Nintendo fans, brace yourselves. It seems that the beloved Switch console might be reaching the end of its reign as Nintendo’s main piece of hardware. The rumors of a successor have persisted for years, but recent reports suggest that an upgraded device is not only coming but will be here relatively soon, potentially launching in 2024.
But fear not, because Nintendo isn’t letting the Switch go out with a whimper. In fact, 2023 has already proven to be one of the Switch’s strongest years to date. Just take a look at the company’s biggest properties. This year, we’ve been blessed with both a new mainline Zelda game in Tears of the Kingdom and a classic Mario title with Super Mario Bros. Wonder. The last time Nintendo released a major Zelda and Super Mario game in the same year was back in 2017 when the Switch made its debut. The success of games like Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, both selling over 50 million copies combined, speaks for itself.
Tears of the Kingdom, in particular, pushes the limits of what the Switch is capable of. Its giant open world and physics-defying creations have amazed players worldwide. On the other hand, Super Mario Bros. Wonder is a surprisingly large production for a 2D side-scroller. Nintendo dedicated ample development time and budget to create a game with much more to offer than ever before. Quality was the priority, free from the constraints of a fixed time period for development.
While the Switch has seen some relatively quiet periods in terms of big new releases in the past, this year, Nintendo has truly nailed the schedule. Aside from Mario and Zelda, the lineup has been filled with titles like Pikmin 4, modern updates to Advance Wars and Metroid Prime, new Bayonetta and Fire Emblem games, multiple Pokémon releases, experiments like F-Zero 99, and upcoming titles like WarioWare: Move It! and Super Mario RPG. Six years into its life, the Switch’s release calendar has never been more robust.
However, even if a Switch successor launches next year, the original console won’t disappear right away. Like the 3DS before it, the Switch will likely continue to exist, albeit more quietly, while the new console finds its footing. And even in 2024, there are a few first-party games on the horizon, including Princess Peach: Showtime! and remakes of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and Another Code. Nintendo consoles tend to have a slow and dignified death, and the Switch, being the second-bestselling Nintendo hardware ever, will likely follow suit.
This upcoming console transition could be the most pivotal in Nintendo’s history. After the disappointing performance of the Wii U, the Switch was Nintendo’s redemption, proving that it could offer a unified version of its console and portable businesses. But following it up won’t be easy, especially in an era where consumer expectations have dramatically changed. Users now expect games and other content to carry forward when they upgrade.
This continuity has not always been a strong point for Nintendo in the past, as fans have often had to repurchase their favorite games for new hardware. However, it will be crucial for Nintendo to maintain the momentum of the Switch and keep fans on board for whatever comes next. The company is in a great spot when it comes to games right now, thanks to a decade-long process of merging development divisions into one cohesive unit solely focused on the Switch. This secret sauce behind the Switch’s success could potentially help propel the next console to even greater heights.
But let’s not forget that success in the cyclical world of gaming is never guaranteed. Even a runaway hit like the Wii doesn’t guarantee continued success. So, as the Switch potentially goes out on a high note in 2023, Nintendo must play its cards right to ensure that this year is just the beginning of something much bigger. Fans can only wait and see what Nintendo has in store for the future.