Can you feel it? It’s in the air. The excitement that comes round every few years or so. No, not an election, you masochists, I’m talking about the arrival of a new generation of consoles. Once again we’re on the verge of ‘next gen’ becoming ‘current gen’.
Nintendo fans of course were treated to this back in 2017, when the Switch first launched. We can thank the Wii U’s failure (sorry @Andrew, but no one else bought one) for accelerating Nintendo’s plans and bringing them out of sync with the other console generation timeline that’s dictated by Sony and Microsoft. But when PS5 and Xbox Whatever both arrive around this time next year, what does that mean for Nintendo?
By then, the Switch will have been on the shelves for nearly four years, it’ll be practically ancient in tech terms. But don’t expect that to mean that Nintendo will start to wind things down and get ready to retire the old boy. Oh no.
This Christmas will be Nintendo’s to own – a shiny new Pokemon entry paired with the Switch Lite will make sure of that, especially since neither Sony or Microsoft appear to have anything too exciting up their sleeves. But 2020? That will be a whole different ballgame. How are Nintendo going to compete? Well, here’s my sense of how things might play out.
First of all; price. The main Switch SKU still hasn’t had a formal price cut since its launch. There will be huge numbers of buyers patiently waiting for a price cut on principle before they jump into picking up some new tech. Apple have done wonders for tech companies in pushing the cost boundaries for what’s acceptable (much to our own Danny Ward’s distress) so I’m not expecting Sony to match the £350 launch price that PS4 enjoyed. £400-£500 seems more likely to me, with games going for £50-£60 at launch too. It’s going to be a big ask. Compare that to a new Switch selling for around £230 (or £170 for Switch Lite?) and the introduction of a new Nintendo Selects range offering evergreen titles such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for £20.
Next there are the games. New consoles rarely launch with a hugely compelling line up, and it remains to be seen what Sony and Microsoft have up their sleeves for their next gen launches. We don’t know much of Nintendo’s 2020 plans yet beyond Animal Crossing, but you can bet there will be something huge in the works for holiday 2020. I’m betting on Breath of the Wild 2 and maybe even a new Mario game (who knows, maybe even my previously predicted 6 Golden Coins remake…)
Thirdly, Nintendo can continue to push Switch’s status as a handheld. Even if you plan to buy a new PS5 or Xbox, the Switch makes a perfect companion device for portable gaming (the Switch Lite obviously in particular).
It won’t be a hard pitch to say to people; pick up a Switch now and enjoy a huge library of amazing exciting games right away, along with stellar new releases like Breath of the Wild 2, while you wait for PS5 to fall in price and get enough games to justify that huge price tag.
You’ll notice I’ve not even mentioned the idea of a Switch Pro type device. Why not? I honestly don’t think they’ll need it in 2020. I think they’d be better off to wait and play that card in 2021, when the other consoles are starting to hit their stride. They can buy themselves an extra few years to keep them going until Switch 2 launches, maybe in 2023. But hey, what do I know, they could prove me wrong on this point and release a Switch Pro next year. I’d be very happy if they did!
Nintendo has always marched to the beat of its own drum, and as we fully move into a new generation of gaming, that will help them now more than ever. By shifting their own generation out by a few years in means they can launch new tech at a premium price with much excitement, and then when the others catch up they can drop their prices and really go after the casual or second console market that helped them to do so well in the Wii years.
So fear not y’all, the Switch will go on selling like hot cakes for a good while longer yet.