As the inevitable unveiling of Nintendo’s next console nears, the anticipation surrounding the Japanese company’s release is reaching a fevered pitch. In our last issue, the Sun began delving into the potential hybrid nature, backwards compatibility, and power of Nintendo’s next gaming device. Dubbed the “Switch 2” by the community at large, there are many factors to consider when predicting the hybrid console’s launch specifications. This edition will serve as the second half of a top 10, of sorts, analyzing important factors in the launch of the “Switch 2.”
4. Not “SwitchU”
Since we have been referring to this hypothetical console as the “Switch 2,” now seems as good a time as any to address the Wii-shaped elephant in the room. When Nintendo released the WiiU in 2012, interest in the follow-up to the uber popular Wii fizzled quickly. A variety of reasons led to its demise: marketing, hardware specifications, developer confusion, and launch-window game releases all played into the WiiU’s shortened lifespan. One other aspect that caused widespread confusion among the fan base was the name. There were anecdotal accounts from the more casual fans stating that they thought the WiiU was simply an add-on to the Wii. While Nintendo enthusiasts understood the difference and supported the device’s launch, most gamers otherwise did not double-dip for the Wii’s tablet-controlled successor. While there is no way to tangibly calculate how much sales were affected, a more straightforward name like “Wii 2” would have likely marked a much clearer delineation between the two machines. Following this debacle, the Japanese games developer course-corrected many aspects of their strategy in the transition to the Switch era. They made a clean break from the Wii branding, the Switch’s gimmick was better understood and more appealing, and the change in marketing was night-and-day. Considering the lessons their first high-definition console taught them, the Switch’s successor would be better served by a less arcane name whether it be Switch 2, Super Nintendo Switch, or something else entirely.
Speaking of marketing, it was clear from the moment the Switch was announced that Nintendo had adjusted their sales pitch dramatically. Instead of pitching their machine as a primarily family console with a focus on children, the announcement trailer that dropped on October 20, 2016 showcased young adults hanging out and playing the Switch at (admittedly unrealistic) rooftop parties. But the messaging was clear and the shift in tone was apparent. No longer was Nintendo advertising their fancy new machine with phrases like “double Yoshi exploshi.” Instead, their ads began depicting friends playing basketball and esports players facing off in front of large crowds. Considering the tidal wave of sales that the Switch era has produced, there is no reason to believe Nintendo’s strategy will change any time soon.
6. Release Date
Like the power debate, the release date of the machine has seen its fair share of rumors and supposed leaks. In a July 2023 report by Andy Robinson of Video Games Chronicle, the Kyoto-based company is “likely to release new hardware during the second half of 2024” to ensure they have ample stock for the next holiday season according to VGC’s sources. The article also cited Tokyo-based industry consultant Dr. Serkan Toto’s comments on the matter. Dr. Toto feels this launch window is likely due to the Switch’s rapidly declining sales, which are “projected to fall 16.5 percent year-on-year.” The average length of most recent console generations has lasted between 6 and 8 years and the “Switch 2” launching in fall of 2024 would make for a 7-and-a-half-year lifespan for the ultra-successful Switch.
7. Games, Games, and More Games
When it comes down to it, a gaming console lives and dies by its software. A crucial reason for the Switch’s success is not just its launch-window releases, but those launched years afterwards as well. At the Switch’s launch, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was released to near universal acclaim as it scored a 97 on Metacritic and won the Game of the Year Award at the 2017 Game Awards. Nintendo then bookended the year with Super Mario Odyssey, which is the best-selling 3D Mario game in Nintendo’s history. Throughout the Switch’s life, other incredibly successful games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom bolstered a varied and deep games library. Tears of the Kingdom was also named as one of the six nominees for 2023 Game of the Year by The Game Awards on November 13. During the WiiU era, Nintendo would suffer through long stretches of game release droughts, but the developer has found the resources to consistently release high-quality software due to the merging of its handheld and home development divisions. One of the only stumbling blocks they have hit in this department is regarding Pokémon, which has seen some level of controversy with almost every title released during the Switch era. The “Switch 2” could continue the positive trend if much-anticipated games like Metroid Prime 4 end up as launch titles for the new hardware.
8. Joy-Cons and the Hall-Effect
One of the other major issues that has plagued the Nintendo Switch is the much-maligned Joy-Con controllers. There is much to like about these detachable controllers, though. The console comes with two out of the box, they can function in the classic Wii Remote/Nunchuk setup, and they are packed with tech like gyro controls and “HD Rumble.” Despite these positives, the controllers’ reputations have been marred by the presence of what has become colloquially known as “Joy-Con Drift.” This is often the result of wear on the potentiometer inside the control stick that causes stick input to become imprecise and literally drift. The issue became so problematic that multiple class action lawsuits were filed against the company. Gaming news website IGN detailed a trio of class action lawsuits that were filed against Nintendo because of the controllers in a February 2021 article by Jordan Sirani. In 2019, Nintendo eventually began allowing citizens in certain countries like the United States to send the controllers to them for repair. To remedy this issue in the longer term, Nintendo could turn to joysticks that contain Hall Effect sensors. Named after Edwin Hall, these sensors use magnets that move “relative to a conductor, the change in voltage is measured and translated into positional data,” according to tech website How To Geek. These magnets never physically touch, so wear and tear are reduced to a minimum. While Nintendo has never officially intimated that they would use Hall Effect sensors, these types of sticks are becoming more common and could help the Japanese company avoid this messy situation moving forward.
9. Returning to the Old, not OLED, screen
Despite the Switch OLED being Nintendo’s most recent hardware revision, it appears unlikely that the Japanese developer’s next console will implement the vibrant OLED display into the “Switch 2.” According to the previous July VGC article, a pair of sources also divulged to the outlet that this “could launch with an LCD screen… in order to bring down costs, especially considering the increased storage needed for higher fidelity games.” If the reported power capabilities of the machine are true or at least close, these factors could necessitate the return of an LCD panel screen for the Switch’s successor to maintain a reasonable price point.
10. The New Gimmick (asymmetric gameplay, physical design, UX?)
Fans of the gaming giant are aware that Nintendo’s consoles often launch with a gimmick that makes them distinct from others as part of their “blue ocean” strategy: 3DS (3D visuals), Wii (motion controls), and Switch (hybrid-handheld design). With only some pieces of the next Nintendo console’s puzzle filled in, fans are still awaiting the announcement of the seemingly inevitable gimmick for the future device. Some have taken to investigating patented concepts that Nintendo has not yet implemented to try to discern aspects of the unreleased hardware. While many concepts never hit the shelves, these patents could point towards future devices that evolved from these earlier designs. Some of these unreleased plans date back to 2014 and include various permutations of Joy-Con controllers with different button placements, swappable sticks and buttons, and a hinged design. For those who are curious, IGN compiled an exhaustive list of unused Joy-Con designs in a September 2020 article.
Another patent surfaced on November 11, 2022, that was not discovered until October of 2023 by gaming outlet Game Rant. This depicted a hinged device with two screens similar to Nintendo’s previous Dual Screen line of handhelds. A key difference: the screens also detach from one another. This would afford Nintendo the ability to return to the days of the asymmetric gameplay of the WiiU and the two-screen clamshell design of the DS line with one system.
While these schematics may never see the light of day, fans can be assured that the gaming giant will find ways to innovate in the console space in ways no one would have predicted. Considering Nintendo President Furukawa’s comments shooting down some of these rumors, fans will likely have to wait until the official reveal to know any major details about the company’s next console.