With the imminent arrival of the PS5 and the Xbox Series X, all eyes are on Nintendo, with gaming fans queuing up to see how the video-game titan will future-proof itself in the next generation of consoles.
On the one hand there’s plenty to get excited about. When it comes to releasing newer versions of established consoles, Nintendo traditionally sets the bar incredibly high. The DS Lite was a much needed style overhaul for the previously chunky dual-screen system, and more recently the Nintendo Switch Lite has been a beacon for gamers who haven’t been able to get their hands on a full-fat Switch during the ongoing pandemic.
But its track record releasing power-house hardware is at best spotty, which is why I’m slightly nervous about fresh rumblings the firm’s next release will be a Nintendo Switch Pro.
This is because Nintendo’s never been a “cutting edge” tech company when it comes to graphical performance, it’s always focused on innovative “experiences” instead. But, that doesn’t mean the Pro’s without hope. In fact, it could be one of 2020’s biggest and best releases, if Nintendo learns these five key lessons.
1. Don’t let the Switch Pro be a physical paywall to exclusive titles
This is something that relates directly to Nintendo’s last attempt at a hardware upgrade: the New Nintendo 3DS. The console was a 1.5 upgrade similar in kind to the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X. But it suffered two fatal flaws. First, there was a shortage of games taking advantage of the more powerful hardware. Second, what few did, were exclusive titles that wouldn’t run on the original console. This caused a lot of friction with the console’s player base.
Nintendo can’t repeat these mistakes on the Switch Pro. Rather than treating it like a new console with its own series of exclusives, the Switch Pro should be complementary to the existing ecosystem, offering players the best means possible of experiencing classic titles likes Breath of the Wild or Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Related: PS5 vs Xbox Series X
2. Offer 4K support
It’s obvious by now that Nintendo doesn’t consider itself to be competing with Sony and Microsoft directly, and that the Nintendo Switch consoles exist in a separate vacuum, but that doesn’t mean that the tech utilised by those consoles is any different. 4K TVs are cheaper – and more widely adopted – than they’ve ever been, which is why it’s jarring that in 2020, Nintendo’s latest console still doesn’t cater to the higher resolution format.
It’s fine if Nintendo doesn’t want to compete with the PS5 and Xbox Series X where hardware is concerned, but there does need to be some level of compatibility with the latest home entertainment, otherwise the Switch Pro might run the risk of feeling like the dinosaur in the room, much like the Nintendo Wii did during the PS3 and Xbox 360 era.
3. Include bluetooth support
To be fair, this is an issue that all concerned parties could use some help with. At present, some bluetooth headphones are compatible with the PS4 Pro, but neither the Nintendo Switch nor the Xbox One X have yet to benefit from such a luxury, leaving users to rely on wired headphones up until now.
As someone who prefers diverting audio through speakers when playing at home, the Xbox One X’s shortcomings are at least forgivable, but the inability to connect bluetooth headphones to a Switch in handheld mode has actively put me off playing the console on the go. The Switch is already a hefty device, but if you start incorporating tangled headphones into the mix, it just becomes a cumbersome mess that’s not worth the hassle. The fact that several manufacturers have tried producing workarounds to this issue tells you just how high the demand is for this fix, so here’s hoping the Switch Pro delivers.
Related: PS4 Pro vs Xbox One X
4. Boost the internal memory
32GB? Every time I read that on the Switch’s spec sheet I almost faint. Even Apple – the stingiest of all companies when it comes storage capacity – has eradicated the 32GB offering from its smartphone range. It wasn’t long after buying my own Switch that I also laid down some cold hard cash on a 200GB MicroSD, which very soon won’t be enough and will require yet another upgrade. Knowing that games were only going to get bigger, Sony and Microsoft future-proofed the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X by setting a 1TB hard drive as the standard.
Now of course, I don’t expect a portable console to match those specs, but 32GB is just laughable, particularly as it’s not enough to hold some of the Switch’s larger titles. Something closer to 128GB/256GB should do the trick.
5. UI overhaul
Even though the Xbox One’s UI has been the butt of many jokes, you have to hand it to Microsoft in that the company at least tries to aim towards something better through numerous overhauls. Sony was lucky enough to hit the PS4’s UI out of the park on the first try (although I still miss the ingenious simplicity of the PS3’s offering), so it’s almost exactly the same as it was upon release. Nintendo on the other hand still has some explaining to do.
At the time of the Switch’s release, I was so excited to get my hands on Breath of the Wild that I gave the console’s bare-bones UI a pass, expecting it to change somewhere down the line, most likely to coincide with the release of a new Virtual Console. Well, it’s over three years later and there’s no UI update, or Virtual Console in sight. Come on Nintendo, even just a design tweak would make a huge difference to the overall feel of the Switch Pro.