Recently, David Gibson, an investment adviser, attended Nintendo’s Q&A following their latest earnings report and delivered some information including the claim that the Switch was “barely in the middle” of its life cycle. Given that it was released just over three years ago, that would mean there are at least three years left before it’s replaced. What we don’t know, however, is when and how exactly that replacement process will occur.
The Nintendo Gamecube had a six-year lifespan from 2001 to 2007, but the success of the console was nowhere near that of its competitors. The PlayStation 2 dominated those years and beyond and of course is the top-selling console of all time. The followup to the GameCube, the Nintendo Wii, had much more success, making it sixth on that list with more than 100 million sales. With that success, the console still only lasted seven years until its successor, the Wii U, began production.
While the Wii U proved to be even less successful than the GameCube, it still lasted from 2012 to 2017 before the Switch came along. This seems to indicate that Nintendo has fairly rigid plans for the rollouts of their console hardware. If a console can sell practically eight times as many units as another from the company and only have a lifespan two years longer, the Switch’s outlook of 6 years doesn’t seem too outlandish.
Yet there’s another factor to consider here. The Switch also functions as a branch of Nintendo’s handheld department – especially with the Switch Lite in the mix. The Nintendo DS went seven years before the 3DS came along between 2004 and 2011. The 3DS continues with its full backward compatibility nine years later along with a wide variety of hardware variations on the market. The core design of the DS has essentially existed for sixteen years surpassing multiple other console generations.
The question here is whether Nintendo intends to highlight the Switch as the successor to the DS or keep it competing in the console wars a unique alternative (or addition) to the PlayStation and Xbox. Will they continue to innovate and power up the hardware as they have with each console generation, or will they iterate on the design with more refined improvements like the DS? Both have their pros and cons.
If in 2023 or beyond we get the successor to the Switch as a home console, it could build on the relatively limited power the Switch has to deliver higher fidelity and frame rate versions of favorites. It’s hard to conceive of what innovations Nintendo might attempt, but the company seems to strive for new creations like the Wii’s motion controls, the Wii U’s dual-screen based interface, and the Switch’s role as both handheld and console.
Yet, they could also choose to deliver a console that doubles down on the features of the Switch, like the 3DS. Increasing the power and capabilities of the system while also adding functionality like expanded motion controls or branching into VR. It would allow them to expand further beyond the 3DS’s limited potential as a handheld and bring a wider variety of games to people on the go. Giving players more options and backward compatibility with the Switch’s growing library of games could broaden the appeal of the console just like the 3DS.
Whatever the case is, Nintendo has more control over their future than ever before. Fans and newcomers alike are clamoring for more classic entries to franchises like Breath of the Wild 2, Metroid Prime 4, and potential re-released 3D Mario games. I’m sure by the time 2023 rolls around, Nintendo will have everything in place to do what it takes to continue their progress. Whether they can execute on that success is something historically few have been able to accurately predict.
What do you think Nintendo’s next move will before the Switch? Do you see it more like a home console, a handheld, or somewhere in between? Let us know in the comments!