The Switch Lite arrived in 2019. What comes next?
The Nintendo Switch has been a runaway success, especially after a 2020 that had us all shut in at home playing Animal Crossing. The question now is… what comes next? Signs point to a new, 7-inch OLED model with possible 4K gaming when docked coming later this year. It may also have a brand-new Nvidia processor that’s capable of 4K Nintendo gaming for the first time.
Does that mean a Switch 2 is coming later this year? It sure seems like it. Maybe it’ll be called the Switch 2. Or a Switch Pro. New Nintendo Switch. Super Nintendo Switch. Super Nintendo Switch XL. Call it whatever you want, but it’s time for new Nintendo hardware to emerge. It’s looking increasingly likely that that long-rumored “Switch Pro” could happen in 2021.
The Nintendo Switch debuted four years ago; the less expensive Switch Lite arrived two years ago. Meanwhile, the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 have already arrived: Sony and Microsoft are in next-gen console land. A recent Nintendo rundown of upcoming Switch games had no news on new Switch hardware and felt light on big-name new games.
Nintendo Switch 2: What we want to see
Nintendo, as always, is coy on details. A Polygon interview with Nintendo of America President Doug Bowser last December suggested the Switch was midway in its console cycle, and that “existing form factors” would be honored. But the reports of new hardware are mounting. A Bloomberg report from September said Nintendo may already be looking to developers to upgrade their games to 4K for an eventual hardware refresh. More recent reports go into even more detail on the Nvidia hardware that could be inside.
The Nintendo Switch has already sold more systems than the Nintendo 3DS and may eventually catch up to the Wii. A new Switch might be more expensive but could live alongside existing Switch models. Of course, if a new Switch arrives, expect some major games to debut alongside it.
When asked about future plans, Nintendo declined to comment.
Nintendo’s 3DS lineup continued to evolve and the Switch might do the same.
Very likely: Larger OLED display, improved TV gaming when docked
A March Bloomberg report says the updated Switch coming this year will have a 7-inch 720p Samsung OLED. The existing Switch and Switch Lite have 720p displays, but they’re 6.2- and 5.5-inch LCD panels. Reports of a larger Switch display go back to last year, at least, but reports then pointed to different display manufacturers.
That’s not a huge screen size increase, but maybe it will come with a case redesign to be more compact. Then again, if a new Switch changes the size of its body, it could be a problem when connecting with older Switch accessories.
4K game resolution on a TV — mentioned in more detail in a second Bloomberg report emphasizing a new Nvidia chip — feels overdue, but would also mean a new wave of games that are 4K-optimized. If so, how would those games play on a 720p screen on the go, and how would those games feel on older Switches?
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Previous Nintendo 3DS updates offer an idea of how the Switch could incrementally evolve
Even though the original Nintendo Switch arrived in 2017, there have been some evolutions since then. The more affordable, handheld-only Switch Lite arrived last fall, and has been the Switch that’s been the easiest to find in stock online. The dockable original Switch got a significant battery life boost around that time, too.
While Nintendo’s TV-connected consoles usually haven’t gotten many updates after launch, Nintendo handhelds tend to get evolutions every couple of years. The Nintendo 3DS (early 2011) was followed by the larger-screened 3DS XL (mid-2012), the Nintendo 2DS (2013), New Nintendo 3DS and New Nintendo 3DS XL (late 2014-early 2015), and New Nintendo 2DS XL (2017).
On that timeline, getting another Switch update would happen… this year. Will that happen? Well, 2017 was a long time ago, and the Switch Lite in 2019 was basically a cosmetic upgrade (and feature reduction).
More on game consoles
The Switch Lite (top) and original Switch (bottom). There’s room for improvement.
Small updates could still offer a lot of upside
I could dream all day of how a brand-new Switch 2 could push modular gaming into uncharted territory, but the Switch is in major success mode now and it seems extremely unlikely that Nintendo would shake that up. Tweaking the hardware formula, however, with some extra perks in a shiny new model seems like a very likely move.
The Switch is a system that gets a lot of wear and tear: Joy-Cons break, backs crack, they take dings and get tossed around by accident. Moving to a new version every few years isn’t a crazy idea for a serious player.
We’re also at the point where console ports of games are hitting maybe a bit of a wall with current Switch hardware. The PS5 and Xbox Series X run rings around the Switch in terms of performance. Big deal, you might think: Except, well, the Switch really should at least allow for 4K games at this point. Or some improved graphics and performance for games that get ported over. It would help for cross-platform games, which seem to be happening at an increasing pace.
Yes, you can fix your cracked Nintendo Switch
My wish listAn XL version with a larger OLED screen (and 1080p)
I admit, I squint at the Switch screen a lot, especially the smaller Switch Lite. The 3DS went bigger-screen, and it could be an easy move to make an XL Switch that reduces the large bezels and expands the screen across the body. Maybe 7 inches, or 7.5. Make the display better and brighter, allow it to show the better 1080p resolution you can get on the docked Switch games.
The display could also shift to OLED. That would certainly help with display clarity and quality. The existing Switch displays are OK, but not great.
An improved processor
The older Nvidia Tegra processor on the Switch can handle games just fine, but that venting fan on top shows it has to chug a little more than I’m comfortable with. Besides not requiring a venting fan (maybe), an improved Switch processor could also aim to boost handheld performance up to what the docked Switch can do. Four years later, of course I’d expect a new processor.
4K when docked
If there’s a new processor onboard, it should help push 4K games to a TV when docked. That would help games look prettier, but it would also allow better looking split-screen multiplayer. I do a lot of that on the Switch right now, and I’d love to see games use more of my TV real estate.
If the onboard processor can handle graphics better, maybe that also means that the weird, bulky Switch dock can be shrunk down, too. I’d prefer an official Nintendo unit that’s really compact and easier to pack and travel with. There are third-party options already, but I’m hoping the entire official package gets more elegant.
I still save a pair of wired 3.5mm headphones somewhere near my bedside table to plug into the Switch. It’s absurd. Everything else works with Bluetooth headsets, but not the Switch. Nintendo’s controllers are wireless. Come on, introduce Bluetooth audio.
Fix the kickstand
The dockable Switch can also be a great little prop-up arcade machine for two players. I love that idea. The kickstand on the Switch doesn’t make that idea work very well, though. I need to balance it just right, or the Switch tips over (not a great idea with kids). Maybe a revised, smaller Switch dock could double as that prop-up stand.
Switch Lite colors are nice. There should be more.
Include lots of colors (like the Switch Lite)
Just saying that colorful Switches are fun and the original Switch is only available in black.
Sturdier Joy-Cons (with D-pads and analog triggers)
Because the Joy-Con slots into Labo and Ring Fit Adventure and other accessories, I’m not sure it makes sense to change the general form of the controllers. But there really needs to be an upgrade. My son, who’s gotten into Fortnite on the Xbox, comments on the Switch controls not feeling good enough. Nintendo has its Pro controller, but even that lacks analog triggers.
A new version of Joy-Cons are overdue. I’d love to see a less creaky revision that doesn’t feel so worn down over time. I’d like improved vibration with more accurate haptics, and what would really be nice is a true analog set of trigger buttons for games that could take advantage of them.
And D-pads. The Switch Lite changed the left-side buttons to introduce a real, classic Nintendo-style D-pad that helps make games like NES Classics or Tetris 99 feel more natural. Joy-Con controllers on the original Switch don’t have D-pads, but it would be great if one did.
Would it arrive by the holidays, or sooner?
Four and a half years seems like a perfect time for an upgraded Switch to emerge. It doesn’t need to be a whole new system, but it could be wholly improved. With the success Nintendo’s already seen from the Switch, it makes a lot of sense. It might even justify a higher price (as reports have suggested).
But if previous Nintendo hardware upgrades are an indicator, the changes might not be big enough to inspire buying a new one. Existing Switch owners could be just fine with what they already have, unless you feel like waiting it out, or treating yourself to an upgrade when the time comes. Much like PlayStation and Xbox mid-lifespan console upgrades (the PS4 Pro, or the Xbox One X), they’re good but not necessary.
For the true expert opinion, however, I turned to my 8-year-old. He says, “Take two little controllers, pull them apart and pull up a tiny screen. It’s a Switch you can fit in your pocket.” I don’t know if a Switch Micro is happening anytime soon, but that’s what he wants. It’s not a terrible idea.
Nintendo Switch Pro: Why 4K and a large OLED is a big…