Nintendo has been renowned for their gimmicky and paradigm-shifting console innovations. The Wii broke worldwide sales records with its mainstreaming of motion controls. The Switch revolutionized handheld and console gaming into a singular, convenient package. However, with the rapid evolution in next-gen tech, Nintendo may be in for a rough ride.
A Step Behind
Nintendo’s systems have never been known for their hardware—or lack thereof. Since the Wii, Nintendo’s consoles have considerably less juice compared to their competitors each generation. Stacked next to Sony and Microsoft’s consoles, Nintendo loses in every category, including, but not limited to RAM, CPU, and GPU. This problem persists with the Switch.
The Switch is in a console limbo of sorts. It was released mid-generation, competing with the current gen consoles as well as the upcoming Sony and Microsoft behemoths. With its current specs, it will not be able to handle the stress of future titles with its limited hardware–one that struggles against even current consoles.
On top of hardware limitations, third-party developers will have a hard time designing games that will run at a manageable rate on the Switch. Many studios are looking forward to the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 as a launching point to kickstart fresh IPs and next-gen worthy sequels. Games like Godfall have many flocking to these consoles as the heralds of next-gen.
The Switch will not be able to handle that.
The Switch already struggles with current-gen titles. Games like Mortal Kombat 11 have dips in performance on the console, even when docked. Depending on how the console is used, users will notice a significant drop in performance when playing graphic-heavy games. Handheld resolution is limited as well. Certain color gradients look out of place, with in-game models appearing blurrier than normal.
The docked Switch experience possesses its own set of visual problems too. Many third-party titles run at lower resolutions and frame rates, with the frame rate dipping up and down depending on what’s on screen. Though the console is capable of rendering a 1080p resolution at 60 FPS for a variety of games, the stress introduced by modern games necessitates dialing resolutions down and reducing frame rates.. These issues are prevalent on many multiplatform titles like DOOM 2016, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to name a few.
The Switch may not be only the console to go through this issue. Even the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have their own set of gameplay issues. Remedy Entertainment’s Control is one example of a game that suffers from severe frame rate issues during intense combat sequences across both consoles. Just Cause 4, despite being able to perform at 1080p and 900p on PS4 and Xbox One respectively, will drop down to 720p during console taxing in-game scenarios. However, the issues these consoles have are not as egregious and inconsistent as Nintendo’s current flagship.
Nintendo fans have noticed that in recent Nintendo news, many old games have been making their way to the console. The aforementioned Witcher 3, DOOM 2016 and most recently, Firaxis’ XCOM 2 were ported to the system.
At the time these games released, they were technical marvels. Today, these spectacles are commonplace. Titles like Doom: Eternal, Cyberpunk 2077, and Final Fantasy 7 Remake blow all previous games out of the water in nearly all regards on current gen
Nintendo bringing these aged games to the Switch is not a good sign. While it’s appreciable the company is bringing in third-party support for fans, they’re old games. They’re past their technical prime, considered as relics of the past. The way Nintendo is filling their library with aged titles seems like compensation for the future third-party games they cannot reliably bring to their console.
Nintendo’s Next Step
Nintendo’s selling point is undeniably their first-party lineup. Not many other companies are able to tout as many bestselling and renowned series across the last several decades. With franchise like Super Smash Bros., Super Mario, Legend of Zelda, along with many others, the gaming giant is not going to be down anytime soon. However, it is due for loads of trouble this upcoming generation.
The console, in its current state, is not capable of keeping up with the XSX and PS5.
Nintendo did silently release an “upgraded” version of the Switch back in mid-2019. Dubbed the “V2,” this newer model released without fanfare starting August 2019. Compared to the “V1,”, the V2 had a heftier battery life and minor visual presentation improvements. However, these are negligible changes. They do not make the V2 a new Switch in the same vein as the PS4 Pro to the PS4 or the Xbox One X to the Xbox One.
Still, these quiet revisions may speak to an upgraded Switch that may be coming soon. These events mirror Microsoft’s actions in the past with the Xbox 360 and its own unspoken upgrades. This might be what Nintendo will need to compete viably in the next generation of home consoles.
An upgraded “Switch Pro” console will improve upon the current iteration’s hardware and give it a tenable claim as Nintendo’s next-gen flagship. Even if it falls short of the XSX and the PS5 specs, it will be an improvement over what it’s capable of now.
Nintendo has remained tight-lipped regarding the future of their console. They’ve denied any rumors that came their way that a new Switch would be announced or hitting store shelves anytime soon. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic hitting manufacturing plans hard, these announcements could be further delayed.
If Nintendo wants to survive—and thrive—in the next-gen market, it will need to evolve alongside its competitors.