With the PS5 coming, does Nintendo need a Switch Pro more than ever?

Today marked the first whispers of what Sony’s newest, upcoming home console will bring to the industry. The PlayStation 5 will be a direct competitor to Microsoft’s previously announced Project Scarlett, and (from a technical standpoint) both will surpass the Nintendo Switch in terms of performance. As time has shown though, Nintendo as a company is able to comfortably play by its own rules — the Wii’s overwhelming success is all the proof you need.

However, this is a different time, and what draws people to the Switch is different than what drew people to the Wii. Third party support is at an all-time high — the Switch is getting both The Witcher 3 and Overwatch this month alone. These are games that existed comfortably on other platforms of an earlier generation than the Switch’s. It makes Nintendo’s current system exist in this strange halfway point between generations, making glorious strides with games like Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, while also grasping at the best of the Wii U’s library and the games that its older sibling never had.

zelda breath of the wild switch

As a feature, I feel the ‘play anywhere’ nature of the Switch is more important and appealing than ultra realistic graphics or high end performance. The games that, in the past, have made the most of these features — your God of Wars and Uncharteds — come from first party studios and thus aren’t a factor in the Switch’s capabilities. But as the industry and leading developers in the third party sphere move onward to match PS5 and Scarlett’s capabilities, they run the risk of leaving the Switch with severe downgrades — or worse, full on neglect — versus minor compromises. The graphically intensive ray-tracing lighting method and 100GB Blu-ray discs are already terms associated with the upcoming systems, both of which would be difficult, if not impossible, for the current Switch to account for.

Mind you, the Switch’s success and popularity is undeniable. Nintendo will continue to produce excellent titles with their own hardware, and despite the continued march of technology, I find myself most excited for Animal Crossing: New Horizons and the very idea of Terry Bogard dropping in Smash. From an industry perspective though, that might not be enough. While we’re loving the Switch Lite for its aesthetic appeal and ultra-portability, both the developments of its competition and own past success demand another step forward.

It’s long been rumored that the Switch will be receiving a high-performing model sometime in its lifecycle. Past releases from Nintendo follow this — your N64 Expansion Pak, your New 3DS — and while it wouldn’t create parity with what the PlayStation 5 or Project Scarlett will (presumably) be able to do, it would at least (theoretically) offer Nintendo fans a way to experience games made for those systems in a more timely manner than whenever a proper successor comes along. Those stop-gap solutions from Nintendo were underutilized in the past, with few games requiring them. However, with a much more notable degree of third party support and higher market visibility, this could be the time when this sort of improvement can make a difference.

With some titles on the way that could more than likely use the extra processing power (Metroid Prime 4 is now years away, Breath of the Wild 2 could somehow become even more gorgeous), I don’t doubt that Nintendo is working on something like this. Whenever it comes along though, it will likely be on their terms and with their properties in mind. This is sure to be fantastic for fans, as long as the price is right and it’s touted as a luxury rather than a necessity. With the likes of Sony and Microsoft pushing the industry in different ways though, it might need to take broader considerations, if only to maintain momentum. With neither the PlayStation 5 or Project Scarlett in a state where we can see what they tangibly offer consumers, only time will tell how Nintendo can continue to take itself anywhere you want.

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Written by Ricky Berg

When he isn’t writing for Nintendo Wire, Ricky’s anticipating the next Kirby, Fire Emblem, or if the stars ever align, Mother 3 to be released. Till then he’ll have the warm comfort of Super Smash Bros. to keep him going.

Ricky Berg

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