A new Nintendo Switch is almost here, though it also looks like some of the most exciting rumors about the launch got ahead of themselves. Talks of two new variants of the hybrid console began circulating online after a March 25 Wall Street Journal report alleged that the Japanese gaming giant was launching new Switches at two different price points. This duo was already nicknamed the Switch “Lite” and “XL” or “Pro.”
Weeks later, Bloomberg reported that Nintendo could announce a more affordable Switch “Lite” as early as June during its E3 2019 keynote. But Nintendo also categorically shut down the chatter that a premium Switch version is being developed, and instead said a “modest upgrade” to the original console was in the pipeline. On April 25, Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa finally commented on all the swirling speculations.
During company’s fiscal year earnings call, the executive said there would be no console release during E3. But he also didn’t rule out a release later in the year.
“As a general rule, we’re always working on new hardware and we will announce it when we are able to sell it,” he said. “But we have no plans to announce that at this year’s E3 in June.”
The timing in 2019 is still perfect. Nintendo announced that it anticipates it will sell 17 million more Switches in 2019, which it revised down from a prediction of 20 million in January. That’s a signal that the device is starting to lose its luster.
Still, the console remains one of the world’s most popular gaming platforms with more than 32 million units sold as of Dec. 2018. Strategy Analytics predicts that the Switch was already likely to catapult Nintendo past Sony in terms of console sales in 2019. That prediction did not factor in any new models this year.
Nintendo hasn’t explicitly mentioned the possibility of a cheaper Switch or plans to release an upgrade to the original. But analysts and supply chain reports have painted a picture of what how Nintendo plans to advance what could be its most popular console ever.
New Nintendo Switch Models: Prices
The Switch “Lite” could be substantially cheaper than the original console. Michael Pachter, analyst at Wedbush Securities told GamesIndustry.biz that he anticipates the Switch “Lite” to cost $199, exactly like the 3DS XL.
Unfortunately, rumors that Nintendo was also developing a premium Switch at a higher price point has been mostly debunked. Instead, Nintendo will push out a new version of the original Switch with modest improvements. It’s unclear if the upgrade will be pricer higher than the Switch’s current $299 price tag, whether it will replace the original, or if it will be sold alongside it. Here’s how the pricing could break down:
- The cheapest, Switch “Lite” for $199.
- The first-generation Switch, currently priced at $299. This could see a discount if Nintendo chooses to continue selling it after the upgrade.
- The upgraded second-generation Switch, which could take the first-gen’s place at $299. It could also either be priced higher or take the original’s price tag.
New Nintendo Switch Models: Release Date
Nintendo completely shut down the rumors that the Switch “Lite” would debut at E3 2019. That makes a summer release pretty unlikely. But a pretty recent April 18 report by Japanese newspaper Nikkei suggests that a 2019 release date for a budget Switch variant is still on the table.
Citing anonymous industry sources, Nikkei reports that a cheaper Switch alternative will be released this fall. The original Switch was officially announced by Nintendo on October 2016 and released on March 2017. So a fall release date could coincide with the third anniversary of the original Switch’s announcement.
The timeline for the update to the original Switch is much more vague. Nikkei goes on to mention another, “next-generation” Switch model. But based on the language it’s unclear if it’s referring to the upgrade a completely different console that might come years down the line.
Here’s a snipped of the report translated using Google Translate:
“Next to the compact and inexpensive version, the development of the next-generation model that completely remodels the current model will be postponed. It seems that he has repeated various trials, such as improving operability and image expression, and changing the basic software (OS), but here too, the situation is ‘it is unclear who leads the concept creation.”
New Nintendo Switch Models: Switch “XL” Debunked
The potential for a premium version of the Switch, like what Sony did with the PlayStation 4 Pro, has been shot down. But that upgraded version won’t bring around some long-desired improvements.
Nintendo likely won’t strive for 4K-resolution graphics for its Switch successor. The company’s most iconic titles are all constructed using a cartoony aesthetic that are nowhere near as graphically intensive as the hyper-realistic graphics in, Far Cry 5 or Crysis 3 on other consoles.
An upgraded Switch would likely still entice players with enhanced visuals, a notable sore point on the original console. The Switch can output up to 1080p resolution through a connected dock, but this drops to just 720p when undocked and playing on-the-go using the 6.2-inch touchscreen. Its portability is a key selling point versus the PS4 and Xbox One, but the screen’s low pixel density of 237 dots per inch pales in comparison to what smartphones and tablets can offer, which start at around double that density.
An October 2018 report suggested a Switch follow-up would include higher brightness, better energy efficiency, and a thinner design. It also noted that the console would still likely use LCD screens, rather than the OLED technology found on devices like the iPhone XS that enables deeper blacks.
Redditors on the Nintendo Switch subreddit attempted to bring this concept to life. User u/Yolorenzo posted a mock up of a bezel-less Nintendo Switch, which drew a lot of excitement from fans in the Nintendo Switch subreddit.
New Nintendo Switch Models: “Switch Lite” Features and Specs
On the other end of the spectrum, the still-expected Switch “Lite” might actually do away with its “switch-ability.” Dr. Serkan Toto — the CEO of Kantan Games — predicted that the device will be be fully handheld, like a PlayStation Portable. He is the source cited in a GamesIndustry.biz report that the Switch “Lite” won’t be able to “switch” from a handheld to a console. But not everyone agrees with this assessment.
The Consumer Technology Association’s innovation director Ben Arnold told Inverse that any modern-day console release will have to have TV-supporting features.
“I think even a portable-only device would have some connection to the TV, either an HDMI port or some wireless mirroring capability,” he said. “There are other ways to design products for portability, [for example] through different form factors or internal components. I would expect any new media devices to have a tie in with the TV.”
The so-called Switch “Lite” might come with its Joy Cons built into its body, so it could then transmit games being played on its handheld screen to larger displays. It would essentially be a controller with a built-in screen, which is exactly how the WiiU was designed.
In that scenario, the goal for this device is to essentially take over sinking 3DS sales and give interested consumers an affordable, entry-level console to play some of Nintendo’s most iconic titles.
A change like this will likely mean a smaller screen, slightly worse resolution, and a decrease in overall processing and graphical power.
New Nintendo Switch Models: New Games
There is already a big roster of upcoming Switch games that Nintendo has teased or announced as part of its latest Nintendo Direct event. Many of these titles have been given summer release dates, which could be followed up by a Switch “Lite” launch in the fall. Three of the following titles have received early-to-mid summer release dates:
- Fire Emblem: Three Houses (July 26, 2019)
- Super Mario Maker 2 (June 2019)
- Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled (June 21, 2019)
- Legend of Zelda: Links’ Awakening (2019)
- Pokémon Sword and Shield (2019)
- Animal Crossing (2019)
- Luigi’s Mansion 3 (2019)
Dr. Toto also predicts that the company will take on more third-party titles. That’s something publishers have shied away from in the past because of the Nintendo console’s graphical capabilities, but that could all change in the summer.
“I am expecting a lot more games from third-party developers in 2019, starting in spring,” he said. “At least one new game from the mega-franchises owned by EA, Activision or Take-Two will launch on Switch.”
The Switch successfully kicked off another worldwide Nintendo craze. Nintendo has a shot this fall at an opportunity to keep that momentum going.