Nintendo, notoriously secretive, has so far said nothing — or almost nothing — on the record about its next game console. As Nintendo Switch approaches its seventh birthday in March 2024, questions about how much longer it will last are natural: Seven years is a typical lifespan for a console generation, Switch sales are falling fast, and the technology powering the console is showing its age. But Nintendo has flatly refused to engage with those questions.
Behind the scenes, however, Nintendo is gearing up for the release of its new machine, briefing its partners, and releasing development kits. Information has started to leak, and a picture of what form the console will take has begun to emerge, as well as when we can expect to hear about it and when we can expect to buy one.
It’s no surprise that Nintendo is treading carefully. The Switch has been an enormous success — it’s the third-best-selling console of all time, behind only PlayStation 2 and Nintendo’s own DS handheld — which presents both a big opportunity and a big risk. Historically, Nintendo has struggled to follow its most popular formats: Wii and DS were followed by the flop of Wii U and the relative disappointment (in sales terms) of 3DS. Nintendo’s usual insistence on hardware innovation has proven as likely to alienate its audience as to find a new one. Will Nintendo break with its own tradition and follow the Switch with a more powerful take on the same formula, or will it try something different?
What is the latest Switch 2 news?
Nintendo’s next console will “likely” use a custom-designed Nvidia chip rather than an off-the-shelf processor, according to a Reuters report on Nvidia’s future plans. This would continue the companies’ partnership after the Switch was based around Nvidia’s Tegra X1 mobile chip. The report has no other details, other than to further confirm that the console is expected to be released this year.
However, the tech gossip community already identified the chip in question a few months ago. As detailed in this Digital Foundry report from November 2023, leaks and other evidence point to Switch 2 using T239, a heavily customized version of Nvidia’s T234 chipset, which is used in robotics and automotive setups. The T239 is paired with a custom graphics unit based on Nvidia’s Ampere architecture. It seems like surprisingly ambitious tech, potentially supporting features such as ray tracing, and with the machine-learning power to be able to use DLSS upscaling technology to boost performance. It’s consistent, more or less, with the reports from Gamescom 2023 that Switch 2 hardware was demonstrated running Epic’s The Matrix Awakens Unreal tech demo with ray-tracing and DLSS enabled.
Will Nintendo’s next-gen console be called Switch 2?
Regarding its name, the answer is that we don’t know. It’s worth noting that Nintendo has never before named its consoles in numerical sequence, even when they were direct follow-ups to a previous generation, such as the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo 3DS. Super Nintendo Switch (or Super Switch!) has a certain ring to it, if you ask us. But for now, “Switch 2” is a serviceable shorthand, and what we’ll use in this article.
Will Switch 2 be a hybrid handheld console, like Switch?
The answer here appears to be yes. Recent reporting by VGC, citing multiple sources after dev kits arrived at partner studios, said that the console “would be able to be used in portable mode, similar to the Nintendo Switch.”
There’s no word yet on whether the console will feature detachable Joy-Con controllers like the Switch, or whether it will have a handheld-only variant like the Switch Lite. But early signs are that Nintendo is keen to follow closely in the footsteps of the 120-million-plus-selling Switch.
It might be a bit bigger, though. A 2024 report from a Japanese analyst suggests the console will have an 8-inch screen, compared to the original Switch’s 6.2 inches and the Switch OLED model’s 7 inches.
What is Switch 2’s release date?
Nintendo hasn’t indicated when the Switch 2 will be released, but we have a few clues.
VGC’s sources said the console was planned to debut in the second half of 2024 — so, sometime between the start of July and the end of December.
This fits with what we know about declining Switch sales, the stage Nintendo is at in development of the new console, and the release schedule for Switch games. Nintendo has previously ruled out releasing a new console before the end of March 2024, and it now has Switch games scheduled through summer 2024; the latest release on the current schedule is Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD, which has been given a summer 2024 slot. (It’s also worth noting that the recently announced remake of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door doesn’t have a more precise release date than “2024.”)
In an October 2023 interview, Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa reiterated that the company would remain focused on Switch until the end of Nintendo’s current fiscal year in March 2024, and added that it would continue to support Switch with new titles in the following fiscal year. The shift from “focus” to “support” for the Switch implies that a new console will launch in Nintendo’s next fiscal year — so, between April 2024 and March 2025.
All signs point to a hardware release in fall 2024, with Nintendo reportedly hoping to stockpile enough consoles to avoid shortages during the holiday shopping season.
Will Switch 2 be backward-compatible?
This is the big question, with many users hoping — or outright expecting — to carry forward their game libraries to Nintendo’s next console, as has become the norm with the latest generations of Xbox and PlayStation consoles. The answer remains unknown, and it’s not easy to predict, either.
VGC’s report said that the backward compatibility of the machine “remains unclear.” Some third-party publishers were said to be worried about the potential impact on sales of next-gen titles if the machine is backward-compatible. For its part, Nintendo has (in a rare on-the-record comment) said it will hope to bring Switch users over to the new platform with their Nintendo accounts; if the Nintendo account system persists, that would in theory make it easy for users to access previous purchases. But that’s not the same thing as the console being technically capable of it.
Nintendo has a decent, if not flawless, record for supporting backward compatibility. Wii played GameCube games, and Wii U played Wii games; Game Boy Advance was backward-compatible with Game Boy, and 3DS with DS. But the Switch, with its new game cartridge format, enforced a clean break with the past, and Nintendo has made a mint from rereleasing Wii U games on the machine, particularly the 55-million-selling Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
On balance, as long as the machine uses the same format for physical releases (see below), Nintendo’s record suggests that it will make the Switch 2 backward-compatible. However, there remain technical hurdles to implementing backward compatibility, and much will depend on the chip architecture Nintendo has chosen for the Switch 2, which is not currently known.
Will Switch 2 be digital-only, or will games be sold on cartridge (or disc)?
Of all the console manufacturers, Nintendo’s ties to the retail industry are perhaps the strongest — stronger even than Sony’s — so Nintendo is extremely unlikely to go digital-only for the Switch 2, even if this would seem to make sense for a portable machine.
Indeed, VGC’s report included the detail that the new console will have a cartridge slot for physical releases. This is as close to a dead cert as we can get with the Switch 2 — and it also happens to support the machine having the same or similar form factor as the Switch, as well as increasing the likelihood of backward compatibility.
How powerful will Switch 2 be? Will it be able to play new AAA games?
Thanks to Microsoft’s legal wrangles over its acquisition of Activision Blizzard, and reports of demos given by Nintendo to partners at Gamescom, we are beginning to get a sense of how capable the Switch 2’s hardware will be.
Internal emails released as part of the FTC v. Microsoft case revealed that Activision executives met with Nintendo in December 2022 to discuss the console, and came away with the impression that performance would be close to “Gen8 platforms” — in other words, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. (Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick later said that he had not seen tech specs for the machine, however.)
If anything, the “Gen8” comparison sounds as though it might undersell the Switch 2’s capabilities. According to Eurogamer’s and VGC’s reporting on the behind-closed-doors Gamescom demos, Nintendo showed hardware targeting the specs of the console running The Matrix Awakens’ Unreal Engine 5 tech demo with ray tracing enabled and “visuals comparable to Sony’s and Microsoft’s current-gen consoles.”
This doesn’t mean that the Switch 2 will be as powerful as PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Instead, Nintendo is likely using clever techniques to reduce the demand on a less powerful graphics processor. VGC reported that the demo ran using Nvidia’s advanced DLSS upscaling technology, which uses AI to upscale the resolution of the image, making it easier for developers to optimize performance and visuals on weaker hardware by lowering the internal resolution settings.
Still, the mention of Unreal Engine 5 — which is establishing itself as the industry standard engine, targeting current console hardware — along with DLSS and ray tracing suggests that Nintendo is keen to get closer to PS5 and Xbox Series X in terms of performance, and perhaps make it more feasible for developers to port their home console releases on the Switch 2.
Also at Gamescom, a special, improved version of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was shown, running at higher resolution and frame rate than it does on Switch.
The Switch 2 will feature one tech downgrade, however: Reportedly, the console will feature an LCD screen, unlike the OLED screen seen in the current top-of-the-range Switch model, as a cost-cutting measure.
What games will be available for Switch 2?
Speaking of the enhanced Breath of the Wild demo, sources were keen to point out that there was no suggestion that an enhanced version of the full game would become a commercial product — although it wouldn’t be altogether surprising if it did.
The foremost candidate for a Switch 2 launch game is probably Metroid Prime 4. Of the previously announced in-house Nintendo games, this is the only one without a suggestion of a release date, and Nintendo has been very quiet about it of late. Given that, a release before the second half of 2024 seems unlikely. Perhaps Nintendo will make it a cross-gen release for the Switch and its successor, as it did with Breath of the Wild for Wii U/Switch, and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for GameCube/Wii.
Other than Metroid Prime 4, there are two glaring gaps in Nintendo’s lineup: a new Mario Kart, and a 3D Super Mario game. There hasn’t been an all-new Mario Kart in over nine years, and aside from making add-ons for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the Mario Kart development team has been quiet since the release of Arms in 2017. Deluxe has sold so consistently over the Switch’s lifetime that Nintendo hasn’t had an incentive to release a sequel, but a new platform would seem to present the perfect opportunity for Mario Kart 9.
Similarly, there hasn’t been a new 3D Mario game since 2017’s Super Mario Odyssey. It’s a given that there will be one on Nintendo’s next platform; the only question is when. Odyssey, like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, appeared during the first year of the Switch’s life; perhaps we can expect a repeat of that for the Switch 2.
Update (Feb. 12): This article was updated to reflect reports of Switch 2’s custom Nvidia processor.