Let's Not Act Like a New Switch Revision Is an Earth-Shattering Revelation

Let's Not Act Like a New Switch Revision Is an Earth-Shattering Revelation

It was always going to happen, and from the sound of the leaked information, it's going to be a pretty small update.

If you've been interested in video games since a time before March 2017 you will be fully aware of how console and handheld refreshes are pretty common. And I'm not even talking about what are seen as major updates, like the PS4 Pro, Xbox One X, or to a lesser extent the New 3DS. From the details in a new report revealing a new Nintendo Switch, it seems evident that we won't be getting a major upgrade, so it's probably safe to keep expectations in check.

The PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PSP, DS, and 3DS all received new versions that were essentially the same systems that existed before but in a different shape. You can go back even further in video game history and see the same thing happening, often with hideous results (hello, SEGA Mega Drive II). This small selection of refreshes doesn't even include the model revisions that tweaked some internals or changed smaller details most consumers quite rightly don't care about. Accept my apologies if you've got into a heated Reddit debate over the differences between the PS4 CUH-1115A and the CUH-11XX.

According to the report, a new version of the Switch could release as soon as summer 2019, which isn't that far away. The report states that the handheld's screen is being considered for an upgrade, while other changes are being discussed. It seems highly unlikely any improvements to the console's performance will be made if, less than a year out from launch, the exact makeup of the device hasn't been locked down yet. Major changes to the performance of the Switch would require giving developers significant lead time to get their games working properly across the old and new consoles. A new screen and small tweaks to port locations (or something like a front-facing speaker) would not.

Any changes to the Switch would presumably require it retains compatibility with Joy-Cons.

There is always a chance that the report didn't get the whole story, and instead larger changes to the hardware internals have been made. This perhaps makes a turbo-charged Switch a possibility, but does Nintendo really need to do that? Nintendo fans have been buying second (third, fourth) systems throughout history, often to get their hands on something that offers nothing more than a new colour or decal. Buying a new Switch for a better screen isn't an absurd idea for many, and that will put the older versions into the secondhand market or given to relatives. Nintendo's major aim is to get more people buying games, so giving the hardcore fans any reason at all to buy a second system will work wonders.

What I expect we'll get is a system that behaves more or less the same as the current Switch, perhaps with some very small performance upgrades (like what we saw from the Xbox One when it got revised into the Xbox One S), but a better screen, longer battery life, a lighter handheld to hold, and all the current hacking vulnerabilities fixed. Nintendo will no doubt be looking to reduce manufacturing costs to allow for a price cut if sales start to flag, and hardware revisions are a great way to do this. The new Switch will be seen as an upgrade, while keeping the playing field more or less level.

Online chatter I've seen has mentioned a new design for the handheld, such as a clamshell or a smaller unit overall, but this seems unlikely. If the new Switch isn't the same form factor as the current Switch, with full compatibility with current Joy-Cons, I'll eat Mario's hat. Having a new range of peripherals that only work with certain Switch models seems like a logistical nightmare.

Don't expect the new Switch to deliver huge performance increases.

Talk of a supercharged Switch Dock, able to give the handheld a big performance upgrade, has also appeared frequently in early discussion of the new Switch. This is all well and good, and a small group would lap it up, but it doesn't seem to fit with Nintendo's aim of getting at least one Switch in every home. Power hasn't been Nintendo's priority for quite some time, and there's no reason to think it wants any part of the 4K pie Sony and Microsoft are currently fighting over or if that kind of power is even feasible at a reasonable price point. A more powerful, Xbox One X style Switch may well be coming, but does anyone really think that we'll see that in 2019? It seems unlikely.

There you have it. I've single handedly shattered your Turbo Mega Switch dreams in just a few brief paragraphs. Still, a lighter Switch with a better screen? Where do I pre-order?

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Tom Orry

Audience Development Manager, Gamer Network

Tom started life on a circus in Australia before his family moved to the UK. His love of gaming started soon after, which essentially meant he bought every video game magazine available and worked numerous part-time jobs as a child in order to afford costly N64 games. He created UK site VideoGamer.com, of which he was the Editor for over a decade. He now doesn't like circuses.

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