This is an editorial piece. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of, and should not be attributed to, Niche Gamer as an organization.
E3 2021 has come and gone, and while winners and losers are debated one question remains; where is the Nintendo Switch Pro, and is it real?
We previously reported on rumors (including from Bloomberg) of a more powerful Nintendo Switch being in production, a so-called “Nintendo Switch Pro” model. Those supposedly in the know claimed this new model would support 4K graphics (via a new NVidia graphics chip and 7″ screen), and launch early 2021. A patent for a rail-less Joy-Con fueled further speculation.
Bloomberg and Eurogamer sources also speculated the console may launch September or October 2021, with an announcement prior to E3 2021. This would enable third-parties to show off their games freely, as Nintendo’s own digital showcase would be later during the E3 2021 week. Along with claims of listings going live on June 4th, none of these rumors would come true.
Now one leak does not make or break a leaker no matter which way it goes. Bloomberg journalist Jason Schreier is likely to have some connections thanks to his work at Kotaku, and Bloomberg have the pedigree to be able to find a source willing to talk. Schreier threw support behind rumors of a 2K Games’ Marvel XCOM-style game, and a spin-off Borderlands game; with the latter coming true for now.
Even so, the Nintendo Switch Pro rumor not panning out may have harmed the credibility of gaming industry leaks from Bloomberg, such as the numerous reports on what goes behind Sony Interactive Entertainment’s closed doors, and the production woes of the PlayStation 5 [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. SIE would later deny these claims outright.
So, where is the Nintendo Switch Pro? Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa denied the initial claims in February of this year, amid Nintendo’s best financial quarter since 2018. Nintendo’s recent successes have no doubt been thanks to the perfect storm.
The Nintendo Switch has sold over 85 million units as of May 2021; fueled by the increased interest in gaming thanks to the coronavirus pandemic quarantine lockdowns, along with the cheaper price and greater availability compared to the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S.
Selling a new version of something that is already selling well would seem illogical, especially when a scarcity of parts has caused issues for PlayStation and Microsoft. Nonetheless, Ace Research Institute analyst Hideki Yasuda claimed that new hardware would be key for Nintendo in 2021. For example, new hardware could tempt those who had not yet bought a Nintendo Switch.
He cited the success of the Game Boy, PlayStation 2, and Nintendo DS; while the Wii and PlayStation 4 had no or practically no variations, and experienced a sharp drops in sales in the latter half of their respective launch years. Yasuda also claimed Nintendo has an “oligopoly” in Japan, while PlayStation game sales have been practically “eradicated.“
Even so, the difficulty acquiring parts may be the very reason we won’t be seeing a Nintendo Switch Pro any time soon. In discussions with our own Fingal Belmont, he pointed to how Nintendo never imitate the competition; preferring to use “withered technology.”
Nothing advanced, affordable quality, and trying to make limitations into a strength. This means less graphical power, and any mid-generation upgrades would usually be cheaper alternatives; with the Nintendo Switch Lite being more viable to more consumers.
While we have gotten redesigns to fix major flaws, such as the Game Boy Advance SP giving the much needed backlight, Nintendo could not release anything new if they wanted to. Fingal pointed out how the the shortage of chips meant it would be unlikely we’d see new hardware.
A combination of factors (more people gaming, crypto currency miners, and someone trying to Tokyo drift on the Suez Canal) means everything has gone up in price in computing; including graphics cards. Which also means that across the board, companies will settle for those cheaper “withered technologies,” driving even those prices up.
Let’s say you are a desperate for the big red machine to release a new Nintendo Switch. The high-end chips are practically gold dust, and Sony, Microsoft, and everyone involved with a computer is eating them up.
Higher specs also means more stress on the battery. Nintendo have long been the “family console,” which means being more affordable is key. A longer lasting battery could arguably drive up the price as much, if not more than, the graphics chips. While Nintendo’s success probably gives them enough money to get almost anything they want, the price tag would go up for the consumer.
Kids can’t afford expensive stuff, and their parents can’t either, especially when they may not have worked for over a year, and the price of everything has gone up. Why buy a more powerful upgrade when you’re happy with the current thing? Nintendo won’t make a mistake like the Wii U for quite a while.
Our dear Fingal also stated it was simply too late for a mid-gen upgrade, even if Nintendo could make the stars align for the parts and costs. The only upgrade you’ll get from Nintendo is between generations; with new ways to play whether you like it or not, and ever decreasing likelihood of backwards compatibility.
Imagine you heard the rumors of the hot new console coming soon. You want to make sure your website has it listed first for those precious pre-orders. Sure you’ll get the material you copy and paste into the right spots, but every second saved is a more few dollars earned.
Why not draft the entry early- it’s not like it costs anything to write it up if it doesn’t get used. That’s what the stores thought, and that’s what games journos thought as well. We certainly had a Nintendo Switch Pro announcement article in drafts, and we’ll be damned if others didn’t as well.
Does the consumer even want a Nintendo Switch Pro? The meteoric success of the Nintendo Switch would argue not. Those who want more powerful graphics have already been flocking to PC, PlayStation, and Xbox for several generations already. Nintendo have been meme’d as the least powerful console producer of the big three, something they are proud of alongside a smaller price tag.
While all three have sheepishly admitted to shortages for their consoles at one time or another, Nintendo seem to be over the worst of it. Yes those less expensive parts may be a little more expensive, but not nearly as much as what Sony and Microsoft are desperate for.
Most consumers don’t have brand loyalty, no matter how loud some fans may be. Most aren’t enthusiasts either; they want a product that works, that’s easy on the pocket, and that’s available now.
Nintendo usually hits all three, which is partly why the Joy-Con drift has been so infamous. A poor man is going to be more put out getting new laces, than a rich man or a marathon runner buying new top-of-the-line shoes.
Consumers that aren’t enthusiasts or loyalists tend to only act when something affects the Tri-Force of Function, Price, and Availability (you can put companies playing politics the consumer doesn’t like in the middle). If it breaks too much, costs too much, or is hard to get a hold off; they will go elsewhere.
So does Nintendo have a need to make a Nintendo Switch Pro? A more powerful device they’re not used to making or making games for, for games available on other systems while they have an iron grip on their own library, to suffer the same shortages as their rivals, to give consumers a more expensive product they’ll struggle to find. You don’t need to be the next Iwata to work this out.
Nintendo will continue to do what their competition Nintendon’t. If they have buttons, Nintendo will have touch-screens and waggling. If they give up on making portables due to mobile gaming, Nintendo make a console for home and on the go that can do better. If they go for eye-bleeding next gen, Nintendo makes worlds where the art-style takes precedent over the graphics.
A high-end Nintendo console is an oxymoron. They have tried to be the company for everyone; at least in terms of disposable income. While most consumers are begging for standard-quality Joy-Cons and internet functionality, Nintendo will keep printing money with “average” consoles, while rivals fight over bleeding-edge tech. If you never release a pro version, what you currently offer must be the best.