Ever since the Nintendo Switch first launched in 2017, fans have been obsessed with what the next version of the console will be, whether it’s the Switch 2, New Nintendo Switch, Switch Pro – or something else entirely.
Of course, the Switch has already been updated several times already. We’ve had a slightly tweaked version of the original with improved battery life, but also the portable-only Switch Lite and more recently the Switch (OLED) with an upgraded display.
The OLED version is the console that many thought would be a 4K-capable Switch Pro, but it wasn’t to be. That doesn’t mean that Nintendo doesn’t have a bigger upgrade in the works though, and there are already reports that another Switch is on the way. Here’s what we know so far – and our hopes for the features Nintendo might pack in, including a new Qualcomm chip that could unlock 5G Switch gaming.
When will the Nintendo Switch 2 be released?
Nintendo Switch 2 rumours have been popping up persistently since the original Switch first launched in 2017, which makes it hard to put too much stock in any that tout specific dates.
The Switch Lite launched in September 2019, with the Switch (OLED) following in October 2021, so another two year gap is plausible enough – which would give us a new console in autumn 2023.
An upgrade could come sooner than that though. In the wake of the announcement of the OLED upgrade, Tokyo-based games industry analyst Serkan Toto told Bloomberg that it’s possible Nintendo is already hard at work on a “real upgrade” that could launch together with, or shortly following, Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 – itself set to launch in May this year.
“This new Switch looks more like an interim model than a real upgrade to me,” said Tokyo-based analyst Serkan Toto. “This might just be a dummy upgrade until Breath of the Wild 2 is ready and the component shortage is over next year.”
More evidence of that comes from an assessment of the tech experts at Digital Foundry. Talking about one of the game’s trailers, Digital Foundry’s technology editor Richard Leadbitter noted that “The leap in image quality compared to the first title is stark,” prompting video producer Alex Battaglia to argue that this footage might not be from a Switch at all:
“I honestly don’t think it is [Switch footage]. We’ve seen volumetric clouds very rarely on Switch, and these don’t break down super obviously. Camera cuts also have perfect anti-aliasing, which is even rare for an Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 game. It could be the next Switch,” Battaglia argued.
“I generally think that since they are delaying it now, this is gonna be the equivalent of what we saw with Breath of the Wild: it launches on the old and also on the new, and we see the nice benefits of the new regarding Switch Pro, Switch 2, Switch EX whatever.”
To throw some cold water on that fire, Bloomberg reported in January 2023 that Nintendo is increasing production of the Switch ahead of the next Zelda’s release. It’s possible that could include plans for new hardware, but more likely that it means bigger shipments of existing tech – not the move you’d expect the company to make if it was about to issue a surprise release of an upgraded model.
What we do know is that the Switch 2 or Pro won’t launch before the next Zelda game. Japanese finance site Nikkei reports that Nintendo won’t release new hardware this financial year, which means no new Switch console until March 2023 at the earliest.
Something is almost certainly on the way though – even the UK government accidentally teased it. A document from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) relating to the ongoing acquisition of publisher Activision by Microsoft includes a brief note on Nintendo Switch Online, with a curious line that the service “is only available on the Nintendo Switch device and [redacted].”
That wording indicates that the Switch Lite and OLED fall under ‘Switch device’, suggesting that whatever was redacted is a meaningful next step console – and one that’s far enough along in development that Nintendo had to disclose it as part of the CMA’s assessment.
As for Nintendo’s official word on the launch of the Switch’s successor? It’s launching in ’20XX’. So that’s only a 77-year window then. That comes from an investor presentation given in late 2021 – but does at least confirm that Nintendo does have more hardware on the way, in case you weren’t sure.
How much will the new Nintendo Switch cost?
While we don’t know for sure, it’s most likely that the Switch 2 or Pro would see a price increase from the existing Switch models.
The regular model is priced at £259/$299, while the OLED version is £309/$349. If an upgrade comes with features like 4K support or more powerful graphics, expect it to cost more than either.
What will the 4K Switch be called?
One obvious question is what the next Switch will be. Many expected the Switch (OLED) to be called the Switch Pro, and it’s still possible that Nintendo could use this name, or something similar, to indicate that the new model is more powerful, but still a part of the same console generation. Like the Switch (OLED), it could also simply nod directly to its key new spec and go by the name Switch 4K.
A more likely name harks back to the company’s previous naming convention: the New Nintendo Switch. The company has used the ‘New’ branding on a few of its 3DS upgrades, so could repeat the trick here.
If instead Nintendo sees this as a whole new generation, it could of course simply be called the Switch 2. Another classic Nintendo move might be to call it the Super Nintendo Switch, but that feels a little unlikely to us.
Finally, with Nintendo’s past, it’s just as likely that the company will drop the Switch name entirely and go for something totally new. The SNES and the Wii U are the only two home consoles that have borrowed their predecessors’ names, and only one of those worked out. We might not be able to predict the name of Nintendo’s next console at all.
What will the Switch Pro’s specs be?
While there haven’t been many direct leaks or rumours about the next Switch’s specs since the OLED model was announced, we still have some idea what might be on the way. That’s because so many of the leaks from before that launch pointed to a very different device to what was revealed – suggesting that perhaps some of those leaks were in fact for the next upcoming console.
Two previous Bloomberg reports claim that Nintendo “has looked into including more computing power and 4K high-definition graphics,” and quote several anonymous third-party game developers who claim that “Nintendo has asked them to make their games 4K-ready.”
These predictions were reiterated in Bloomberg’s September 2021 report, which claims that at least 11 game companies “ranging from large publishers to small studios” – including Zynga – already have 4K Switch dev kits, which had apparently already been handed out by the time the OLED model was announced.
Both Zynga and Nintendo were quick to deny the report, the latter tweeting that “we have no plans for any new model other than Nintendo Switch – OLED Model.”
That report (and denial) came before the OLED model hit store shelves though, so it’s only natural that Nintendo would want to downplay any reports into future consoles, as it wouldn’t want to disrupt sales of that hardware, so take any official statement here with a firm pinch of salt.
In fact, the Switch OLED itself contains some evidence that Nintendo might be working on 4K support – or rather, the dock does. Twitter user KawlunDram pointed out that the new dock contains a Realtek chip that’s specced for 4K support, and that it ships with an HDMI 2.0 cable that also supports 4K – both changes from the original Switch.
Now, that doesn’t mean that the Switch OLED is about to get a firmware update for 4K support. After all, while the Nvidia Tegra X1 chip inside technically supports 4K@60fps, in practice it’s not powerful enough to deliver that on many demanding Switch games.
Instead, this looks like good evidence that Nintendo is readying its supply chain for 4K hardware – and, indeed, further reason for some to speculate that the OLED model was originally intended to support 4K, but that plans changed.
It’s worth clarifying that if 4K is included, it’s expected to only be for the console’s TV output – with the handheld display likely to either remain at 720p, or get a slight upgrade to 1080p.
An EDN report claims that Nintendo was looking to adopt a Mini LED panel supplied by Taiwanese manufacturer Innolux, which would help drive better image quality and improved battery life – no doubt both priorities for Nintendo’s upgraded Switch.
The 4K support could be powered by a new Nvidia chip that will use the firm’s DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling) tech, which uses machine learning to render higher resolution images more efficiently. This will require support to be enabled within games though, so don’t expect older Switch titles to support 4K output unless devs take the time to patch it in.
There’s evidence of this in leaks from Nvidia code which point to an API named ‘nvn2’ – which is significant because the equivalent for the Switch was named, you guessed it, ‘NVN’.
NVIDIA leaks have “nvn2”, which seems to be the graphics api for the Switch Pro, based on Ampere with ray tracing support and DLSS 2.2 pic.twitter.com/k6nEr31CcY
— Nikki™ 🌹 (@NWPlayer123) March 1, 2022
The code points to support for Nvidia’s Ampere GPU architecture, which supports DLSS – along with ray-tracing, though this latter feels less likely to make it into Nintendo’s hardware.
The leak also references T234 – aka Tegra234, the code for Nvidia’s Orin System-on-Chip – and T239 – purported to be a custom version of that chip, previously rumoured to be in the works for the Switch Pro. T239 has popped up again since in an email from an Nvidia employee, spotted by a Redditor. It hints that it might be an 8-core chip, but doesn’t say much more – and certainly doesn’t confirm a link to the next Switch console.
Nintendo is looking at next-gen designs too. As picked up by Polygon, Nintendo filed for an interesting Joy-Con-related patent in Japan, and it looks like it would tackle a pressure point of the current Switch. That pressure point is comfort over long periods in handheld mode, and hardcore Switch gamers will know what we’re talking about here.
Nintendo seems to be aware of the issue, and is considering fixing it with upgraded, bendy Joy-Cons. As seen in the below image from the patent, the new top third of each Joy-Con can bend, which should improve ergonomics over long periods of play. Of course, this isn’t confirmation that these updated Joy-Cons will ever hit the market, but it’s good to see Nintendo actively working on improvements.
What we want to see from the Nintendo Switch 2
There may not be much information online about the Nintendo Switch 2, but that hasn’t stopped us from thinking about what we’d want to see from the next-gen console. After a few years with the first-gen console, and our gripes from reviewing the Switch (OLED), here are the biggest changes that we’d like to see in the Nintendo Switch 2.
Higher resolution display & 4K output
One of the biggest drawbacks of the Nintendo Switch is the 720p display; sure, the console can output in full 1080p HD when connected to a TV, but in a day and age where there are 4K smartphones on the market, surely Nintendo could’ve bumped the screen up to at least 1080p?
While the Switch (OLED) sticks with a 720p display and 1080p docked output, we’d love for the Nintendo Switch 2 to upgrade to a 1080p display and 4K TV output to really showcase how amazing Switch games like Zelda: BotW and Super Mario Odyssey look.
Then again, there is a balance between battery life and display quality, which leads us to our next point…
Better battery life
The battery life on the Nintendo Switch isn’t bad by any means, especially when compared to gaming laptops, but it could always be better. There’s a plethora of great Nintendo Switch power banks and handy accessories that’ll extend the battery life of the console, but these come at a cost; they’re heavy and bulky, and if they don’t attach directly to the console, it’s another accessory to carry around.
2019 brought a mildly updated version of the Switch with small improvements to battery life, but the OLED upgrade didn’t deliver any further improvements. We’d like to see something more substantial in the Switch Pro. Are we being too greedy by asking for 10 hours of play on a single charge? We don’t think so.
Oh, and we’d love to see the introduction of fast-charge technology to speed up the recharge time and allow forgetful gamers to give the console a quick top-up before heading out.
Larger on-device storage
The Nintendo Switch comes with 32GB of built-in storage, which went up to 64GB on the OLED model, both expandable via microSD card. That’s enough for a few Switch games, but is far from the capacities offered by the PS5 and Xbox Series X.
We’d love to see more storage available on the Switch 2 – maybe not as much as 1TB, but 128 or even 256GB isn’t unreasonable – again, these figures are pretty standard on phones now. This would allow gamers to store a large library of games without having to invest in a microSD card, which is essentially required with the first-gen Switch.
With storage prices dropping every day, we don’t see this as much of an ask, especially by the time the console appears in a couple years’ time.
As well as larger storage, we’d like to see a big improvement in terms of graphical output. The main drawback of the Nintendo Switch is that it isn’t powerful enough to handle some of the biggest, best games available – and those that do make it to the console usually appear later than on other platforms. We imagine this in part due to the time it takes to properly optimise the game for the relatively low-powered console.
Every Switch model on the market is powered by the 5-year-old Nvidia Tegra X1, and mobile processing has come on a long way since that chip was developed. It’s about time Nintendo packed more powerful silicon into the Switch Pro.
A bump in graphical power would bring more high-end games to the console, speed up Switch releases and generally make the games look better, making it more attractive to a larger audience. Who doesn’t want that?
One feature we didn’t know we needed until it was offered is 5G support. Chipset manufacturer Qualcomm has revealed a chip called the Snapdragon G3x Gen 1, which powers the 5G, Android-based handheld game console the Razer Edge, which can play games locally or stream them from the cloud.
The G3x – or a future generation of the chip – could feasibly power the Switch, though it’s certainly a long shot. Still, if it did, along with the core processing potential it would also unlock 5G networking.
Imagine a Switch 2 that you could use to play online or download new games from anywhere, without having to worry about connecting to a Wi-Fi network. It would be a game-changer for the Switch as a portable platform, and massively improve its position for online gaming.
Then again, online gameplay and networking has never been Nintendo’s strong suit, so this may really be a pipe dream…