After launching in March 2017, the original Switch could use a more powerful sibling, but it’s unlikely that happens this year. Photo: Sam Rutherford
Nintendo packed a lot of news into its relatively tight E3 presentation, with sneak peeks at upcoming games like Metroid Dread, WarioWare: Get It Together, Breath of the Wild 2, and even a remake for Advance Wars 1 and 2. But one of the most anticipated Nintendo products, the Switch Pro, was a no-show, and it’s beginning to seem obvious that we won’t see the Switch Pro at all this year.
Now I know our friends over at Kotaku have already touched on this subject a bit, but I wanted to chime in with a few more thoughts about why there’s a very small chance we’ll see a Switch Pro in 2021.
Before E3 kicked off, Nintendo sent around a press release telling the media that Nintendo’s E3 presentation would be “focused exclusively on Nintendo Switch games mainly releasing in 2021.” Translation: Nintendo had no intentions of revealing any hardware this summer. And lo and behold, the year’s biggest gaming convention came and went without a peep about the Switch Pro. There’s no reason to panic: This doesn’t mean all the reports we’ve been seeing about the Switch Pro are bogus. Sometimes a company has to adjust its plans.
But by not discussing a next-gen Switch at E3, it nearly guarantees the Switch Pro won’t go on sale before the end of the year. The original Switch was first announced in October 2016 before eventually going on sale March 3, 2017. And if I had to bet, I’d put money on Nintendo doing something similar for the Switch Pro: a potential announcement this fall followed by official sales beginning in the spring of 2022.
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Not only would this put the Switch Pro’s release date almost exactly six years after the original (which would make for an almost ideal mid-lifecycle refresh for the Switch), it could also line up nicely with Nintendo’s 2022 launch window for Breath of the Wild 2. The first Breath of the Wild was a launch game for the original Switch, and it was a huge factor in propelling the Switch’s strong first year sales.
And while it’s very possible that Breath of the Wild 2 (and the Switch Pro, or both) could get pushed back to the summer or fall of 2022, I wouldn’t be surprised if Nintendo is planning to release the Switch Pro and BotW 2 at the same time to ensure there’s a first-party game that really shows off the performance of a more powerful Switch. It’s not just a nod toward tradition, it’s a smart business move, too.
Photo: Sam Rutherford
We also have to remember that Nintendo announced the Switch Lite in August 2019, then released it in September. That’s an awfully fast turnaround for a major console, and I doubt Nintendo is prepared to do the same for the Switch Pro. Regardless, if Nintendo doesn’t announce the Switch Pro before the end of the summer, then that will be the final poison mushroom in people’s hopes of seeing a Switch Pro in 2021.
Another major hurdle Nintendo would have to overcome to launch a Switch Pro this year is the global chip crunch. All sorts of components, from display controllers to automotive chips and, most importantly for consumer electronics, SoCs, are in extremely short supply. And with major foundries like TSMC reportedly already running at “over 100% utilization,” it’s going to be extremely difficult for Nintendo to squeeze in next to AMD, Nvidia, Microsoft, Sony, and others to produce a new chip for the Switch Pro.
However, by pushing the Switch Pro’s launch date (and therefore its production ramp) into 2022, Nintendo should have more time to source the required components.
But perhaps the biggest reason why we won’t see a Switch Pro this year is simply because the current Switch is still raking in sales. For the 2020 fiscal year, Nintendo pulled in a record profit of just over $6 billion, with Nintendo’s total revenue for 2020 of $16.6 billion falling just short of its all-time high back in ‘08 and ‘09 when the Wii was selling like hotcakes.
Even with competition from the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, the Nintendo Switch continues to top sales charts this year, with Ampere Analysis reporting that Nintendo sold 5.86 million Switches in Q1 2021, compared to 2.83 million for the PS5 and 1.31 million for both versions of the Xbox Series. Supply constraints are obviously hurting both Sony and Microsoft, which has depressed overall sales (which gives Nintendo another reason to wait), but even so, the Switch is still outselling the next-gen Xbox and PlayStation consoles combined. In short, Nintendo has the luxury to hold off for now.
It’s a bummer that the chances of the Switch Pro going on sale this year are pretty slim—I personally have been hoping and waiting for a Switch Pro since 2019—but it’s also important to not let the hype get out of control. And hey, if my reading of the teas leaves are wrong, then we get pleasantly surprised rather than sadly disappointed. It’s important to set expectations.
In a lot of ways, Shigeru Miyamoto’s famous quote about delayed games applies to consoles, as well: “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.” And if there’s something that would be almost guaranteed to disappoint, it’s a Switch Pro that has been pushed out before it’s ready.