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Did the UK government just accidentally leak Nintendo’s Switch successor?

The big old question mark just got a lot bigger...
Enlarge / The big old question mark just got a lot bigger…

As the Nintendo Switch approaches the sixth anniversary of its launch, Nintendo has been extremely coy about the prospects for a true successor to the console (no, the Switch OLED doesn’t count). This week, though, a stray redaction in a government document regarding the proposed Microsoft/Activision merger has some industry watchers speculating that the announcement of a Switch successor could be coming in the near future.

All that speculation focuses on a single line buried in 43 sprawling pages of appendices in a report from the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, which recently came down against Microsoft’s planned acquisition of Activision. In discussing services that could plausibly compete with the cloud-gaming features of Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass, the appendix notes that Nintendo Switch Online “is only available on the Nintendo Switch device and [redacted].”

That telltale “and” is interesting, of course, because Nintendo Switch Online is currently only available on the Nintendo Switch (as the name implies). The CMA redaction following that “and” could easily describe a forthcoming console that Nintendo doesn’t want formally announced via a regulatory filing (e.g., “…available on the Nintendo Switch device and [another console Nintendo is currently developing]”).

Nintendo has hinted at this kind of forward-looking online account continuity in the past, too. In a late 2020 investor presentation, Nintendo shared a slide explicitly stating that the current Nintendo Account and its “Value-added services” (e.g., Nintendo Switch Online) would continue to be available and expand through the company’s “Integrated Hardware-Software Next gaming system,” to be released in the amorphous “20XX.”

We’re waiting…

While some take this as solid confirmation of a “Nintendo Switch Pro” in the works, that’s not the only possible explanation. The redaction could be completely unrelated to Nintendo’s plans and simply be an overzealous protection of an unrelated clause (e.g., “…available on the Nintendo Switch device and [not directly competitive with Microsoft’s Game Pass]”).

Or maybe the redaction hides plans for Nintendo to extend Nintendo Switch Online’s library of classic games onto mobile phones and/or PCs (e.g., “…available on the Nintendo Switch device and [mobile/PC platforms in the near future]”).

Could a mobile or PC expansion be in the service's future?
Enlarge / Could a mobile or PC expansion be in the service’s future?

Offering “official” emulators on mobile and PC platforms would be a first for Nintendo and could provide a limited, legitimate alternative to Nintendo’s scorched earth policy on ROM download sites. It would also fit somewhat with Nintendo’s console competition—Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass for PC has expanded the company’s Windows gaming efforts, while Sony has been porting many of its PlayStation console exclusives to the PC as well.

Regardless, the continued speculation points to how antsy many are getting for a new, more powerful console from Nintendo. And such a successor seems like it might be due: Nintendo only waited six years between the launch of the Wii and the Wii U, and less than five years between the ill-fated Wii U and the Switch itself.

The original Switch was relatively underpowered even in 2017, and years-old AAA games are often forced into a significant graphical downgrade or awkward streaming solutions to run on the console. And while the Switch hardware has set sales records for Nintendo, those sales are starting to slow slightly as the market for the system gets more and more saturated.

Until we get official word that a new Nintendo console is coming, though, hopeful gamers will continue to read the tea leaves for anything that might even hint at the company’s plans.

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