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Nintendo’s OLED switch is the right move, just not for you



Nintendo

“I need TLDR,” a friend texted me a month ago. “Should I wait to buy one Nintendo Switch? ”

She’s no player, but despite not picking up a controller for years, she knew an updated switch was on the way. Wanting to secure her boyfriend a birthday surprise, she had done some googling and chanced upon rumors of Nintendo̵

7;s worst kept secret. I told her that the new model might be called Switch Pro, might support 4K and might be worth the wait.

Not so. That new model does not support 4K and it is not called Switch Pro. In fact, I do not know what it’s called. Switch OLED? Switch with OLED? Whatever the name – whatever it is – its main improvement is the OLED screen.

It will be 0.8 inches larger than the regular switches 6.2 inch screen with deeper blacks and better contrast. Other announced features include an improved kickstand and “enhanced sound.” In other words, it is anything but a generational step. These modest improvements come with a modest price increase. Switch Deluxe launches at $ 350 on October 8 for only $ 50 more than the Non OLED Switch.

It seems fair, though the online response has not been kind. This is because, as it seems, most people expected more. An upgraded Nintendo Switch was first reported by Bloomberg about 11 months ago – long enough for imagination to flourish and expectations to rise.

And those inflated expectations are the problem here – not the new and slightly improved switch. If it was a surprise message, players would have greeted the new edition with a polite “fair enough.” It is only against the hopes of significant hardware improvements and existing owners who want a decent reason to upgrade that the reaction becomes “Nintendo destroyed everything again!”

Do not make me wrong. If I had it my way, Nintendo would have announced a Switch Pro with 4K resolution, a new graphics chip and better battery life. I would too fix the ongoing drive issues with the console Joy-Cons, and its lack of built-in Bluetooth support – which is absurd at this point. But with Nintendo SWOLED, Nintendo is not trying to get mine dollars. There are millions of people who like 4K games, but there are billions who play games that do not.

Nintendo is after the second group.

Nintendo Switch’s half-life

The NintendOLED switch makes sense for a few reasons.

First, Nintendo is not yet interested in the Switch 2 or anything resembling a next-generation console. Doug Bowser, Nintendo America’s funny-appointed president, told Polygon in December that we’re about the “midpoint” of the Switch’s life cycle. Since the Switch has sold several devices each year – 15 million in the 2017 fiscal year, 17 million in 2018, 20 million in 2019, 26 million in 2020 – Nintendo rightly sees that it does not need to do anything drastic with the console’s hardware. A gentle push, like a larger and clearer display, should keep the money flowing.

This is the company’s modus operandi. Do you remember 3DS XL, DS Lite and Game Boy Advance SP? Of course you do! They were amazing. But do not forget 2DS, 2DS XL, DSi, DSi XL, the backlit Game Boy Advance SP and Game Boy Advance Micro – which Nintendo released almost a year after the original DS.

“Extend console life with iterative models” is not catchy, but it’s the name of the game.

Like all the aforementioned refurbished models, the OLED Switch has two dimensions. It earns deep fans talking in the millions who flock to buy any new Nintendo console. Second and more importantly, it provides an extra opportunity for people who have not yet purchased a switch.

The console has sold over 84 million units since 2017, approximately 16 million shy of becoming the best-selling Nintendo home console ever. But the company is not scraping the barrel for more purchases, as there are hundreds of millions of potential sales that have not yet been realized, and these are the ones that Nintendo is appealing to by adding to the Switch hardware area. It’s a push for those who have been on the fence since 2017, or those who have revived their love of games during the pandemic. It also helps build hype for Metroid Dread, launched the same day, as well as Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl.

The company’s calculation is displayed as follows: Change OLED + Metroid Dead x holiday sales multiplier = Merry Christmas to Nintendo. I suppose the math will check out.

Nintendo has always valued availability in terms of technical prowess, which is how the Wii, DS and 3DS all became huge successes. I suppose Nintendo will eventually create a 4K-compatible console when it can make it cheap enough to sell for under $ 400 – by the time Sony and Microsoft are already at 8K.

This is not a bad strategy. When my friend texted me for Switch advice – something she will hardly ever do again – she decided to wait to buy her partner a newer and more powerful switch.

“Do you have a 4K TV? Does he care about 4K graphics?” I asked. “We do,” she replied, “he does not.”




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