What is Nintendo’s next-gen game plan?
2020 is going to be a big year for the games industry, because when it ends, we will be in a new generation of consoles. Both Microsoft and Sony are expected to release their new machines before the end of the year, kicking off what will be the ninth generation of video game consoles. Yet, as Sony and Microsoft set the stage for a big battle, there’s one other company that just seems to be staying the course: Nintendo.
Sony and Microsoft have already detailed their new consoles – the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X – to some extent, and each company is positioning their hardware in leaps and bounds better than what we have now. What’s Nintendo’s next-gen game plan, though?
To understand what Nintendo could do in the next generation, we should first quickly recap this one. The Wii U was the first console released in the eighth generation, beating both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in the one-year market. On the other side of the coin, it was also the first console of the generation to be discontinued, with Nintendo pulling the plug on the failing console in 2017.
Sometimes a console maker discontinuing a console early is a sign that they are going to exit the console market – Sega, after all, discontinued the Dreamcast just a few years after the sixth generation and then became a software maker. Of course, Nintendo is no Sega, and it ended up replacing the Wii U with the Nintendo Switch mid-cycle.
Whichever way you want to slice it, the Switch has been a smash hit for Nintendo. In its latest financial report, Nintendo said Switch sales currently stand at 52.48 million units worldwide, which is no small feat for a console that doesn’t even have three yet. years. Assuming Nintendo can maintain that momentum, the Switch is poised to become one of the best-selling consoles of all time.
This generational shift we’re about to experience can have a negative effect on that momentum, and that’s something Nintendo should consider as it determines how to proceed. The Switch already ranks behind the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in terms of power, and with an even bigger gap between the power of the Switch and the power of these new consoles, will gamers start to pay less attention? a la Switch?
I think Nintendo losing some of its audience to these new consoles, at least temporarily, is inevitable. Do I think the shift in focus will be big enough to sink the Switch? No, but I think there’s some risk in staying the current course and expecting the Switch to be immune to competition from the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
Whether Nintendo wants to admit it or not, Sony and Microsoft are competitors. Nintendo likes to say it doesn’t care what other players in the space are doing, but that indifference to Sony and Microsoft could be costing it sales. So what can Nintendo do to keep interest in the Switch alive at a time when new hardware from two companies is coming?
While I’m enjoying the Switch in its current iteration, I think there’s something to the idea that Nintendo might launch a “Switch Pro.” For years, there have been rumors that Nintendo is planning to release a new Switch model that’s more advanced than what we currently have. Commonly referred to as the Switch Pro, we’ve heard that this new console could offer everything from a high-resolution display to a more capable processor to a longer-lasting battery.
READ MORE: Nintendo Switch Lite review
Until some point last year, the Switch Pro rumors also referred to a smaller, handheld-only Switch console. Those rumors turned out to be true, with Nintendo releasing the Switch Lite in September. Nintendo’s latest financial data tells us that launching the Switch Lite was a good move for the company, so there could be a market for a Switch Pro as well.
Unfortunately for us, Nintendo has poured cold water on rumors that a Switch Pro will be released this year. During its last earnings presentation, Nintendo made it clear that “we have no plans to release a new Nintendo Switch model in 2020.”
That, ultimately, means nothing. Nintendo could very well be planning a new Switch release at some point this year, but if it’s not ready to be revealed, then Nintendo will simply deny its existence. Earlier in the presentation, Nintendo even said that it “is in the nature of our business to enjoy surprise” when it comes to “future development”. In other words, if there is a Switch Pro, it certainly isn’t revealed during an investor presentation.
Obviously, no one knows at this time whether or not Nintendo is making a Switch Pro, and given the company’s history with the Switch, we probably won’t get a reveal before the console launches.
Despite the mistakes with the Wii U, Nintendo is not a dumb company. You should know that while the Switch is currently a critical and commercial darling, such attention can be fleeting, especially with new consoles from competitors on the horizon.
I would be very surprised to learn that Nintendo’s plan for the start of next-gen is only to maintain the course it is currently on. Assuming neither Microsoft nor Sony take the stage and implode like the former did during the Xbox One reveal, there should be plenty of excitement ahead of the Xbox Series X and Xbox One launches. PlayStation 5. Nintendo is going to want to do something to keep its existing player base and potential customers engaged.
That’s the beauty of the whole situation, though: since Nintendo launched a new console midway through this generation’s cycle, there’s no telling what it’s going to do in response to the PS5 and the Xbox Series X. As easily as it gets to make a Switch Pro behind the scenes, it might also be determined to let the Switch stand on its own merits. Maybe instead of launching a new model, Nintendo will continue to exploit its main franchises for the Switch versions?
We’re in uncharted territory at the moment, at least as far as Nintendo is concerned. Its decision to box the Wii U and launch the Switch mid-cycle means its console’s lifespan doesn’t match that of its competition, so what it will do as the next-gen dawns is pending.
While I can’t wait to learn more about PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, I’ll also be watching Nintendo as we head into next-gen. Its wild card status will make it a company to watch, as it will be interesting to see how it responds to the more powerful hardware of its competitors – if at all.