Well, after over two years of speculation, Nintendo has finally unveiled the new Nintendo Switch, simply called the OLED model that’s due to arrive on 8th October. It falls in line with some of the more recent rumours, offering a larger and higher quality screen – at 720p resolution – along with some other quality of life improvements like a wider and more flexible kickstand, a LAN / ethernet port on the new dock and improved speakers.
Now, let’s be completely clear about what this isn’t, it isn’t a ‘Pro’ model. Nintendo gives no indication in any materials that it’ll have improved performance in any way; the TEGRA chip may even be exactly the same as the 2019 ‘Mariko’ iteration that boosted battery life, with OLED screen efficiency likely balanced out by the larger size. The branding and messaging here is simple – games will be the same.
If this feels familiar, that’s because it is. In E3 week we did an article asking “what if Nintendo just released a basic Switch XL?”; the OLED is arguably a notch up from being a simple ‘XL’, but it’s miles off other fanciful rumours. As we highlighted in that article, a lot of the same ‘sources’ and ‘rumours’ of the past few months were repeating similar claims first seen in 2019. Talk of 4K output and enhanced capabilities were bouncing around back then, and what happened was the aforementioned ‘soft’ iteration, where a new version of the GPU was simply more efficient but the end-user experience, ie how we play games, remained unchanged.
And so the pattern has repeated. Aspects of recent reports were on the money – a new model, a 7-inch screen. Other parts of the rumours, all of those about improved capabilities, were wide of the mark. As was the case two years ago, what’s likely happened is a mix of sources leaking legitimate details about new screens ready for construction, while also mixing in some fanciful claims. Part wish fulfilment perhaps, fuelled by the idea that Switch needs more power to maintain third-party support as the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S era takes hold.
Naturally this has led to some expressing disappointment or feeling underwhelmed. To be clear, this isn’t exactly Nintendo’s fault; it has never said more powerful hardware was imminent, the internet just tried to will it into existence. With the Switch still selling outstanding numbers there’s arguably little need for Nintendo to shift its hardware focus too far, but ultimately there will be some frustrated fans. It’s undeniably the case that, outside of some of the better ports and first-party efforts, the system is increasingly struggling to run newer games well. For the foreseeable future, at least, playing various third-party games – in particular – on Switch will still be an exercise in compromise.
Of course, Nintendo will have more powerful hardware planned, but that’s like saying a new Mario game will be released at some point. Yet there’s logic to Nintendo keeping things simple with the OLED this year, avoiding adding an entirely new branch to the Switch ‘family’ in extremely tricky times. The reality is that Sony and Microsoft will continue to fail to meet demand for their new consoles for much of 2021, other tech industries are toiling too. Manufacturing in the sector is struggling badly to produce enough ‘chips’, and if Nintendo had a new system with different chipsets it would likely have had the same problems. With the OLED model it can keep working with its existing manufacturing process, just with some tweaks in construction.
As for the pricing, it’ll be a $50USD upgrade on the price of the standard model, so that’ll be $349.99 – is $50 about right? Well the screen will be a definite upgrade in terms of size and the depth of colour, improved speakers are welcome for those who like playing portably, while the kickstand is basically what it should have been in the original model. The dock having a LAN connection is also a nice plus, especially for those that enjoy a lot of online play in the likes of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. We reckon $50 is just about fair for the benefits, though you could certainly argue otherwise. We will say we’re disappointed to see no mention of bluetooth support, however, which is even more daft now than it was in 2017.
So that’s the new Switch we get this year, and it’ll take us through a rather impressive game line-up in the Holiday season and into some promising titles for 2022. Those waiting for a ‘Pro’ will need to be patient, once again.
Let us know what you think of the Switch OLED model in the polls and comments below!