Power

Nintendo doesn't need a Switch Pro to keep winning the console race

A next-generation Switch is coming, but Nintendo is doing just fine without it.

A close-up of two hands holding a Nintendo Switch, which is running Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

A new Nintendo Switch could come out as early as September. But the company is already in a strong position for the future.

Photo: Chona Kasinger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

On July 6, Nintendo announced a much-anticipated new Switch, but it wasn't the Switch "Pro" many were hoping for. It's a new model with a larger, 7-inch OLED display, but the same processor and battery life as the current Switch. Below is our original story outlining why Nintendo doesn't need a pro model or proper Switch sequel any time soon.

Once upon a time, Nintendo competed with the likes of Sony and Sega and eventually companies like Microsoft. Those days have long since passed, not because Nintendo fell behind in the gaming business, though it did have a few rough years following the Wii U. It's because Nintendo now exists fully in a league of its own, distinct from the binary of PlayStation versus Xbox and straddling a unique line between mobile, portable handheld and home console. The secret to its success is the astounding resilience of the Switch.

Nintendo's hybrid console is more than four years old, having seen only one minor update to its hardware since release alongside the portable-only Switch Lite variant. Nintendo has been planning a new version, featuring a faster processor and an OLED display, that we learned this week might release as soon as September, with an official reveal potentially around E3 next month.

But it's never been more clear that regardless of when the next-generation version arrives, the original Switch has secured Nintendo's future for years to come. The platform may evolve as new features and more powerful hardware get added to the mix, but Nintendo doesn't have to ever release a "new" console again. The Switch can be the company's one and only platform going forward because the ingredients of the device — a handheld yet dockable console capable of catering to all audiences — will keep it relevant and in-demand for the foreseeable future.

As of this week, the Switch has been the bestselling game console in the U.S. every month for the last 29 months in a row, according to data from analyst firm NPD Group. Nintendo has sold more than 90 million units, putting it on track to surpass the Wii and potentially even the PlayStation 4. It's also sent Nintendo's earnings skyrocketing in recent quarters, ensuring the company's strategy stays the course now in the ninth generation of console hardware.

Secrets to the Switch's success

The Switch has been among the cheapest consoles prior to eighth-generation price drops, and it was relatively hard to find for many months after its initial release. Supply is now more robust, making it an obvious choice for lapsed consumers looking to get back into the hobby. That was key when the surge in stay-at-home gaming during the pandemic sent Switch sales soaring. Microsoft and Sony's transition to next-gen hardware also meant fewer people have been buying PS4 and Xbox One devices over the last couple of years, while the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S have been exceedingly difficult to find since their launches last fall.

But the most important reason the Switch is successful is that, even four years after release, consumers haven't stopped buying it in high numbers. Absent a next-generation version of the console, the current Switch would likely continue its strong sales record as Nintendo fills out its 2021 slate of new releases. Those include a remake of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword this summer, a slew of new Pokémon titles including the newly released Pokémon Snap, and a number of high-profile indie games like Hollow Knight follow-up Silksong. There's also system sellers on the horizon, like a Breath of the Wild sequel and a new entry in the long-dormant Metroid Prime series.

Hard to beat

Part of the reason the Switch has been so resilient so far without the need for any major revisions is the core premise of the device remains so tantalizing. Some of the above-mentioned titles are first-party exclusives Nintendo has fiercely defended and cultivated for decades. Yet others are simply games, many of them from indie developers, that found their most dedicated audiences on a portable screen.

The Switch remains the best home for indie games to date, and the formula of selling consumers one or two major first-party releases and a steady stream of indies they can find elsewhere but would much rather play on Switch has been a winning one for Nintedo. So much so that other companies have been eyeing the Switch's form factor as an avenue to make PC gaming more accessible and portable.

Valve is now reportedly working on such a device with the goal of releasing it as soon as this year. And the demise of Sony's PSP and Vita platforms, and Microsoft's refusal to enter the portable space, mean Nintendo's only real competition remains mobile devices, which outside Apple Arcade do not compete on exclusivity with game consoles.

It's hard to imagine what the future of the Switch looks like beyond the inevitable "Switch Pro" or "Super Nintendo Switch" model we know is coming sometime soon. Perhaps one day a dock with a much more powerful processor inside, turning it into something akin to an external GPU. Maybe Nintendo will iterate on the core design, using the Joy-Con hardware in new and unique ways to reimagine the design beyond just a standard widescreen tablet.

Regardless, Nintendo has proved that it is, more than ever, capable of taking big swings and delivering on them consistently for years. Maybe in 10 years, the Switch looks relatively unchanged, but faster and with a nicer screen and a more powerful chip. It'll inevitably still be the home of Mario and Zelda, but maybe also high-end console releases thanks to either cloud gaming or huge leaps in mobile processor performance.

It won't really matter, though, because Nintendo's DNA has always been reimagining the ways people want to play and not trying to compete in the performance wars. Four years ago, the company realized that more-demanding graphics weren't going to turn heads. Instead, what people wanted, though maybe they didn't know it at the time, was a screen that you could take outside your home, a dock for when you didn't want to, and a new Zelda game. That was all Nintendo needed to reverse its bad fortunes and strike gold, and it's arguably all the company needs to keep doing the same.

Update July 7: This story was updated to reflect Nintendo's announcement of the Switch (OLED model) this week.

Workplace

You need a healthy ‘debate culture’

From their first day, employees at Appian are encouraged to disagree with anyone at the company — including the CEO. Here’s how it works.

Appian co-founder and CEO Matt Calkins wants his employees to disagree with him.

Photo: Appian

Matt Calkins often hears that he’s polite, even deferential. But as CEO of Appian, he tells employees to challenge each other — especially their bosses — early and often.

“I love arguments. I love ideas clashing,” Calkins said. “I regard it as a personal compliment when someone respectfully dissents.”

Keep Reading Show less
Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.

Some of the most astounding tech-enabled advances of the next decade, from cutting-edge medical research to urban traffic control and factory floor optimization, will be enabled by a device often smaller than a thumbnail: the memory chip.

While vast amounts of data are created, stored and processed every moment — by some estimates, 2.5 quintillion bytes daily — the insights in that code are unlocked by the memory chips that hold it and transfer it. “Memory will propel the next 10 years into the most transformative years in human history,” said Sanjay Mehrotra, president and CEO of Micron Technology.

Keep Reading Show less
James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.

Gopuff says it will make it through the fast-delivery slump

Maria Renz on her new role, the state of fast delivery and Gopuff’s goals for the coming year.

Gopuff has raised $4 billion at a $15 billion valuation.

Photo: Gopuff

The fast-delivery boom sent startups soaring during the pandemic, only for them to come crashing down in recent months. But Maria Renz said Gopuff is prepared to get through the slump.

“Gopuff is really well-positioned to weather through those challenges that we expect in the next year or so,” Renz told Protocol. “We're first party, we control elements of our mix, like price, very directly. And again, we have nine years of experience.”

Keep Reading Show less
Sarah Roach

Sarah (Sarahroach_) writes for Source Code at Protocol. She's a recent graduate of The George Washington University, where she studied journalism and criminal justice. She served for two years as editor-in-chief of GW's independent newspaper, The GW Hatchet. Sarah is based in New York, and can be reached at sroach@protocol.com

Enterprise

AT&T CTO: Challenges of the cloud transition are interpersonal

Jeremy Legg sat down with Protocol to discuss the race to 5G, the challenges of the cloud transition and nabbing tech talent.

AT&T CTO Jeremy Legg spoke with Protocol about the company's cloud transition and more.

Photo: AT&T

Jeremy Legg is two months into his role as CTO of AT&T, and he has been tasked with a big mandate: transforming the company into a software-driven business, with 5G and fiber as core growth areas.

This isn’t Legg’s first CTO gig, just his biggest one. He’s an entertainment biz guy who’s now at the center of the much bigger, albeit less glamorous, telecom business. Prior to joining AT&T in 2020, Legg was the CTO of WarnerMedia, where he was the technical architect behind HBO Max.

Keep Reading Show less
Michelle Ma

Michelle Ma (@himichellema) is a reporter at Protocol, where she writes about management, leadership and workplace issues in tech. Previously, she was a news editor of live journalism and special coverage for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, she worked as a staff writer at Wirecutter. She can be reached at mma@protocol.com.

Workplace

How Canva uses Canva

Design tips and tricks from the ultimate Canva pros: Canva employees themselves.

Employees use Canva to build the internal weekly “Canvazine,” product vision decks, team swag and more.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Ever wondered how the companies behind your favorite tech use their own products? We’ve told you how Spotify uses Spotify, How Slack uses Slack and how Meta uses its workplace tools. We talked to Canva employees about the creative ways they use the design tool.

The thing about Canva is that it's ridiculously easy to use. Anyone, regardless of skill level, can open up the app and produce a visually appealing presentation, infographic or video. The 10-year-old company has become synonymous with DIY design, serving as the preferred Instagram infographic app for the social justice “girlies.” Still, the app has plenty of overlooked features that Canvanauts (Canva’s word for its employees) use every day.

Keep Reading Show less
Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

Latest Stories
Bulletins