One small detail about the new Switch should really scare Sony and Microsoft

With the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 in town, Nintendo knows it has some catching up to do in terms of graphics. That may happen in an ingenious way.

SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

At long last the time draws near: Nintendo is getting ready to unveil an updated version of its Switch console. The new Switch will be made with a larger Samsung-made OLED display for playing in handheld mode, according to a report from Bloomberg.

The news will come as no surprise to those who, like us, have been waiting on an updated version of the Switch since rumors of it first began making the rounds in August of last year. At that point, though, we knew very little about Nintendo’s actual plans, save for the fact that there were, indeed, plans.

This week’s report clarifies that Samsung will produce a 7-inch, 720p OLED panel for the Switch Pro (or whatever Nintendo decides to call it). Samsung could start production as early as June, sources say, with an initial monthly target of just about a million units. The displays could start shipping to assemblers around July.

A new take on the dock? — The current Switch can’t handle much in the way of high-end graphics performance, leaving ray tracing, 4K output, and complex environments on the cutting room floor for developers — but the new console could change that in one intriguing way.

If you believe the rumors, the updated Switch will also include 4K output when connected to a TV, which could point to a dock with a dedicated GPU and more processing power. If Nintendo trades resolution for performance when playing handheld, it could squeeze more detailed graphics out of a lower-powered system and lower-resolution display. By pairing that system with a GPU when docked, it's possible a new Switch could counter the PS5 and Series X in a manner that gives users the best of both worlds. From Bloomberg:

The latest model will also come with 4K ultra-high definition graphics when paired with TVs, they said. That could intensify a longstanding complaint of developers, who have struggled with the difference in resolution between handheld and TV modes and now face a bigger gap between the two.

An updated Switch could be just the push Nintendo needs to keep sales of its four-year-old console high through 2021. The OLED screen would likely boost the console’s handheld battery life, too. But as long-time Nintendo fans know, the company doesn’t need high-def displays to do what it does best.

The console wars are on — Nintendo’s Switch sold exceptionally well in 2020, with the console selling more than 11.5 million units during the year’s fourth quarter alone. The console is now on track to outsell the Game Boy Advance, one of Nintendo’s most popular devices ever.

The only thing holding Sony and Microsoft back from dominating the market, really, is a severe supply shortage. Nintendo knows it needs to step up its game if it wants to have any chance at carrying its winning streak through 2021.

Does Nintendo need more power? — Nintendo has never been about top-notch graphics. The company has always focused on novel game-playing methods and a tried-and-true lineup of exclusives over graphics supremacy.

But the end of 2020 brought in some steep competition for Nintendo. Microsoft released the Xbox Series X and Series S, along with subscription service Game Pass, and Sony unleashed the powerhouse PlayStation 5 not long after. Both consoles put the Switch's increasingly dated performance center stage in the ongoing battle for eyes and time. Maybe Nintendo will level the playing field without deviating from what made the Switch popular in the first place.

And just one more thing: re-releasing the Switch could be just the opportunity Nintendo needs to update its Joy-Con controllers. Let’s have that conversation, Nintendo.