Switch OLED ABXY Closeup
Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

Another year, another round of 'New Nintendo Switch Pro/2/+/On/Up/Over' rumours. Whispers of new or updated Switch hardware have been doing the rounds since practically the launch of the console back in 2017, and the start of 2023 has brought with it a fresh round of speculation as to when exactly Nintendo will debut its next video game console.

Announcing and launching new hardware are two very different things, of course, but Switch will soon be entering its seventh year on store shelves and it's getting to the point where, based on the evidence of past console cycles, official news of a true successor can't be too far off — even given Nintendo's willingness to subvert expectations, to leave Sony and Microsoft to fight over hardware specs since the Wii era, and to lean into its catalogue of evergreen games which keep its hardware selling well into its twilight years.

As with every manufacturer of consumer electronics, the global microchip shortage, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has had an effect on Nintendo, but less so than Sony and Microsoft, whose beefier home consoles contain more advanced silicon than that found in the Switch family of systems. That's not to say Nintendo hasn't struggled to meet demand over the past couple of years, but this writer can count on one hand the number of Xbox Series X and PS5 consoles he's seen on store shelves since those systems launched in late 2020. Conversely, the supply of Switches — OG, Lite, and OLED alike — has been steady, if not plentiful in local stores.

No, it's arguably research, development, and release timing of new hardware that will have been impacted most by the production difficulties of the past few years. The nomenclature gets a little messy when discussing this hypothetical device, with different commentators mixing their shorthand for this unannounced Nintendo hardware. Is a 'Switch Pro' the same as a 'Switch 2', for example? We'd argue not, but it's a silly argument to begin with; they are really just names meaning 'not-Switch' at this stage. If Nintendo just doubled the RAM, tweaked the Joy-Con, and called a new SKU the 'Switch 2', sure, we could get into the weeds and start throwing around terms like 'generational leap' and '#NotMySwitch2', but it's all just branding. After the confusion caused by the name 'Wii U' and that console's presentation, we wouldn't be surprised if Nintendo kept things simple and differentiated a new device with a simple number.

The real question, though, comes down to two things: When is the right time for Nintendo to announce its next console? And what form will it take?

2023? 2024? 2025!?

Switch comparison
Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa has commented on how cautiously the company is approaching the launch of Switch's successor, whatever form it takes (more on that in a moment). He also stated back in February 2022 that Switch was "just in the middle of its lifecycle". That might sound like Furukawa envisions a decade-long life for the Switch (mainly because that's exactly what it means), but this obviously doesn't preclude the launch of newer, more powerful hardware before Switch's 10th birthday in 2027.

A late 2023 announcement and Spring 2024 release is the consensus around these parts.

Some analysts have been predicting updated Switch hardware since, oh, 2019, but we're now at the point in the lifecycle that it's easier to divine the future. Piers Harding-Rolls of Ampere Analysis told GamesIndustry.Biz that they are forecasting new Nintendo hardware in 2024, and a quick survey around our office finds Team Nintendo Life in broad agreement: "A late 2023 announcement and Spring 2024 release" is the consensus around these parts.

This is based on the idea that Nintendo will be looking to ape the successful rollout of the OG Switch, which was revealed in October 2016 and launched the following March. Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom offers an ideal 'bookend' to these hybrid-handheld golden years, and while we'd be happy to play a new Mario or Metroid Prime 4 on our Switch OLEDs, it makes sense — from a business point of view — to use those titles to fuel interest in new hardware, even if they're also playable on the current console.

We wouldn't totally discount a surprise 2023 release, but given all the industry factors at play, it seems unlikely. And 2025 feels like too long a wait by our reckoning. Nope, we're predicting 2024, "even if it's Q4," which would potentially mean a full seven-year tenure for Switch as the flagship Nintendo system. Not a bad old run.

So how does that compare with previous console generations?

A Look to the Past

Game Boys
Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

five-to-six years has been the typical duration between Nintendo home console launches since the days of the NES

Looking back at previous Nintendo consoles, sales of the preceding system always continue for years after the launch of newer products. It's absolutely standard industry practice, with perhaps the original Xbox being the only example in recent memory where the manufacturer halted production early specifically to shift players onto the new platform.

With the manufacturing and supply pipeline in place, it makes sound financial sense to keep offering a proven product with a large software library all the time a reasonable demand exists. For budget-conscious gamers and families — not to mention enthusiasts looking to build a collection — the end of the line is typically the best time to jump on a platform. How we wish we had picked up one or two of those brand new bargain-priced 2/3DS consoles a few years ago before they shot up in price! 3DS console variants were manufactured from 2011 until 2020, well after the Switch arrived on the scene. In fact, brand new Wiis (albeit the Mini version) were still being made until 2017, 11 years after that console debuted.

A ten-year lifecycle is not unusual for a successful system, then, and Switch is pretty much as successful as they come. Overall sales will soon be overtaking Game Boy (if it hasn't already at the time of writing — we're still awaiting the inevitable official confirmation that Switch unit sales have crossed the 118.69 million threshold) to take the number three spot behind the DS and PS2 in the all-time console sales ranking.

Looking back, five-to-six years has been the typical duration between Nintendo home console launches since the days of the NES. The length of time between handheld launches is far less predictable, though, and also muddied by many more mid-cycle revamps and SKU tweaks ranging from major to minor.

Examining handheld release dates paints a very different picture from their home console brethren. The Game Boy launched in 1989 and it was seven years until the revised Game Boy Pocket appeared in 1996. While it was smaller and sported a better screen, let's also remember that the Pocket variant was functionally identical to the OG Game Boy.

Two years later, the Game Boy Color's full backward compatibility blurred the lines between hardware generations (although it did host GBC-only titles) and would continue to be manufactured until 2003, two years after the launch of Game Boy Advance and just one year before the arrival of the DS. SP and Micro revisions of the GBA meant that production of that particular GB line was halted only in 2008.

Nintendo is likely to channel its more madcap ideas and creativity into contained, Labo-like software experiments while the core console offering remains reassuringly safe and conservative.

And it goes on. Iterations of the DS — the best-selling Nintendo console of all time, remember, with Lite, DSi, and DSi XL variants in addition to the original 'Phat' version — were still being manufactured following the launch of 3DS in 2011, which closes the circle on the handheld-only line and brings us back to the intertwining of home and handheld branches with the hybrid Switch.

All of this is to say that, where previous Nintendo home consoles have traditionally enjoyed five-ish years before a successor is launched, the handheld history is far more erratic, with revised models clouding things and a huge amount of overlap between systems. An 'unopposed' seven-year run isn't unprecedented, and Switch's handheld nature indicates that we should indeed buckle up for a non-conventional handover to a new system, whatever it may be.

There's also the question of whether Nintendo sticks to the same Switch-style hardware formula for the next generation, though.

Form(ula) and function

Super NES Closeup
Image: Zion Grassl / Nintendo Life

Assuming for a moment, then, that the more haphazard history of the handheld line hints at the template Nintendo will follow for Switch's successor, it is perhaps — perhaps — safe to assume that Nintendo will stick with a console that 'switches'.

Metroid Prime Pinball DS Lite
There was almost certainly no Nintendo DS before this one — Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

The hybrid concept, and how it differentiates the company's offering from the powerhouse PlayStations and Xboxes, has proved lucrative and carried the company through trying times for the games industry and the wider consumer electronics sector. Nintendo may have diversified its IP offerings across mobile and other media, with the upcoming Super Mario Movie being the most obvious example of growth outside the field of purely interactive media, but it has still thrown all its hardware eggs in the combined hybrid console basket. The commercial failure of Wii U was mitigated over time by the strong performance of the 3DS line, but that backup doesn't exist anymore. Simply put, this means Nintendo is likely to channel its more madcap ideas and creativity into contained, Labo-like software experiments while the core console offering remains reassuringly safe and conservative.

Which is fine, if a little unexciting. Part of us really wants Nintendo to do something zany, because that is what sets it apart from other developers. Being able to predict with reasonable accuracy what Nintendo's next move will be? How incredibly dull!

Still, ask most commentators and gamers — us included — what they want from Nintendo's next console, and they'll almost certainly hope for an update that sticks with the essential Switch concept. It fits into our lifestyles, diverse as they are, and it's difficult to imagine future Nintendo games being chained to a TV like a regular console.

Peak performance

Metroid Dread OLED
Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

The idea of a simple 'Switch 2' is pretty boring and lacks 'the Nintendo difference', then, but it makes too much sense to deviate from, even for a company as creatively defiant as Nintendo.

But who can say? Perhaps Switch 2's Joy-Con will come with vitality sensor holes to slot your fingers in and a holographic projector that will let us play Strategema in tabletop mode, like in that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Despite our love for Switch, we also love a good shot of that patented Nintendo 'What The—' from time to time, to help keep things exciting. We hope the next console will have plenty of that, too, even if the base experience itself may be unusually predictable.

When do you think Nintendo will announce its next console? Let us know in the poll below, and leave a comment if you'd like to elaborate.

So then, when do YOU think Nintendo will announce and release its next 'proper' console?