It’s pretty easy to talk about the Switch Pro these days, a supposed upgraded Switch system that almost assuredly is going to be called the “New Nintendo Switch” instead of the fan and media created “Pro” moniker, a common term used in the tech space on devices like the PlayStation 4 Pro and the iPhone. That’s because we don’t just have the typical twitter, 4chan, resetera, and everything in-between rumors, we have legit reports coming out of bloomberg giving details like how it will supposedly have a 7inch OLED display at 720p, 4k DLSS output, and upgraded CPU, GPU, and RAM. All rather vague details (beyond the screen itself), but not inherently relevant to this conversation.
Nintendo has a habit. A bad habit. Here, I’ll let Nintendo’s President and CEO, Furukawa, tell you all about that habit:
“No matter the hits, in the entertainment business people someday do lose interest. Up until now, we have repeatedly had the experience of our business taking a nosedive, because of this, I myself as well as those within the company do not at all think the current state of affairs will keep going and going. Every year is a do or die situation.”Shuntaro Furukawa, President & CEO of Nintendo of Japan
What Furukawa is referencing is Nintendo’s inherent habit of finding a ton of success with a system, only to eventually drop off a cliff. We saw this with the Wii, where Nintendo saw astronomical sales figures in a 4 year span, only to see sales decline rapidly to the point a sequel console, Wii U, really never stood a chance. Furukawa has been at Nintendo a long time despite his rather young age and he has seen Nintendo do this with multiple systems. Rather than rest on their success this time around, he wants to take it year by year and treat it as if hey, we are either going to step up this year… or we are going to fail.
Fail, words being spoken at the time when Switch is currently peaking, having just entered its 5th year on the market. Likely 85+ million sales in the books already and over a 100 million before the end of 2021 even arrives. But this attitude change under Furukawa is important. Nintendo has traditionally gotten very complacent. They milk sales as much as possible until a system is practically in a grave before releasing something new, hoping that it will magically reinvigorate an audience that has clearly found their way to gaming elsewhere.
In many ways, this exact attitude encapsulates what a Switch Pro would mean for Nintendo in 2021. No matter what they call it, releasing a more powerful, upgraded Switch – even a significantly upgraded Switch as the reports and rumors are suggesting – would signal a firm belief that just because Switch is killing it now, they need to keep pressing the envelope. Waiting until the Switch down turns would be what Nintendo has traditionally done. It hasn’t really worked for them. Ever. So why repeat history? Why not try a new strategy?
When I see those words spoken by Furukawa, I see a CEO who firmly understands that if they don’t continue to make it interesting, people are going to lose interest in the platform. When you look around the tech industry, this is why we see so many new phones, with major players releasing them yearly. Same with PC hardware. They don’t have to give us new products so often, but to not do so is to possibly be forgotten for someone else’s product. Right now, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X have come out and yes, they are selling out. Sure, Switch is still outselling both, but how long can Nintendo realistically expect that to continue? Will they lose sales when the other systems hit their stride?
Possibly. This is why releasing a more powerful Switch this year is not just a bold strategy for Nintendo, it would be a quintessential one if nothing else, to show gamers that this isn’t the same ol’ Nintendo anymore. They have learned. They have evolved.
What this represents for them is an opportunity to be forward thinking. Nintendo doesn’t need a Switch Pro this year to have a very positive sales season. But they need one to keep that positive sales season moving ahead for years to come. Could they wait? Could they say hey, let’s do this in Holiday 2022 when Switch sales are starting to take a dive? Absolutely. But that’s old Nintendo talking. That’s what us Nintendo fans expect to happen.
It doesn’t work. Once interest is lost on the Switch, it’s very hard to get it back no matter what you do. Nintendo wants to keep this money train going as long as they can. 8 years? 10? 15? The end comes when the end comes, but Nintendo is in no rush to get there. They want to keep the Switch as relevant in the marketplace as they possibly can. Doing every 4 year significant upgrades is not something we are use to seeing. Hell, Wii U got 4 years total… then we got Switch. So why not a new, significant upgrade, every 4 years? We know mobile technology moves at a way fast enough pace to see significant changes in hardware every 4 years. We also know the backbone of that technology is similar enough that keeping everything forwards (and backwards) compatible isn’t actually that far fetched of an idea.
Oh sure, the original Switch and Switch Lite will have to be left behind eventually. But by the time it would be, we would be so many years into the life of a Pro that it really wouldn’t feel like leaving those original Switch behind matters, just like Apple dropping support for certain iPhone models after they get so many new models out.
Nintendo is currently the King of the industry. Like most Kings, they want to stay there. They see how Sony has maintained momentum generation to generation. They want to learn from that. They see how major phone companies keep having huge sales every year. Nintendo wants to tap into that. Furukawa is never satisifed. He always remains hungry. That attitude serves Nintendo well for not being afraid to simply go where some Nintendo fans are worried they will go. Big upgrades, sooner than expected, watching momentum “never die”. Of course, it will die, some day. But Nintendo is going to prolong that death for as long as they possibly can.
Switch Pro is merely step one, and getting it here sooner rather than later is how we know this is truly a new Nintendo.