Both Sony and Microsoft have changed the pattern of console gaming within the last year thanks to the arrival of the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X. These systems are ‘new’, but also aren’t. They’re upgraded models of the original PS4 and Xbox One, having the power to add to the graphical fidelity of games further than the older hardware. Nothing like this has happened before, but it looks like it could turn into a regular thing for the console industry. Should Nintendo follow along in a few years with a possible ‘Nintendo Switch Plus’?
Before we get into the meat of the discussion, let’s get one thing out of the way—there actually was a time where Nintendo did boast about the power of its systems. While the current Nintendo focuses its hardware more on innovation and uniqueness, the Nintendo of the 80s – early 2000s touted the power of its systems just as much as the other companies. Marketing terms like “Now you’re playing with power!”, console codenames like the N64’s ‘Project Reality’, innovations like the SNES’ Super-FX chip—these are all examples of the Big N’s keen interest in hardware power. In fact, both the N64 and Gamecube were some of the most capable hardware in their respective generations.
Today, Nintendo systems are known for being focused on simple fun. The company has left the ‘power race’ to be ran by its competitors, starting with the Wii and DS. Seeing that these systems turned out to be Nintendo’s best-selling home console and handheld to date, as well as some of the highest-selling game systems of all time, it’s no wonder why the company has continued to use the ‘less power, more fun’ approach.
The Nintendo Switch has been selling like hotcakes since it released back in March. It’s so successful that people are buying units faster than Nintendo can restock them. This is being accomplished despite the fact that the Switch isn’t even as powerful as the original PS4 and Xbox One, which launched almost four years ago. Even so, that doesn’t mean having more power would be a bad thing. With the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X now on the scene, the heat has been turned up even further for the little Switch. So, could an upgraded hybrid be in order? Interestingly enough, it wouldn’t be the first time Nintendo improved an existing system.
Nintendo has already gotten into mid-generation upgrade business with the ‘New’ 3DS.
While the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X may be the first mid-generation console upgrades, they aren’t the first in the whole gaming industry. Nintendo actually got the ball rolling with the New 3DS. Released back in 2014, the New 3DS sported some notable improvements over the original 2011 edition: more processors cores, additional RAM and enhanced 3D-capabilities. The upgrade was not as significant as the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, but it was enough to have some games become exclusive to only the New 3DS models. What made Nintendo want to improve the specs? It’s not like the already more powerful PS Vita was giving the original 3DS much trouble in terms of sales. An exact reason was never given, but nevertheless, the response from critics and consumers was mostly positive. With that in mind, a ‘New Nintendo Switch’ could very well already be on the table.
The Switch is the first ever hybrid system, making it unlike any console before; it functions as both a home console and handheld in one package. For the most part, we know that it’s running on powerful mobile-oriented hardware. A Nvidia TEGRA (X1) SoC is at the core of the system, and is being supplemented by an octa-core 1.20 GHz ARM processor and 4GB of RAM. Compared to the hardware of the PS4 and Xbox One, this is relatively modest, but it’s still more powerful than that of the Wii U and of course the PS3/360.
What’s interesting about the Switch is that it uses mobile technology. This could very well end up being an advantage in a few years. As tablets, smartphones and laptop-hybrids (like the Microsoft Surface) become more advanced, technology giants like Nvidia and others will continue to improve their components. Mobile devices have come a long way in a relatively short period of time with devices like the new iPad Pro being just as powerful as its laptop counterpart, the MacBook. As mobile devices continue to be in high demand, the tech inside of them will continue to advance at a fast rate. What does this mean for the Switch?
As mobile technology continues to advance, the future for Switch looks bright.
It’s only going to be a matter of time before we’re able to fit massive amounts of power into small, sleek devices such as the Switch. While it may seem impossible to think of something like a GTX 1070 being slimmed down enough to fit into a slab like the Switch, just keep in mind that computers used to literally be the size of entire rooms. As the years went on, we’ve gone from having wall-sized machines to little handheld devices that are leaps-and-bounds more powerful than those primitive behemoths. The fact that the Switch easily outpaces the PS3, 360 and Wii U despite not even being as much as half their size is proof that it’s possible to fit lots of power into a small space.
Nvidia in particular has been very adamant about cramming as much power into compact designs. Up until last year, gaming laptops were known for being bulky due to all the advanced components that needed to be fit inside such a small space. On top of that, laptop graphics cards were less powerful than their desktop counterparts due to the size reduction. Now, that’s changed. Not only has Nvidia found a way to get the smaller cards to run parallel to their desktop brethren, but they’ve managed to shave it down even more with the new Max-Q technology which has allowed modern gaming laptops to be sleeker than ever despite the increase in power. As these advancements continue to be made, devices like the Switch will ultimately benefit.
Now that all three of the console manufacturers have stepped foot into the ‘mid-generation upgrade’ territory, it’s appropriate to think that this will only continue in the future. An advanced Switch wouldn’t be a bad thing as it would improve existing games in addition to allowing for new experiences to be enjoyed that may not have been possible with the current hardware. Let’s see what happens in the next three years.