Right now, Nintendo is in a completely unique position. The Nintendo Switch has continued to sell very well since its 2017 release. Even with its underperforming specs, a limited (but growing) third-party title base, and issues with the original version. hardware body (looking at you, Joy-Con drifting), players still flock to the system. Nintendo is winning with an underperforming console.
The only place to go from here is then. Nintendo could make a new console that works better, loads games faster, and renders them in higher resolutions. That will be the long-rumored, long-awaited Switch Pro that so many Switch owners have said they’ll buy.
Except that’s not what we got. At least not now.
On Tuesday, July 6, Nintendo announced the OLED Switch, a hardware revision of the console but sadly it doesn’t do much of the same. The main difference really lies in the name of the model, “OLED”. The Switch OLED has an OLED display, which is admittedly a pretty big upgrade from the basic Switch’s LCD screen. However, for $350, you’re going to have a hard time selling someone a console they already have by saying it has a better screen. The OLED Switch is underwhelming – but that’s because it’s not for me.
Switch OLED is not built for readers Specification sheet. Nintendo didn’t make people wonder if Nvidia’s custom Tegra processor in the OLED is the same as the one in the base Switch. And Nintendo certainly didn’t make it for people who really care about screen resolution, battery life, or any other specs that don’t change between the OLED and the basic Switch.
Instead, the Switch OLED, released on October 8, is for families, kids, and those who don’t already have a Switch. The console, on the outside, looks better than the original Switch in that it’s larger. This holiday season, when a father, mother, or grandparent walks into a GameStop or online to buy a Switch for their child, they’ll be drawn to the Switch coming out in 2021, not 2017.
It’s also important to note that the Switch OLED is a pretty cool upgrade for mobile gamers. With a larger screen and an OLED display, which is said to be brighter than the base Switch’s LCD screen, playing on the go is better than ever. That is, as long as you don’t mind that the Switch OLED will be a bit heavier.
If you’re re-releasing a console to migrate some other product, that means the changes won’t be as far-reaching. You just put a new name on the box that stands out, and in this case, Nintendo has gone for something technical. “OLED” is a fancy anagram, something that in itself makes the console seem more impressive.
Personally, I’m completely disappointed by that, but I’m not alone. This announcement was immediately met with a wave of criticism on social networks. Editor VGC Andy Robinson has said that, without a hardware upgrade, the new Switch model is “extremely disappointing.” E-sports player Leffen also cited the OLED’s lack of performance upgrades, saying the console is “a lot worse than expected.”
But the Switch OLED isn’t supposed to impress game journalists or informed consumers when perusing the spec sheet, and it certainly won’t impress any esports players. It’s amazing because, if you’re like me, you know what Nintendo can do with the Switch. You’re just waiting for the company to actually do it.
Instead, the OLED Switch is intended for casual consumers who don’t use game media. It’s normal for Nintendo not to cater to “gamer” and instead to target, well, just about other people.