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We’ve all been talking about the successor to the Nintendo Switch for years and, fortunately, it seems that it’s right around the corner. Whether it’ll be released by the end of this year or, perhaps, sometime in 2024 is heavily up for debate, but one thing’s for certain: Nintendo needs to act, and it needs to act fast.
The Nintendo Switch, wholly original and amazing though it is, simply isn’t all that alluring at this point in time. It’s horrendously underpowered and, as such, fails to keep up with both current-gen consoles and the many handheld gaming PCs that have flooded the market.
It still has a place in today’s world, but is by no means worthy of a recommendation now that it’s been a whopping six years since its release. It’s a small console and is surprisingly versatile, too, but if you want to play today’s latest and greatest titles — or even slightly older, “legacy” ones that are a few years old — you’d best look elsewhere.
It’s long in the tooth, in other words, and is in dire need of a refresh. We know it’s coming, but we’re not quite sure what Nintendo has planned and, perhaps equally as important, when it’s most likely to see the light of day.
Time’s running out, though, and Nintendo knows it. The Switch has been selling like hot cakes since the day it was released, but that, too, has to come to an end — and the end seems near, despite it still having respectable sales numbers. Nintendo’s also limited by its own hardware, as evidenced by Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. That, in and of itself, is a tremendous problem.
So, what can we expect from the forthcoming Nintendo Switch Pro — or Switch 2, whatever it ends up being called?
Nintendo Switch Pro — What Can We Expect?
Nintendo knocked it out of the park with the Switch’s overall formula and form factor. Its hybrid nature hasn’t been replicated since, primarily because Nintendo utilized and harnessed its full potential — there’s nothing to improve on, other than the internals themselves.
We can, therefore, expect a similar set-up for the Switch’s successor as well. Nintendo doesn’t have to create another hybrid console, but seeing how it already panned out so well, it would make sense for them to go for a “repeat.”
And, frankly, that’s what we’re all hoping for as well. There’s nothing quite like it on the market. The fact that it’s both a portable and a home console (one that is almost pocketable) means that it’s truly a one-of-a-kind device.
It’s all about as seamless as it gets, too. That’s another key factor that went into its success — it’s incredibly intuitive, easy to use, and downright fun.
Many people (both leakers and industry analysts alike) have theorized on just how powerful the successor to the Switch will be and, while nothing’s still official, we can nonetheless see a pattern: all of these leaks and estimates are telling the same tale.
The Switch Pro/2 will be many times more powerful than the original Switch, but it’s not going to be a powerhouse per se. There are simply too many hardware-related limitations, most of which are, unfortunately, insurmountable. The Switch Pro cannot retain its form factor and yet somehow compete with the PlayStations and Xboxes of the world.
For a deeper dive into one — admittedly quite likely — developer kit substitute, you can watch the following video:
Nintendo Switch Pro — Theoretical Performance
The performance estimates Austin Evans ended up with are pretty much in line with what we’re all expecting: 3-4x the performance of the original console. Now, that might not sound like much given just how underpowered the Nintendo Switch was upon release (and still is, in fact), but it’s nonetheless more than sufficient for a device of its kind.
It would narrow the performance gap and present a true generational leap — one we’ve all been clamoring for.
Nintendo’s first-party titles are, for the most part, incredibly well-optimized and are designed to run on the hardware itself without much issue. Still, the added performance would no doubt allow Nintendo to create bigger and vastly more detailed worlds. Third-party developers would also have an easier time porting their titles as they’d have a much more reasonable performance target — one that is akin to an entry-level gaming PC (graphics-wise).
In handheld mode, the Switch Pro would be able to run most (if not all) games at 720p or, at best, 900p at 60 FPS, with docked play allowing for a smooth 1080p experience. It might not sound like much in the age of 4K, high refresh rate displays, but it’s still miles better than Nintendo’s current offering.
We do know two things: Nintendo and NVIDIA have a very good working relationship, so the Switch Pro is bound to utilize a heavily customized SoC — one that’s going to play into its very hybrid nature.
And, thanks to numerous different leaks over the years, we also know that its GPU will most likely be based on NVIDIA’s Ampere architecture (the same one powering the RTX 3000 series of graphics cards).
This would allow developers to utilize DLSS and, needless to say, it would offer a tremendous boost in performance. The games themselves would be rendered at a lower resolution and then subsequently upscaled without any noticeable loss in visual fidelity.
Existing handheld gaming PCs can already harness AMD’s own FSR, but it’s nowhere near as potent.
All of this leads us to one very important conundrum:
Steam Deck — A Much Better Option?
Handheld gaming PCs are all the rage these days and, well, for a very good reason. They’re bigger and heavier than the Nintendo Switch, true, but they’re also a lot more versatile. They’re also many times more powerful, too.
Most of them can even emulate Switch games with very little tinkering — and, in some cases, reach higher frame rates and resolutions. That, in and of itself, is just mind-blowing. And so, if they can play all of your PC games, handle your entire retro library, and even emulate whichever console your heart desires, why would anyone even want to buy a Nintendo Switch nowadays?
We’re playing devil’s advocate here, but you do get the point.
And, frankly, the folks over at Nintendo are probably thinking about this as well. These handheld gaming PCs seem to be popping up every couple of weeks, and they’re a much better, more versatile investment.
For Nintendo to succeed, it needs to not only deliver a console that can compete with the Steam Decks of the world, but it also needs to provide its buyers with a more refined gaming experience — one that doesn’t come with as many sacrifices to visual fidelity and frame rate (to say nothing of a stellar launch line-up).
The gaming world has changed tremendously over the last six years and Nintendo needs to knock it out of the park in order to stand a chance at remaining relevant. The most devoted Nintendo fans will still line up and buy whatever the Switch Pro ends up being, but the handheld gaming market has nonetheless gotten a lot more competitive than anyone had expected.
The Switch Pro Needs to Deliver
The onus is on Nintendo to deliver and, needless to say, time’s running out. This company always finds a way to surprise us and to come up with something new and wholly original, but the days of it shipping tremendously underpowered consoles has to come to an end.
The Switch Pro doesn’t need to be revolutionary like, say, the Steam Deck was, but it does need to tick numerous different boxes and improve on the original console in a number of different ways.