The Nintendo Switch has now been out for a year and it's safe to say that it's taken the world by storm. It's the fastest selling console ever in the US and Nintendo is reporting its most profitable quarter in a decade on the back of this. The future certainly looks bright for Nintendo's hybrid console and the company is so confident in it that it wants to see the product lifecycle go beyond the standard five to six years.
Of course, that doesn't mean the Switch will stay exactly as it is for five to six years. Hardware upgrades are common in the gaming industry, now more than ever, and at some point we imagine we can expect to see the launch of a Nintendo Switch 2 (although we'd love to see that online service come first).
What this Switch sequel will look like and what new features it'll offer, we can't be sure, but we're certainly willing to mull that over. Join us won't you?
Nintendo Switch 2 release date
Given that Nintendo hasn’t actually confirmed there’s a Nintendo Switch 2 in the works, it’s hard to guess what kind of release date we’re looking at. However, it is possible to posit likely release windows based on plans we Nintendo already has.
We already know that the company is hoping the Switch will go further than the standard five to six year lifecycle of a console after Shigeru Miyamoto told investors as much in a Q&A. Prior to this, Nintendo's consoles have usually topped out at the five to six year mark before moving onto the next generation.
Clearly Nintendo has something up its sleeve then, and we wonder if it's going to follow in the footsteps of Sony and Microsoft, both of which launch hardware upgrades at strategic intervals to prolong the current generation.
Based on these industry trends we’d imagine that Nintendo may consider releasing an upgraded version of the Switch hardware between two and three years into its lifetime, which would mean we could see Nintendo Switch 2.0 in 2019. With an iterative approach that sees a power upgrade and some design refinements, this could see the Switch line run easily into 2022.
Nintendo Switch 2 news and leaks
Now, despite the fact that Nintendo hasn’t said it’s planning to release a Nintendo Switch 2, there have been reports and leaks which suggest plans are, at the very least, being made.
The 5.0 firmware dig
Though the Nintendo Switch’s recent 5.0 firmware update wasn’t up to much on the surface, hackers on Switchbrew dug into the upgrade and found evidence which suggests a hardware refresh is in the works.
Switchbrew discovered references to a new T214 chip (which would be a small improvement on the current T210) as well as an updated printed circuit board and 8GB of RAM instead of the current 4GB.
While any kind of chip upgrade could simply be Nintendo’s response to some hardware security problems which have emerged with the current SoC (homebrew hackers have started creating pirated Switch titles), the new PCB and increased RAM suggest something more than this: a more powerful device.
This report is especially interesting when read alongside a report from the Wall Street Journal in March, which stated that Nintendo had no plans to make any hardware updates in 2018 and would instead be focusing on peripherals, like Nintendo Labo, to extend the console’s lifespan.
Just because Nintendo isn’t looking to release any hardware upgrades in 2018, however, doesn’t mean it’s not planning to release any full stop. If the Switch is going to last longer than six years like Nintendo would like it to, some kind of hardware refinements are going to need to be made if the console is to keep up with the rest of the industry and player expectations.
Although peripherals are a good start, a hardware refresh may be unavoidable for the console to make it the whole way, especially if Sony hits out with a PS5 in 2020/2021, as is rumored.
It's important to note that the files uncovered by these Switchbrew members contain neither a timescale nor a definitive statement of intent from Nintendo. Minor hardware refreshes after two years certainly aren’t unheard of. Both Sony and Microsoft have relied upon them in the current generation which is only just reaching its fifth year.
If Nintendo took an evolutionary approach to its enhancements like Xbox, Switch libraries need not be impacted - it could very well be a case that existing games could simply be scaled to look and run better on a more powerful Switch.
The Switch is proof that state-of-the-art technology isn't the sole key to success in a wider sense, but it’s important to remember that as far as handhelds are concerned, the Switch is at the cutting edge and Nintendo will need to keep it there. If these hardware upgrade rumors turn out to be true, Nintendo has plenty of time before it has to do any kind of refresh.
If it does plan to see the Switch through another console generation from PlayStation and Xbox, though, a hardware update like this could be necessary at some point.
AR and VR support are unlikely
If Nintendo does release a Switch, we’re inclined to say it’s unlikely that it’ll feature any kind of AR or VR technology support.
Despite patents suggesting otherwise, Nintendo has repeatedly said it’s not interested in pursuing virtual reality and this has been reiterated as recently as January 2018 by the MD of Nintendo France who cited a lack of mainstream appeal for the technology. These comments tie in with the sentiments of Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime, who told Fortune in June 2015 that virtual and augmented reality aren't fun and social enough just yet.
Though VR has come a long way since Fils-Aime's comments, Philippe Lavoue's more recent responses suggest this stance hasn't changed.
It seems likely, then, that Nintendo has indeed looked at the technology and decided it’s not willing to get involved right now.
What we are likely to see, however, is more interesting and inventive peripherals like Nintendo Labo.
Nintendo appears to be more interested in peripherals which keep players grounded in the real world. With its motion controllers, cardboard Labo accessories and amiibo, Nintendo seems like it’s very conscious of keeping players aware that they’re physically playing a game.
It’s engagement over immersion and it’s an approach that seems to be working. We’ve already seen Donkey Konga bongo drums patented and these suggest to us that Nintendo has a lot left to do before it goes down the VR route with this console.
Could it support 4K?
This is one that’s hard to determine. While Sony and Microsoft push at the 4K market, there isn’t really any big reason for Nintendo, the company that staunchly sets itself apart from other hardware producers, to follow suit.
In the same interview where he dismissed VR, Nintendo France General Manager Philippe Lavoué also brushed off 4K saying that the technology has “not been adopted by the majority” and it would, therefore, be too early for Nintendo to jump in. He then asked “what novelty would we bring compared to our competitors?” before adding, “If we do the exact same thing as everyone else, we’re bound to die because we are smaller than them. With the Switch, we offer different uses, adapted to players’ pace of life. Its advantage is being able to fit into your daily life.”
Similarly, Fils-Aime has not had many positive words for 4K. In an interview with The Verge in 2017, he said that targeting 4K resolution was “a strategy that for us, candidly, is a bit too limited.”
Nintendo didn’t enter the HD console market until 2012 when it released the Wii U. This was around four years after Sony and Microsoft and at the point when more than 75% of US households actually had HD displays in their home.
But Miyamoto has said he wished Nintendo had done the jump to HD sooner than this, saying that the display technology became popular around three years before Nintendo expected it to.
With this in mind, perhaps Nintendo will want to be more on the ball with 4K technology. It's expected that by 2020, 50% of US households will have adopted 4K technology and it might be at this point that Nintendo decides to join the 4K fray, rather than waiting until the 75% market saturation of before.
Nintendo Switch 2: what we want to see
Bring mobile and console closer together
Nintendo seems more determined than ever to make its mobile titles work and although it’s picking some fantastic IPs to take onto the platform, each one of them has left us feeling like there’s something missing.
Animal Crossing Pocket Camp in particular seemed like a title with a lot of promise, yet we were left with something that somehow feels rather shallow. One solution to this would, perhaps, be to tie the mobile and Switch platforms more closely together.
Whether through NFC transfers or an optional umbrella Nintendo account, it’d be nice to see time spent in mobile titles awarded in Switch games (and vice versa) for those that have them. We’ve yet to see Animal Crossing launch on the Switch but when (and yes, we mean that 'when' otherwise we’ll be very disappointed) it does launch, it’d be nice to carry on building our relationships on mobile and perhaps be given the opportunity to carry over our in-app purchases like Fornite Mobile allows.
Mario Kart Tour coming out is another good opportunity – victories and rewards unlocked in this mobile game could, perhaps, appear in Mario Kart 8.
Charge less for necessary accessories or sell better bundles
While in theory everything you need to start playing your Nintendo Switch is in the box, there are some sold-separately accessories that still feel pretty essential yet they’re very expensive.
Things like Joy-Con compatible steering wheels are fun, utterly unnecessary and they’re also relatively cheap. Additional Joy-Cons and charging grips, on the other hand, are surprisingly expensive. For Nintendo Switch 2, we’d either like to see things like Joy-Con charging grips come as standard, or see a wider range of bundles which include accessories like these for a more reasonable price.
At least with this console, the charger came as standard unlike the 3DS. Baby steps, we suppose.
- These are the best Nintendo Switch accessories you can get
Keep it iterative
The basic concept of the Nintendo Switch is great as it is and other than some small hardware advancements we actually don't want to see Nintendo to change too much.
What we definitely don’t want is for the current Nintendo Switch library to be unusable. If Nintendo is going to bring out a second generation Switch console, we want it to take the Microsoft backwards compatibility approach with the games. Switch games aren't cheap and we want them to last as long as possible. Given the Nintendo 3DS can play all Nintendo DS games, we know this is something Nintendo isn't against.
A smaller more portable dock with a thinner, lighter tablet
Iteration is good, however, that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t like to see some design changes in the Nintendo Switch 2. While we like the design of the Nintendo Switch at the moment, we think any new hardware should be accompanied by a design that, while not wildly different, reflects the progress that’s been made. Generally this means something smaller and/or lighter.
With the Nintendo Switch 2 tablet, for example, we’d like to see something not smaller but perhaps slightly slimmer with a smaller bezel. When it comes to the console’s docking station we’d also like to see something smaller and more portable, something which third-party manufacturers are already delivering.
More internal memory
We love the fact that the Nintendo Switch has expandable memory but we’d like to not have to rely on it quite as quickly as we’ve had to. If a Nintendo Switch 2 is in the works, we’d like to have an option with more internal memory for those that rely largely on a digital library. Given a large number of Switch games (particularly indie titles) are digital only, this seems especially important.