Nintendo says it won’t release another version of the Switch this year. “As for Nintendo Switch, we believe it is important to continue to communicate the appeal of both Nintendo Switch systems and expand the installed base,” CEO Shuntaro Furukawa said in an investor briefing following an earnings report. “Please note that we have no plans to launch a new Nintendo Switch model in 2020.”
The announcement refutes multiple reports over the past 12 months that suggested Nintendo was looking for a more powerful Switch model with an improved OS, graphics and usability features. However, an April Nikkei report suggested that this “enhanced” version of the system was still in the early planning stages, with no one even assigned to lead its development at the time.
Will the Switch fall behind?
The hardware in the Nvidia Tegra-based Switch is clearly less powerful than the Xbox One or PS4, despite launching years later than the larger TV-based consoles from Sony and Microsoft. That power gap is even wider for the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X and is set to widen even further later this year with the release of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
But the lack of power didn’t seem to hurt the Switch’s market performance. A combination of must-have first-party titles, a streamlined portable form factor, and a flood of indie treasures has helped make the Switch one of the fastest-selling hardware in the history of the industry. And some major publishers have responded to that sales success with massive efforts to port high-end games like disaster (2016) and The Witcher to the substandard system, with mixed results.
Ports of such high-end console games may become less likely on the Switch as time goes on and the hardware power of the system lags behind the new “next generation”. On the other hand, Microsoft has already said that all of its Xbox Series X games will also be playable on original 2013 Xbox One hardware for the next two years. Perhaps developers will also continue to see the Switch as a low-end, portable option for graphically scaled-down versions of their big budget hits in the future.
And there’s nothing to say that Nintendo isn’t planning a new Switch model beyond this year either. The 4.5-year gap between the 3DS and the upgraded “new 3DS” hardware would suggest a late 2021 upgrade in the cards for the Switch. Even the six-year gap between the launch of the Wii and the Wii U would point to a full-fledged Switch succession for 2023.
For this year, though, it’s clear Nintendo is sticking with the portable Switch Lite and the dockable standard Switch model, which has recently received redesigned internals to improve battery life.