Nintendo enthusiasts have been buzzing about the possibility of a 4K Switch successor for more than a year, and the elusive console has yet to arrive on store shelves — or even be confirmed. News about the so-called Switch Pro or Switch 2 has waned in the wake of the Nintendo Switch OLED’s release in October, but new leaks have reignited interest. Specifically, these supposed leaks indicate that the new console will use deep learning artificial intelligence to deliver higher-fidelity graphics more efficiently. While some analysts believe these rumors are accurate, their best estimates indicate the console won’t be here anytime soon.
Nintendo remains predictably quiet on all matters pertaining to rumors and speculation, so Inverse reached out to some of the games industry’s top-tier analysts in an attempt to analyze the situation. What we’ve been able to ascertain is equal parts exciting and disappointing for those eager to invest in a top-tier Switch overhaul.
Did NVIDIA just leak a DLSS-powered Switch?
Our story begins on February 26 when reports suggested the Switch chipset makers at NVIDIA had been compromised by a major cyberattack. Allegedly, the hack included access to GPU driver code, firmware files, and a bypass for the Hash Rate Limiter feature that prevents the company’s graphics cards from being used to mine cryptocurrency.
The files most relevant to Nintendo were showcased by TechPowerUp, and they include data strings tied to NVIDIA’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) AI technology designed to reconstruct modest-resolution assets into stunning 4K experiences. While most of the data appeared innocuous, Nintendo insiders like NWPlayer123 noticed DLSS setups for devices referred to as “nvn” and “nvn2.” The nvn2 device in particular is said to be based on NVIDIA’s ray-tracing Ampere class while also being capable of supporting DLSS 2.2. Data-mines of Nintendo’s current Switch confirm the modern hardware uses the codename “nvn,” so what exactly does “nvn2” refer to?
While short of an outright confirmation, Japanese games industry expert and Kantan Games CEO Dr. Serkan Toto calls the leaked information “a pretty strong indicator there is finally something cooking.” That said, given previous murky reporting about the Switch Pro, he reminds fans that “even though the leak is very interesting, I would manage my expectations, especially since the chip shortage will likely continue for a long time.”
To push that subject even further, Omdia Principal Media and Entertainment analyst Matthew Bailey shrugged off hopes these leaks might be tied to an imminent Switch Pro. “It is likely that, should these leaks prove real, we are looking at specs for Nintendo’s next-generation console, which we believe will keep the same form factor as the Switch and make backward compatibility a key feature,” Bailey says while adding, “I doubt that we will see another SKU refresh of the original Switch this late into its lifecycle.”
Why the Switch needs DLSS
Even though the leaks themselves left our cited analysts feeling a bit unsure about their relevance to Nintendo’s future, both experts agree the prospect of a DLSS-infused Switch remains exciting.
“DLSS actually produces impressive results, and five years into its lifecycle, we all know the Switch could really use an upgrade in the graphics department now,” Toto says. Bailey concurs, saying, “The next-gen Switch will certainly not be able to compete with the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X in terms of horsepower or graphics, but DLSS could enable it to compete more effectively as a home console against Sony and Microsoft’s machines.”
“The original Switch, which maxes out at 1080p when docked, is starting to show its age now,” Bailey continues. “DLSS technology could enable it to hit resolutions that will look sharp on users’ 4K TVs while reserving more overhead for making sure games run at enjoyable framerates.”
These criticisms arrive at a time when even a first-party Nintendo release like Pokémon Legends: Arceus, was panned for its myriad graphical glitches and poor framerate performance on current Switch models. If DLSS were available today, the game’s graphics could look sharper while maintaining greater framerates. Until the hardware arrives to support these features, though, the Switch remains hobbled by an aging chipset.
When will Nintendo release a new Switch?
As necessary as the technical advancements brought by DLSS may be, our cited analysts also agree it will take quite some time before these fantasies become reality — if at all.
“I think that 2022 is the last year we can expect a Switch Pro,” Toto predicts. “If it doesn't appear in 2022, Nintendo very likely will move to a Switch 2, which I would expect in 2024 at the earliest.” Bailey seconded the 2024 release window, adding that his company has the hardware forecasted to arrive in the first quarter of that year.
Officially speaking, Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa indicated during a 2022 earnings call that he believes the Switch is only about halfway through its expected lifecycle. Should that truly be the case, Toto cautions that fans may not see an upgraded Switch until as late as 2027. In short, the future of the next Switch remains unclear, but leaks suggest moves are being made to support it behind the scenes.
Just how long will it take for those behind-the-scenes moves to put a more powerful console in the hands of gamers? Something may be cooking, but this recipe will take a very, very long time.