Friday, March 3, 2023

Nintendo Switch: Successor?

Nintendo Switch OLED model in handheld mode

After talking about the potential lifecycle of the Nintendo Switch, let's dive more into the topic of how a successor to the Nintendo Switch would even look like, whenever that may be. What could it be and what should it be?

Needless to say that this shouldn't just be about better hardware. That's something that Nintendo could technically already achieve with a new model of the Nintendo Switch, where this would also be less complicated, because they could just stick to the brand name. Nintendo is more creative than that and it's likely that they want something innovative for their next system, which clearly differentiates it from the Nintendo Switch.

At the same time the concept of the Nintendo Switch is simply so good and beloved that it would be very risky to move away from it. Who would even want to buy a mere handheld system these days? Or who would want to buy a dedicated Nintendo console, which is stuck to your TV, who is not a hardcore Nintendo fan? So, it's likely that the next system is also going to be a hybrid of home console and handheld, the best of both worlds merged into one.

But this puts the successor already in a difficult spot, because this means it's still going to be a "Nintendo Switch", technically. And the last thing they want is creating another Wii U, where people outside of the gaming bubble apparently didn't even understand that this was meant to be a new system and not just some gamepad accessory for the Wii.

Whatever the next Nintendo console may be, the name should make it already very clear that this is a new system entirely and not just a new model. It could be simply "Nintendo Switch 2", but it's likely going to be named after whatever innovative feature will let it differentiate itself from the Switch.

In any case, there is one thing the next Nintendo system must offer and that is...


Backwards Compatibility

The Nintendo Switch was the first Nintendo system in many years to not be backwards compatible. Nintendo handhelds always have supported the last generation and the same was true for the Wii and the Wii U. The Nintendo Switch was a clean cut, however, creating a blank slate for the company and consumers alike.

And this was okay, because the system streamlined a good number of things to become a hybrid console. There was no way it was going to still run Wii U games without a disc drive or Nintendo 3DS games without a second screen. So, it was fairly acceptable and to many it even has been their first Nintendo system in a long time, so it didn't really matter.

But now people have big libraries of Nintendo Switch games sitting on their shelves and Nintendo has used the last six years to port over many of their games from Wii, Wii U, and Nintendo 3DS, where fans are still asking for more, because either they didn't own these systems or they simply want the games on their new system.

Now imagine Nintendo would create another cut here. All those Nintendo Switch games at people's homes would become something for retro collectors and they would have to buy it all over again on the next system. They would not be as accepting as they were the first time, quite the opposite – it would be a total disaster, on the same lines as abandoning the hybrid concept.

But the Nintendo Switch has the most basic input by today's standards, a more common hardware architecture, and the whole Nintendo Switch Online service, where it's most likely here to stay. So, there is essentially no good reason to not carry all of this over to the next system. Some games could even profit out of the box from better hardware, where they run with a stabler frame rate.

Backwards compatibility should also exist for hardware alike. While there certainly will be a new generation of Joy-Con controllers, where ideally they won't have drifting issues as much, the next system should still support all your old controllers from the Nintendo Switch, like those drifting Joy-Cons or your trusty Pro Controller(s).

New Switch Modes

The Nintendo Switch can be played docked, in handheld mode, or tabletop mode. And if the next system still is a Nintendo Switch of sorts, it's likely going to add to this, to come with new ways of playing.

One idea here would be that it lets you stream to your dock without being actually docked, so you could use it in the same style as the Wii U GamePad. But considering how hard the Wii U flopped, this isn't the best idea and certainly wouldn't become a selling point.

What could become a selling point is VR, however. There is more and more interest in this, but it's very expensive at the moment. If you're going for the full PlayStation VR experience that is currently available, you will have to pay 600€/$ for the console and then the same amount again for the headset. It's ridiculous.

The Nintendo Switch could lend itself to a much cheaper alternative here, where they would disrupt the whole VR market, because the console itself can be used for the screen in the VR headset. You would simply insert it into the headset, as another Nintendo Switch mode. Of course, Nintendo has already experiment with this via Nintendo LABO:

the Nintendo Switch inserted into what looks like a cardboard tourist telescope top

We're talking cheap here, but not cardboard cheap. A proper Nintendo Switch VR headset would certainly come with headphones and more comfort, but the idea is the same, so you insert the Nintendo Switch screen into the thing, where LABO was certainly meant to be a prototype to test the interest in something like this.

A successor to the Switch will most likely also come with a better screen, maybe even with 4K resolution, where it would offer an experience that wouldn't be terrible when compared to the competition. But the price point would be much lower for sure, making it more attractive, especially since it still can be used as a home console and a handheld.

There is also some potential for Nintendo's games here. This could even be something that makes traditional top-down Zelda games exciting again, where VR would offer a whole new experience here. Well, there are already games where you can look around in an environment and control a character via VR, where Nintendo even has done something like that for the VR levels in Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker and Super Mario Odyssey. But I'm sure that they would come up with something truly special for Zelda, which will make you want to play it like that.

This isn't meant to say that VR will be the defining feature of the next system. But it could potentially be one of the things that sets it apart from the Nintendo Switch... And only Nintendo knows what else there might be.

No comments: