Nintendo says it won’t be releasing another new version of the Switch this year. “Regarding Nintendo Switch, we believe that 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 during 2020.”
The announcement counters multiple reports from the past 12 months that suggested Nintendo was looking into a more powerful Switch model with an improved OS, image rendering, and usability functions. A Nikkei report from April suggested that this “enhanced” version of the system was still in the early planning stages, though, and didn’t even have anyone assigned to head its development at the time.
Will the Switch fall behind?
The hardware inside the Nvidia Tegra-based Switch is distinctly less powerful than the Xbox One or PS4, despite launching years later than Sony’s and Microsoft’s larger TV-based consoles. That power gap is even more pronounced 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 hasn’t seemed to hurt the Switch’s market performance. A combination of must-have first-party titles, a sleek portable form factor, and a flood of indie darlings has helped make the Switch one of the fastest-selling pieces of hardware in industry history. And some big-name publishers have responded to that sales success with herculean efforts to port high-end games like Doom (2016) and The Witcher to the underpowered system, with mixed results.
Ports of high-end console games like that could get less likely on the Switch as time goes on and the system’s hardware power continues to fall behind the new “next generation.” Then again, Microsoft has already said that all its Xbox Series X games will also be playable on original 2013 Xbox One hardware for at least the next year or two. Perhaps developers will continue to also see the Switch as a low-end, portable option for graphically scaled-down versions of their big-budget hits going forward.
And there’s nothing to say Nintendo isn’t planning for a new Switch model for some point after 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 follow-up for 2023.
For this year, though, it’s clear Nintendo will be sticking with the portable Switch Lite and the dockable standard Switch model, which recently received redesigned internals to improve battery life.