The Switch is now halfway into its life, and the hybrid is doing better than Nintendo could have imagined. Having already sold over 80 million units, thanks to its catalog of excellent exclusive releases, solid support from indies and third parties, and the sheer convenience of its very design, the Switch is continuing to sell gangbusters. And it doesn’t look like that’s going to stop any time soon. Even with the launch of the much more powerful PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, the Switch is showing no signs of slowing down, at least in terms of sales- but it does seem like Nintendo wants to close the gap between the Switch and the new 9th gen consoles at least to some extent.
Rumours of a more powerful hardware upgrade of the Switch – the Switch Pro, so to speak – have been around for well over a year at this point, but recently, those rumours and leaks have become much more prominent, with new potential details emerging what feels like every week. In this feature, we’re going to parse that stuff and talk about a few of the rumours about the Switch Pro – or whatever else Nintendo chooses to call it – that might just be true.
We’re now at a point where 4K visuals are beginning to become the new standard for visuals for games on consoles. If not native 4K, developers at least try to target dynamic 4K, or, failing that, 1440p resolutions. And that push for 4K is only going to grow as the PS5 and Xbox Series X grow longer. For the Nintendo Switch, a console that caps out hard at 1080p and often doesn’t even hit those numbers, that’s not exactly an ideal situation.
With the Switch Pro, however, it seems Nintendo is looking to address exactly that issue. There have been multiple leaks and reports about the more powerful Switch variant over the last few months, and the one thing they all seem to agree on is the fact that when docked, the device will support 4K visuals, the lack of which in the regular Switch has been a long-standing issues with players and with developers. If this is indeed accurate – and it’s looking like it probably is – then hopefully, we’ll be seeing more third party support for the Switch down the line.
That the Switch Pro will support DLSS is something else that we’ve heard more than a few times at this point. In fact, a Bloomberg report claimed as recently as a couple of weeks ago that the Switch Pro would have a new Nvidia chipset, and that it would support their Deep Learning Super Sampling (or DLSS) technology to be able to upscale visuals to 4K. Obviously, it’s unlikely that DLSS will be applied retroactively to existing Switch games (though hopefully there will be at least a few cases where developers and publishers decide to go back and release visual upgrades for their titles), but it should help the hardware target 4K in console mode going forward.
The Switch Pro is getting some obvious upgrades where its docked mode is concerned, if rumours are to be believed, but portable mode isn’t getting left behind either. According to reports, that’s getting its own enhancements as well. According to a Bloomberg report from early March, the Switch Pro will have a 7 inch screen, as opposed to the regular Switch’s 6.2 inch screen (and the Switch Lite’s 5.5 inches). The screen’s resolution will be 720p, and on top of all that, Nintendo has also allegedly partnered with Samsung to replace the Switch’s LED screens with new OLED panels, which will offer better contrast, better image quality, and consume less battery.
CPU AND MEMORY
An upgrade to portable mode, support for 4K, and DLSS have been the headline grabbing parts of most Switch Pro rumours of late, but the console is supposed to be getting other enhancements as well. As you’d expect, rumours have also said that the Switch Pro will have an improved processor and memory, and as we mentioned before, it is allegedly going to have a new Nvidia chipset. Exactly what those improvements are going to look like isn’t something that any of the reports have gone into, but it should be interesting to see how much of an upgrade they will be over what the regular Switch already has- after all, most games will need to be able to run on the base Switch as well.
Exactly when the Switch Pro will launch is a question that’s been asked often over the last few months. All reports seem to indicate that it shouldn’t be long. The Bloomberg report that talked about the device’s OLED display mentioned that Nintendo would be beginning mass production as early as June, and that assembly will begin in July. Meanwhile, it’s also been reported that Nintendo is expecting record software and hardware sales for the Switch in fiscal year 2021-22, which runs from April 2021 to March of 2022. All of that put together would suggest that Nintendo is targeting a late 2021 launch for the Switch Pro- possibly for the Holidays. Of course, in the absence of official word from Nintendo, all we can do is speculate right now, but a late 2021 launch for the Switch Pro does seem likely at this point.
More powerful hardware is all well and good- what about the games though? Well, it seems like Nintendo has big plans for that as well. As we just mentioned, Nintendo is expecting record software sales for the Switch in FY 2022, which would indicate that they have major releases planned. Interestingly enough, a Bloomberg report back in August 2020 mentioned that the Switch Pro’s launch would be accompanied by a full slate of major new releases from first party studios and third party partners alike. Currently, we don’t have exact release dates for a lot of major upcoming games for the Switch, with the exception of the likes of Pokemon Legends: Arceus and Splatoon 3, both of which are supposed to launch in 2022.
What we can do, however, is speculate. Could the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild be positioned as a flagship game for the Switch Pro in the console’s launch window, for instance? Recent rumours have also spoken about Resident Evil Outrage, a new mainline title in the series that’s being developed with the Switch as its lead platform, and is supposedly due out within a year of Resident Evil Village’s launch. If those reports are accurate, it would be a perfect game to show off the Switch Pro’s new capabilities, thanks to the excellent RE Engine’s capabilities.
How developers choose to leverage the Switch Pro’s more powerful hardware while ensuring that they maintain support for the base Switch will be interesting to see, but it seems like not all of them will choose to strike that balance. Insider NateDrake has said on ResetEra that the Switch Pro is likely going to have a few exclusive games, especially from third party developers, and that he knows of at least one of them (though he didn’t mention what that is, obviously). It wouldn’t be surprising if that were true. From the Game Boy Color to the DSi to the New 3DS, Nintendo has released its fair share of more powerful mid-generation hardware upgrades in the past, and all of them had at least a few exclusive releases that didn’t support those systems’ base versions.
This isn’t a rumour as much as it is a prediction. With more powerful hardware, the Switch Pro is obviously bound to be costlier than the regular Switch- but how much costlier? According to Bloomberg Intelligence’s analyst Matthew Kanterman, Nintendo is likely to target a price in the range of $349 to $399. There are a few other questions that are worth asking though- once the Switch Pro launches, will Nintendo slash the prices on existing Switch models? Will the regular Switch and Switch Lite continue to be sold at $299 and $199 respectively, or will Nintendo choose to lower the price for one or both of them? That remains to be seen.