Fireside chat: is a Nintendo Switch Pro really happening?

Are you holding out for a Switch Pro? We wouldn’t blame you: with a slimmed-down successor to the 2017 Nintendo Switch, the Nintendo Switch Lite, soon on its way, and plenty of rumors around a new Nintendo Switch console after that, any buying decision you make now has to be informed by what else may come in the near future – especially if it could come with brand new premium features not seen on a Switch before.

But when will the Switch Pro arrive, and will it be worth the (presumably high) asking price?

We’ve put together our heads to try and sort out what features and upgrades the Switch Pro might have, and the earliest we think it might arrive. So, what can we expect from the Switch Pro?

Henry St Leger (HS), Home Tech Writer: There’s obviously a lot of chatter around new Switch hardware models, especially with the handheld Switch Lite on the way. Are we really going to see a jacked-out Switch Pro anytime soon?

Vic Hood (VH), Gaming Writer: From what Doug Bowser has said, it looks like we won’t be seeing a Switch Pro this year. It makes sense, as Nintendo seems to be focusing on the Switch Lite and new Switch model, but it kind of leaves us in the dark when it comes to the Pro’s release date.

Nintendo hasn’t actually confirmed a Switch Pro will exist (although all signs point to yes) which makes it slightly harder to guesstimate when we’ll see it, but I think the most likely release window is mid-2020. However, a 2020 release would put it in direct competition with Xbox Project Scarlett and the PlayStation 5.

It’d be a ballsy move by the House of Mario, but the Switch offers a different kind of experience to that of Xbox and PlayStation. Do you think Nintendo could be playing with fire going up against Sony and Microsoft?

HS: I think Nintendo would be playing with fire, but I’m not sure it will. It’s done so well out of its “blue ocean” strategy, and prefers not to compete directly. A mid-2020 release might just get in early enough though, and possibly take some of the wind out of Sony and Microsoft’s sails (or sales). Then a smart price drop at Christmas, while two highly expensive pieces of hardware have just been released, could really make an argument for Nintendo over the competition.

What I’m unsure about is exactly what features the Switch Pro will have, though. I doubt we’d get a 4K Switch, given the jump in power and parts the Switch would need, but maybe a larger screen size and 2K resolution would be enough to tempt gamers to upgrade?

VH: It’s hard to tell if that would be enough. The most likely answer is for Nintendo to offer hardware powerful enough to run AAA titles we previously haven’t seen on the platform – essentially creating a PC you can take with you on the go. It’s not entirely out of the question as we’ve already seen that the current console can run Witcher 3.

According to the Wall Street Journal report from earlier in the year (which correctly predicted the Switch Lite), another Switch console is on the way which will boast “enhanced features targeted at avid videogamers”. It’s likely this is the Switch Pro, but it’s hard to pin down what these “enhanced features” could be outside of possibly 4K and HDR, maybe compatibility with the likes of Twitch, or a more streamlined model. Either way, it’s meant to be a premium console so the price will probably match it, and I’m not sure how on board gamers will be with that…

HS: I do feel like if Nintendo releases a Switch model for the same price point as Xbox Scarlett or PS5, it’s lost the battle. But if we look back to the DS family of systems, we never saw a huge change in the gaming experience offered, more small enhancements and tweaks (even 3D ended up feeling optional). So while we may get a more expensive model, I’m vaguely optimistic Nintendo won’t double the cost of the Switch to do it.

Nintendo is clearly at least thinking about VR, too: given the Labo VR Kit goggles, or the VR modes for Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, which just didn’t work for the console’s current capabilities. If Nintendo did release a powered-up console focused at VR gamers, with titles beyond the Labo pack, I could see a clear market proposition for it.

VH: I think while a VR-centric console could be in the pipeline, the Switch Pro will not be that. Nintendo seems smart enough to not muddy the waters when it comes to the Switch but, mind you, it did add 3D to the DS… As you said, I think the Pro will see tweaks and quality-of-life improvements that maybe make the console sleeker and more streamlined.

Looking at how the DS changed over the years is the best indication of what we may see: a bit of extra power, or maybe a change in shape or size? It could be Nintendo leans into more multimedia options so that you can essentially use your Switch as a streaming device for film, TV as well as playing games on it. Do you think that would be something fans would actually want?

HS: I think a lot of fans would want that – but Nintendo hasn’t exactly been trigger happy about adding streaming apps to the console. There’s still no Netflix or Amazon Prime video, for example. Even if YouTube and Hulu are currently on there, with Disney Plus to come, it’s a thin offering, and is pretty much exclusively focused on streaming services in the USA.

I really hope we’re not going to see a streaming-focused console that only really gives you appropriate apps in America, and not much anywhere else!

Nintendo’s app strategy also seems quite divorced from its hardware developments – even if we get more apps down the line, I get the sense the Switch Pro will be focused at a different target audience than heavy TV users.

VH: I would agree, Nintendo has never been that multimedia-focused. Hopefully we get an official announcement on the Switch Pro this year, at the very least. You can’t leave us hanging like this Bowser!