The Next Nintendo Console Needs To Be Switch 2

We have officially reached the point in the Switch’s lifespan where behind-the-scenes reporting has stopped pointing to a mid-gen refresh and instead to a whole new console. I'm fine with that… as long as that new console is the Switch 2. Or Super Switch. Or Switch Advance.

It was always going to be difficult to know when Nintendo would be ready to move on from the Switch. Given that the home console/handheld hybrid launched in 2017 — three years after the PS4 and Xbox One, and three years before the Xbox Series X/S and PS5 — Nintendo doesn't have any competitors trying to beat it to market. We're years out from a generational refresh for the other big players, so the company is operating on its own timetable.

While we don’t know when the next Nintendo console will be released, we can safely say that there will be another Nintendo console. That wasn’t such a sure thing last time around. The Wii U’s failure had some prognosticators wondering if gaming’s oldest publisher would stop selling consoles entirely, perhaps pivoting to developing software for other consoles or building amusement parks. That obviously didn’t happen. The Switch was Nintendo's best-selling home console ever. The games that were commercial failures on the Wii U hopped over to the Switch and, often with minimal changes, became commercial successes.

Which means we have a new Nintendo console to look forward to. That's good news as long as Nintendo can avoid the Wii U’s half measures. That console tried to split the difference between the Wii before it and the Switch after. It could play Wii games and it retained the Wii branding. But it also introduced the semi-portable play that would be fully developed with the Switch. It was the worst of both worlds and a confounding piece of tech. Nintendo didn't play it safe enough or take a big enough risk.

But now, the company has a successful, world-conquering console. It’s great, and it’s been influential, too. It’s hard to imagine Valve launching the Steam Deck without the Switch paving the way. It's never been this good to be a handheld gamer, and it's largely thanks to Nintendo.

Which is why I hope Nintendo looks to its portable history instead of its console history as it ponders next steps. Whereas the Wii was a very different console than its predecessor the GameCube, and the N64 was a huge change from the SNES, Nintendo’s handhelds have been far more iterative. The GameBoy became the GameBoy Color which became the GameBoy Advance. The DS became the DS Lite which became the 3DS and so on. As in those cases, Nintendo has something that works and needs minimal revisions to keep on working. Instead of reinventing the wheel, the publisher should look to update its current success story. I don’t need a new console. I just need a better Switch.

Additionally, the Switch has been stuffed with games because the hybrid approach has allowed Nintendo to move console and handheld developers onto one production line, developing games, big and small, for the same system. Taking a radically different approach with the Switch's successor would mean reimagining the future of both handheld and console gaming after working hard to make them one and the same. Nintendo has had a handheld on the market continuously since 1989, so it's extremely unlikely that whatever it does next won’t include portable plans.

Until now, Nintendo's new consoles have, largely, been additive. GameCube games remained playable on the Wii and Wii games remained playable on the Wii U. Though few Switch games are designed to be played like Wii games were, the Switch still supports the motion controls the Big N introduced in 2006. But the Switch introduced something even more game-changing than that: the ability to play games on a TV or on the go. Nintendo's decisions are often hard to predict, but it seems difficult, if not impossible, to take that play-it-your-way flexibility away from players who have grown to expect it. That's why we need the Switch 2.

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