Gaming is an unusual hobby in which, as we buy consoles, we always compare them to the past and think of the future. It’s rare that a console is out for a few years before talking turns into speculation of what is coming next, and that’s certainly true of the Switch. Well, according to reports, the Switch’s successor might be just around the corner.
The latest story comes thanks to VGC, and was then corroborated by Eurogamer in a sign that there might be some legs here. It states the “key partners” now have access to development kits for the new console, which is likely to be released in the second half of 2024 (a release date chosen to ensure that there is ample stock on day one to avoid the shortages that affected the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S).
Details are limited and closely guarded, but sources have indicated that the next-gen console would be able to be used in portable mode, akin to the Switch. It has been suggested that the console could launch with an LCD screen, in order to bring down costs, considering the increased storage needed for higher fidelity games. It is said that the new console will accept physical games via a cartridge slot, but any backwards compatibility support remains unclear. Nintendo previously said that it wants to convert as many of the Switch’s userbase as possible to its next system, although third-party publishers have expressed concern about suggestions there might be legacy support for Switch games.
The question is whether this new console will ride high, like the Wii or the Switch, or whether the momentum will ebb away as it did with the Wii U
Tokyo-based industry consultant Dr Serkan Toto said: “I would generally say that looking at Nintendo’s financials, it seems clear that it’s time for a new piece of hardware in 2024. Hardware is already projected to fall 16.5% year-on-year in the current fiscal, while the minus for software is expected to hit 15.9%. The only way to stop these losses from totally ballooning next fiscal is a new device, and the second half of 2024 sounds like a realistic release window to me.”
These views were echoed by Christopher Dring, ReedPop’s head of games B2B: “The original Switch released over three years after PS4 and Xbox One, which proved to be an effective move for Nintendo. A second-half 2024 release for Switch 2 would be nearly four years after PS5 and Xbox Series X and S, so we would see a similar ‘mid-cycle’ launch for Nintendo. I’d argue that unlike 2017, Microsoft and Sony’s consoles still feel relatively new at the moment, partially due to component shortages slowing the roll-out in the first two years, and software delays meaning we’ve not seen too many titles take full advantage of either PS5 or Xbox Series X. So it’s to be seen whether Nintendo will enjoy the same benefit.”
Rumours about the Switch’s end have been circulating for a long time. This is in part because it is nearing the end of the usual seven-year console lifecycle (it launched in 2017), and excusing some big-hitters such as Tears of the Kingdom, there is a general sense that the major titles and releases are drying up. Yet, come each Nintendo Direct, the company has also pulled one major surprise out of the bag (with Super Mario Wonder the most recent).
The big question is, of course, what the next Switch could even be? Nintendo has hit upon a real winning formula, and sold more than 125m units through a mixture of portability, major titles and casual play – clearly they have something in the bag, but it’s hard to conceive of what it could be. Dring warned that Nintendo’s biggest competitor is itself, because it is already offering essential experiences in terms of Mario Kart, Smash Bros. and arguably even Zelda on the Switch. It needs an engaging new console and a strong line-up of games to encourage players to upgrade, something that has always been a challenge in previous generations. In the case of a console as popular as the Switch, that challenge is likely to be much greater.
It should be noted that this report is based on rumours, but they’re by far the most credible ones we’ve seen in a while. The Switch can’t go on forever, and something new will come along, because it always does. The question is whether this new console will ride high, like the Wii or the Switch, or whether the momentum will ebb away as it did with the Wii U. All I know for certain is that Nintendo has a tough act to follow whenever the new Switch comes.