While talk of an upgraded Switch has persisted for well over a year, this iteration on the popular hybrid console was hardly what the masses expected. The rumors about a 7-inch OLED display proved accurate, but the version that lands on shelves this fall won’t have any of the 4K-focused improvements Bloomberg and other mainstream outlets previously reported from insiders.
With the OLED Model officially launching this October, one question remains: Does the 4K-centric Switch Pro that hardcore gamers dreamed of still exist? If it does, does the debut of the OLED Model push its debut a bit further back than reporters initially imagined?
Industry analysts offer a somewhat bleak outlook.
To shed some light on this topic and a few others, Inverse spoke to two industry analysts with expertise in the field: Kantan Games CEO and Japanese games industry aficionado Dr. Serkan Toto, and Omdia Senior Analyst of Marketing and Games Matthew Bailey. Both prognosticators diverged on many subjects but agreed the wait for yet another Switch hardware revision could be a somewhat long one.
How surprising was the Nintendo Switch OLED Model announcement?
It goes without saying that the gaming populace was more than a little intrigued by Nintendo’s modest feature set for the OLED Switch, and, even given his expertise, Toto remains equally perplexed. “The announcement came as a surprise to pretty much everybody interested in games,” Toto tells Inverse via Twitter. “At the very least, I would have expected 4K support. This version is awesome for handheld fans, but people like me who almost always play on the TV don't see too many reasons to upgrade.”
Over at Omdia, however, Bailey feels the writing on the wall was a bit clearer for those who paid closer attention to Nintendo instead of the rumor mill.
“There never was a compelling business case for Nintendo to launch the ‘pro’ device most people were expecting,” he suggests. “Indeed, the Switch is already enjoying strong momentum, and releasing a more powerful version of the Switch would risk splitting the user base and complicating the development process.” The Switch has sold nearly 90 million units as of May of this year, making it the seventh highest-selling console of all time with more years ahead. That would be a massive base to split across SKUs.
“It makes sense for Nintendo to release a minor, fully backward compatible upgrade to the existing Switch hardware,” Bailey concludes. “The new OLED model fulfills this brief and is in line with what Omdia was expecting.”
Is there still a 4K version of the Switch?
In a similar way, Toto and Bailey also diverge when it comes to speculating the future of a 4K-capable version of the current Switch.
Toto sees a probable avenue for iteration from the company that released six versions of its 3DS portable between 2011 and 2017. “Judging from how Nintendo management has been communicating, they are dead set on prolonging the lifecycle of the Switch as much as possible,” Toto says. “So I believe we will see a stronger upgrade than this one along the line before Nintendo releases an all-new console.” That new console, Toto thinks, will be completely separate from the Switch we know and could be “several years” away.
Contrary to Serkan’s more bullish theories about a 4K Switch, Bailey believes “ it’s more likely that the upgrades designed to increase performance and graphical fidelity will be part of Nintendo’s next-generation console.” This implies that the so-called Switch Pro might be more of a Switch 2.
When can we expect the next big hardware release from Nintendo?
It’s almost impossible to know precisely when Nintendo’s next big leap in hardware prowess will finally arrive, but neither analyst Inverse spoke to shied away from discussing the subject.
Toto’s more iterative mindset places a release date somewhere closer on the calendar, but Omdia projects that “given the Q4 2021 release date for the OLED Switch, it’s unlikely that any next-generation console or significant upgrade to the Switch would come before 2023.” The main reason for that is the ongoing strength of Nintendo Switch sales.
“The Switch, as it stands, continues to be a strong seller and we expect this to continue further into the Switch’s lifecycle,” he says. “A six-year gap between generations would be about right looking at Nintendo’s previous approach with the Wii, which enjoyed similar levels of success to the Switch.” The Wii was released in 2006 and was replaced by the Wii U in 2012.
In other words, it appears even some of the most qualified Nintendo analysts disagree about what the company might do next. If you’re looking for a major rework to overhaul the Switch you purchased at launch, it may be a while before those improvements take shape.
The Nintendo Switch OLED Model will be released on October 8, 2021.