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

The big old question mark just got a whole lot bigger...
Zoom in / The big old question mark just got a whole lot bigger…

As the Nintendo Switch approaches its sixth anniversary, Nintendo has been extremely coy about the prospect of an actual successor to the console (no, the Switch OLED doesn’t count). This week, however, stray wording in a government document about the proposed Microsoft/Activision merger has some industry observers speculating that the announcement of a Switch successor could be coming in the near future.

All this speculation centers on a single line buried in 43 extensive pages of appendices in a report by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, which It recently ran afoul of Microsoft’s planned acquisition of Activision. When discussing services that could reasonably 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 indicative “and” is interesting, of course, because Nintendo Switch Online is currently only available on Nintendo Switch (as the name suggests). The CMA version after that “and” could easily describe an upcoming console that Nintendo doesn’t want to officially announce via regulatory filing (eg, “…available on the Nintendo Switch device and [another console Nintendo is currently developing]”).

Nintendo has hinted at this kind of future online account sequel in the past. In an investor presentation in late 2020, Nintendo shared a slide that explicitly states that the current Nintendo Account and its “value-added services” (eg Nintendo Switch Online) will continue to be available and expanded through ” Integrated Hardware-Software Next gaming” of the system company”, which will be released in the amorphous “20XX”.

They were waiting…

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

Or perhaps the release is hiding plans for Nintendo to expand Nintendo Switch Online’s library of classic games to mobile phones and/or computers (eg, “…available on the Nintendo Switch device and [mobile/PC platforms in the near future]”).

Could there be a mobile or desktop extension in the service's future?
Zoom in / Could there be a mobile or desktop extension in the service’s future?

Offering “official” emulators on mobile and PC platforms would be a first for Nintendo and could offer a limited, legal 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 is porting many of its exclusive PlayStation consoles to PC as well.

Regardless, the continued speculation indicates how excited many are for a new, more powerful console from Nintendo. And such a successor looks 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 year-old AAA games are often forced into significant graphics degradation or awkward streaming solutions to run on the console. And while the Switch’s hardware has set sales records for Nintendo, those sales are starting to slow slightly as the market for the system becomes increasingly saturated.

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

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