slightly higher cost than base systems, which should still be significantly lower than their new Xbox or PlayStation cousins. Until then, players on Nintendo systems shouldn’t hesitate to continue as normal. Your old games are practically guaranteed to work on the upcoming system, and with the possibility of better performance, there’s nothing to stop existing Switch players from engaging and building their libraries.