Nintendo is planning to release an upgraded version of its popular Switch game console next year, according to reports in Taiwan’s Economic Daily News and Bloomberg. The new model will come out in early 2021, according to the Economic Daily News, which cited supply chain sources.
This could be the first serious performance upgrade to the Switch since its release in March 2017. Bloomberg says Nintendo “has looked into including more computing power and 4K high-definition graphics,” while the Economic Daily News mentions improved visuals. Nintendo did release two new Switch models last year, but they used a more power-efficient version of the original hardware to enable a smaller form factor and better battery life without notable performance improvements.
That Switch hardware is based around Nvidia’s Tegra X1 system-on-chip, which was first announced more than five years ago. Mobile processor technology has advanced a lot since, so there’s certainly room for a major Switch speed boost, but it’d likely require a new custom design from Nvidia. While the X1 did make it into Google’s Pixel C tablet as well as Nvidia’s own Shield set-top boxes, the company no longer makes general-purpose mobile SoCs for third-party manufacturers.
According to Bloomberg, the new model will be released alongside a stronger lineup of games, which could go some way to explaining Nintendo’s light software schedule this year. The company hasn’t announced any big titles for this holiday season, when much of the attention will fall on the launch of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Nintendo does, however, have major titles still in the pipeline after being announced years ago, like Metroid Prime 4 and the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, so it may well make sense to promote them alongside new, more powerful hardware.
The Switch has continued to sell extremely well in 2020, with Animal Crossing: New Horizons driving millions of hardware purchases. Nintendo had sold more than 61 million Switch consoles as of the end of July, putting it within touching distance of the original Famicom/Nintendo Entertainment System.