The weather is warming up, and so are rumors about new SKUs for the Nintendo Switch. The latest report suggests we can expect not one but two new iterations of Nintendo's handheld / console hybrid as early as this Summer.
The newest bit of hot Switch news comes courtesy of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ is behind a paywall, so grab a summary here). One new Switch is supposed to be a smaller and cheaper iteration of the system meant to replace the aged Nintendo 3DS, which all but lost its momentum this year. This smaller Switch was first reported by the Japanese news outlet Nikkei earlier this year. But the WSJ report also makes mention of a new Switch with "enhanced features targeted at avid videogamers," though the system "won't be as powerful as Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro or Microsoft's Xbox One X." (Imagine a Switch as powerful as the Xbox One X or PS4 Pro. It'd double as a handy portable egg-fryer!)
It's funny how Nintendo manages to whip out surprises even when its course seems clear. We all expected a cheaper Switch SKU sooner than later, but I don't think too many of us have given as much thought to a SKU that packs more power. There was some talk of said SKU when the Switch's specs were revealed to be lower than other current-gen hardware, but once it became clear the Switch does just fine without immediate ports of most triple-A games, that kind of talk seemed to dwindle. Now that it's flared up again, I wonder what Nintendo wants to accomplish with a Switch that's "targeted at avid videogamers."
I predict one of two scenarios (let me put on my special scrying hat). One, Nintendo wants to replace the original gen Switch with this new and improved version that will offer faster loading / processing times and perhaps a sharper screen resolution. The Switch is two years old now and technology gets cheaper every day: If Nintendo can give us a better product at a similar price point (and throw in these "advanced features," whatever they might be), it may as well replace what's on the shelf right now. If the smaller, cheaper Switch launches around the same time, it makes even more sense to have a more powerful Switch replace the current iteration. Unlike the 3DS, the "standard" Switch doesn't need to hang around as a cheaper replacement for the "new" Switch.
But it's the 3DS family that comes to mind when I hear about the possible existence of a more powerful Switch, particularly the New Nintendo 3DS. The New Nintendo 3DS was engineered to co-exist alongside the standard 3DS rather than replace it—and co-exist it did. While a small handful of New Nintendo 3DS games are exclusive to the system (most notably Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, Minecraft, and Fire Emblem Warriors), most vanilla 3DS games enjoyed improved loading times and a sharper screen image. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D is playable on any version of the 3DS, for example, but it's a more enjoyable play on the 3DS thanks to the camera control nub and faster loading times.
I'm a little worried the better, faster, stronger Switch will have games exclusive to its SKU, a la the New Nintendo 3DS. Even worse, we could potentially see a world where "New Switch" owners are allowed access to an improved Nintendo Switch Online library while other Switch owners are left to rot, not unlike how New Nintendo 3DS owners received exclusive access to SNES games on the Virtual Console. And with persistent rumors about SNES games coming to Nintendo Switch Online... well, Nintendo could theoretically reserve that beloved library for owners of the New Switch if it wants another crack at blowing the goodwill it's built up with its recent successes.
Overall, Scenario A is the likeliest—that is, Nintendo intends to replace the original Switch with something faster and stronger that won't have any game exclusivity but will offer improvements for games currently on the market (as well as an expanded selection of tools for developers that want them). We should see the long-rumored "3DS replacement" Switch hit the market at the same time as a more portable and more robust option for people who want to play alongside their kids, but don't want said kids putting their jammy little fingers all over the "better" Switch.
If new Switch SKUs are indeed in Nintendo's plans, we'll likely find out more at E3. With Pokémon Sword and Shield and Animal Crossing coming this year, it'd make little sense not to add a couple of new branches to the Switch family tree as soon as possible.
Major Game Releases This Week: March 25 to March 29
Here are the major releases for the week of March 11 to March 15. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2019.
- Tropico 6 [March 29, PC, PS4, Xbox One] - El Presidente's work is never done. Like its predecessor, Tropico 6 lets you build and govern a fictitious island nation in the Caribbean. This time, you're in charge of a whole archipelago instead of a single island. All the better to wind up with a whole lot of disgruntled citizens knocking at the ornate doors of your Presidential Palace while waving torches and pitchforks.
- Yoshi's Crafted World [March 29, Nintendo Switch] - Yoshi games are good, dependable platformers that are a little simplistic for some hardcore action fans, but I find them a soft, enjoyable romp. I can already say Yoshi's Crafted World uses one of the cleverest graphical gimmicks I've ever seen. Look forward to our review on March 27!
This Week's News and Notes
- After a successful (and stressful) GDC, we're ready to take it a bit easy this week. We're—what's that? "PAX East?" What? Oh dear. Anyway, we're going to be there, and we have some great panels. Please attend!
- Sony is getting ready to try its hand at this "Nintendo Direct" thing with its own video presentation later today. Here's where you can watch it, and when.
- Sure is a busy time for news about game service platforms. Apple has a game subscription service in the works, and legendary Final Fantasy game creator Hironobu Sakaguchi is on-board with a mysterious game called Fantasian.
- Final Fantasy 14's Viera race is gender-locked, and I plan to die mad about it.
- Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was big news on social media this weekend. We've yet to post our final score, but so far, so good (so hard).
- The mysterious "Persona 5 R" gained a more solid form over the weekend. You may now address it as Persona 5: The Royal. So far it's only confirmed for the PlayStation 4, but I'll eat my hat if it doesn't come to Switch, too (please don't make me eat my hat, Atlus).
- Axe of the Blood God - This week Kat and I count down to number two on our list of the Top 25 RPGs of All Time! We also engage in The Eternal Struggle by debating Final Fantasy 6 versus Final Fantasy 7 (spoiler, 6 wins without breaking a sweat).