We’re in a bit of a weird spot right now in video games, and I’m not just talking about COVID-19 running through all the traditional trade show events. After a pretty dang long time, we’re on the cusp of a new console generation. Both the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 are practically right around the corner, assuming the pandemic doesn’t get in the way. But Nintendo is Nintendo, and it’s in even more of a uniquely Nintendo spot than ever before. Basically, don’t expect Nintendo to jump on the “next-gen” train along with the competition. Frankly I don’t even think a “sequel” to the Nintendo Switch is on the way anytime soon, nor do I think it’s even necessary. Here’s why.
The Nintendo Switch, first of all, is a ridiculous success. This thing came out of the gate hot, and hasn’t really slowed down. Thanks to the unique appeal of the hardware, and some really thorough third party support, even the attach rate for this thing is unconventional. Sales for software are nuts, with even the most recent Animal Crossing doing gangbusters in a way no previous Animal Crossing has. The demand for the Switch and for its games is higher than anyone could have expected, and as such Nintendo has no actual need to do things like drop the price or follow up with something new. And there’s already a budget option in the Switch Lite, which seems to be doing great too.
Furthermore, Nintendo is enjoying great timing in terms of software compatibility. It’s true that the Switch is a lower-powered system, but thanks to current technology many current-gen ports are technically feasible. It takes effort, but games like DOOM run on it well. And any game based on Unreal Engine 4 is totally portable in most cases. So while there will be games that would push the Switch too hard to be worth it, we’ve seen content like The Witcher 3 do just fine (albeit after some updates). We can expect current-gen ports to continue in some form into next gen, with varying, but ultimately reasonable success.
The weird thing about this is how the Wii U sort of threw everything off. The Wii U was a massive misstep, and already late to the party in terms of HD content from Nintendo. Nintendo also seemed to struggle to adapt to the needed costs and resources for HD game development. It tanked big time, and Nintendo had to scramble to try something else. Thus the Switch happened, but its life cycle is way too off to sync up with the other platform holders anymore. We’re probably, in a literal logistical sense, only around halfway through the Switch’s shelf life. And since it’s doing so well, there’s no reason for Nintendo to rush to the next step.
So there’s my argument; I don’t think anyone should expect to see a brand new hardware concept from Nintendo anytime soon, unless it’s another weird peripheral-oriented Switch game. There’s simply no reason for a Switch 2 to exist yet. There’s plenty of momentum for the current hardware, and no sign of it slowing down anytime soon. Nintendo is even in a unique spot, considering how much room there is for sequels to games like Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild. Those games were supposed to be on Wii U, so we haven’t technically had this gen’s Mario or Zelda yet. And from there the sky’s the limit, as we’ve seen Nintendo settle in quite comfortably this time. While I do expect some problems as the next gen really gets going in a year or two, for now Nintendo has plenty of space to take its time in R&D without announcing anything for the public.