Nintendo Switch
Image: Nintendo

Nintendo isn't a company that likes to stand still for too long. It has often innovated and driven the entire industry forward, such as when it popularised motion-control gaming with the Wii and touch-based interfaces with the DS. However, this desire to experiment hasn't always worked out; the Virtual Boy was a notable failure, while the Wii U effectively squandered the massive audience the company had built up with its previous home console.

Nintendo is thankfully back on track with the Switch, which has now sold over 92 million units and is highly likely to overtake the Wii to become the company's most popular domestic system (although debate still rages on that topic – is Switch a handheld, home console, or simply both?). The robust commercial performance of the machine has given Nintendo reason to consider an expanded lifecycle for the Switch, so we could see it remain the company's sole focus for the next five years.

However, as we all know, companies like Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft are always working on new hardware, and in a recent Q&A, Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa addressed this matter:

We are not able to comment about the next game system at this time. With regards to the next game system, we are considering many different things, but as far as the concept and launch timing are concerned, there is nothing we can share at this time.

The line "we are considering many different things" could potentially raise alarm bells with long-time Nintendo fans, because it hints that perhaps the company is about to start afresh with a totally new approach for its next hardware platform.

Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. Nintendo's vision has guided the industry in new and exciting ways, as we've already discussed. Portable video gaming would have been a lot less interesting had Nintendo simply followed Sony's approach with the PSP and created a 'more powerful' Game Boy Advance, while its success during the Wii era was largely down to the fact that it took a chance on new technology. Nintendo's willingness to try fresh things is something we should be eternally grateful for.

Nintendo's desire to experiment is commendable, but it hasn't always resulted in commercial success
Nintendo's desire to experiment is commendable, but it hasn't always resulted in commercial success (Image: Nintendo)

However, as we've noted, sometimes Nintendo's forays into new territory don't work out so well; the Wii U was one of the lowest points in the company's hardware history; a period which was thankfully balanced out by the fact that the 3DS was hitting its stride at around the same time. Sure, you could argue that without Wii U we might not have had the Switch – an evolution of the 'off-TV' concept, you could say – but Nintendo's trademark inventiveness could well cost it success in the modern gaming arena.

Nintendo hasn't gone toe-to-toe with its hardware rivals in pure power terms since the days of the GameCube, and its business model is totally different to Sony and Microsoft's – both of which are happy to lose money on hardware from day one in order to build a solid userbase. Taking this into account, it would perhaps be unwise of Nintendo to attempt to create another 'pure' home console – unless, of course, it is backed up by a truly innovative control concept, like the underpowered Wii was.

Could Virtual Reality be Nintendo's next step? It's often been said that Nintendo is the firm that can bring stand-alone VR to the mass market, but you could argue that the Oculus Quest 2 has already done that. Perhaps the firm has another groundbreaking control idea waiting in the wings, and its next console could be the platform that triggers an entirely new gaming craze.

Or maybe, just maybe, Furukawa's words are designed to be as non-committal as possible, and Nintendo will stick with the Switch concept for the foreseeable future, turning the platform into something akin to the iPhone or iPad – a hardware ecosystem that grows in power and features over time, but retains software compatibility.

Whatever road Nintendo takes, its next home console is likely to be a key moment in the company's history – when it eventually arrives, at least.

What would you like to see from the next Nintendo system? Let us know with a comment.