Let’s get the basic details out of the way first… the long rumored “hardware refresh” of the Switch was announced today (and by announced, I mean basically showed up on Nintendo’s site). It’s an upgrade of the the screen to use OLED technology, which will get you more vibrant colors. Curiously, the battery life isn’t changed from the last revision that put in a more efficient battery, and the actual time available depends on the game you’re playing. The speakers have also been improved to provide “enhanced audio,” but it’s not really clear what that means. Hopefully what that means is that you can actually hear sound from the system without using the dock or headphones now.
The screen size has been bumped from 6.2 inches up to 7 inches (mostly by removing the bezel), and the internal storage has been doubled up to 64gb. You’re still gonna want a really nice memory card, but that internal storage means more screen shots, saves, and video captures. The unit itself is also slightly wider, which means that some accessories, like the cardboard LABO stuff (remember that stuff… Nintendo clearly doesn’t) may not work with the new systems.
Probably the coolest new feature has nothing to do with the actual stuff to run games, though. It’s the full-width kickstand that is vastly better than the “are you kidding me with this thing” stand that’s currently on the Switch. The OLED Switch will be available in October, and would be a decent option for anyone looking to get into the Switch ecosystem. Once we know when preorders and the like are available, we’ll certainly post about it again.
Of course, there’s more to it than that. If you’re a fan of Nintendo, you know a few immutable things about the Nintendo universe:
- Nintendo cares more about catering to their ideals of gameplay experience and enjoyment than they do graphics
- Nintendo is an inherently cautious and conservative company
If you also watch the Nintendo fan community at large, you also know a couple other things (especially if you watch it more from a distance).
- The rumor mill surrounding Nintendo is 98% complete nonsense
- Nintendo “fans” do not understand the two points listed above in any way, shape, or form
Which is why, right now, you can go over to tons of other sites, take a brief glance at their comment sections, and see the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the fact that Nintendo’s oddly low-key drop of “there’s a new Switch” this morning didn’t live up to expectations. I’m not sure how the Ven diagram looks with the fans who got upset at the Nintendo Direct late last year that explicitly said it was to showcase indie titles and 3rd parties and then spent a week ranting that there wasn’t news about Zelda or Metroid and fans upset today, but I’ve got a basic guess what it looks like.
There were so many rumors flying around about the “new” Switch, including names like the Super Switch, 4K Switch, advanced hardware, and everything else. Some of the dumber rumors were a jump of 4K video when docked (when the current model struggles to hit 720p sometimes, and only hits 1080p on some first-party highly-optimized titles).
The fact is that the hardware that runs the Switch was pretty dated even when the system launched. The Switch was based on the nVidia Tegra X1, originally used in the nVidia Shield, and first released back in 2015. There haven’t been any substantial updates to the SoC, and if you’re trying to compare the system to the likes of the PS5 or the Xbox Series X (or even to the PS4 Pro or Xbox One X before them)… it’s “underpowered.” Of course… that doesn’t really matter to Nintendo, they will optimize the hell out of their games, any anyone that’s played Donkey Kong Country on an SNES knows that they’re capable of some black magic wizardry when it comes to their hardware.
It’s not like Nintendo hasn’t done revisions to an established product line before… one only needs to look back less than a decade for the New 3DS release to when they refreshed the hardware in a product line to be more powerful. You also only have to look back less than a decade, to the launch of the New 3DS, to see why Nintendo was never going to do something like that again. That launch was an unmitigated disaster for the company, with angry fans, game recalls, confusion, and eventual freebies being sent out because they bungled it so bad.
The tl;dr; version was that the New 3DS was a pretty substantial performance upgrade over the 3DS XL before it, but it looked basically the same. It used the same cartridges, had the same branding, used the same OS… and for nearly any consumer not deeply plugged in, it was the same thing. There were games that only worked on the new one, and no clear way to really know which was which for most consumes. Other games promised they worked on both… but didn’t. In the end, Nintendo gave away a lot of games on the eShop because there were enough upset people.
The Switch is an absolute unmitigated hit; over the previous holiday season, two Switch consoles were sold for every PS5 and Xbox Series X. While it’s install base isn’t as big as the PS4 was, it also got to 84 million total units in just the past four years. Nintendo is not going to mess with that, and their sales numbers would indicate that the performance gap of the system is not really a problem for them.
There’s always a hardcore contingent that would love a more powerful system. Hell, I’d like a more capable system. At the same time, I look around, at what it’s like to try to get a new PS5 or Xbox Series X right now, or a replacement vitdeo card for a PC… and I’m honestly glad that Nintendo didn’t decide to throw more gasoline on the fire in the middle of huge shortages (due to a chip shortage, shipping bottlenecks, labor shortages, etc) and toss a console revision that millions would be chasing as well.
I know, a lot might have been expecting more of a rant, but honestly, my rant is aimed more at the rumor mill and the frothing Nintendo fans that keep going off every time Nintendo “fails” to live up to their absurd expectations. I’m glad there isn’t another expensive product to try and chase down, and that Nintendo seems to be remaining committed to their existing install base.