More than five years after the release of the Nintendo Switch, the system is beginning to show its age. With newer titles like Pokémon Scarlet and Violent suffering major technical drawbacks and even early titles like Breath of the Wild playing with performance issues, calls for a hardware update are stronger than ever.
According to persistent rumors, an update to Switch hardware is inevitable, but how long could it take, and what could players expect when it finally does arrive?
Why the Update?
Every console’s mainstream popularity exists within a timeframe we call a generation. This generation tends to be the time after a console release to when its successor launches. For the PlayStation 2, which launched in 2000, this period lasted six years, until the PS3 launch in 2006. Though each generation has no fixed length, around a 6–8-year period is common.
Nintendo is a little different in how it operates, however, as it no longer competes in entirely the same field as the PlayStation and Xbox. Instead of going for raw horsepower, Nintendo proved it wanted to take a different direction with the amazingly successful Wii in 2006, the less-than-amazing Wii U in 2012, and the Switch in 2017.
While the Switch is around six years old, the Tegra X1 chip that powers it was released in 2015, so the major processing component is closer to eight years old, growing long in the tooth.
Nintendo has also taken a slightly different approach to how it manages hardware updates, as we saw with the 3DS. The original 3DS launched in 2011, followed by the New 3DS in 2015. Unlike similar platform upgrades from PlayStation and Xbox, the New 3DS could play games that the original couldn’t, alongside boosting the performance of some older titles.
When and What to Expect
It’s this combination of performance upgrades with better compatibility that is seen as the logical target of the hypothetical New Switch. A new Switch would help fix the system’s poor performance in existing games and open up the potential for new games with a broader scope.
With a dual handheld/docked system practically guaranteed, it won’t be as powerful as the PS5 or Xbox Series X, but at least eight years of chip advancement would provide a massive performance boost.
As for the library, the Switch has already seen a strong emphasis placed on broadening out to offer as many games as possible. This was one of the driving reasons for making the device a dual handheld/docked system, in that it could consolidate Nintendo’s history of both console and handheld games into one package.
Making this move is what allowed Pokemon to offer its first main series titles on console, and it’s proven effective for getting players interested. Just as important is the system going region-free, which lets players import and play games without issue. Both of these ideas have seen a basis in other industries, and in these industries, the implementation has proved just as important.
Outside of video games the best analogy would probably be how the online casino industry has evolved to cater to similar ideas of broadening libraries and widening reach. The ability to enjoy the best online casino Canada games has been possible thanks to the arrival of mobile access alongside traditional desktop play in table games, live games, slots, live dealers, sports betting, and much more.
With casino games requiring additional regulations, targeting websites to different areas, in this case, Canada, made it possible for the industry to offer the same range of titles enjoyed all over the world. In other words, expanding libraries and working to increase reach worked for the first Switch, and it works for online casinos, so these elements are likely to be embraced for the next Switch too.
While performance upgrades are inevitable, less predictable for a Switch update are changes to the screen and controllers. The 720p screen of the Switch is outdated at this point, so a 1080p display is likely, but due to performance demands, we wouldn’t expect a 4K display on the system.
It might support 4K playback over TV in docked mode, however. Controllers are a bigger question, as the Switch has experienced stick drift problems. Hopefully, Nintendo would update the design to mitigate this problem, though it’s not a guarantee. As for backward compatibility, it’s possible that original Switch games would support original controllers but not new ones, as happens with the PS5.
As for when current rumors and updates from chip manufacturers haven’t recently reported any major visits from Nintendo’s hardware teams. While it’s possible the production would begin in late 2023, we wouldn’t expect a New Switch to hit shelves until 2024 at the earliest. The question is, for those without a Switch, is it better to buy a system now, or wait for the inevitable?