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What we want to see from new Nintendo Switch hardware

A realistic take on what Nintendo might be improving on its flagship console

Nintendo Switch - Neon Red/Blue Joy-Cons in Joy-Con Grip next to Dock, all sitting on a wooden background James Bareham/Vox Media

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Nintendo will release a new version of the Nintendo Switch console in the second half of 2019, but there are few details about what might be improved outside of vague wording about an upgraded screen.

But what would make the Switch better?

The screen/power problem

Nintendo Switch comes with a weird design issue where it has to work as a portable and as a console, and resolution shifts depending on where you’re playing and how much power the system is drawing. So you can say you want a larger screen, or a screen with a higher resolution, but doing so means you’ll need to increase the overall power of the system while also dealing with battery life when the console is in portable mode.

And the screen’s resolution doesn’t really matter when you’re playing it attached to a television where it can draw wall current. I also doubt Nintendo is going to create a system that isn’t 100 percent backward compatible with the previous version of the Switch; we’re not going to see a system revamp that has games the older systems can’t play. So we’re not going to see a huge jump in any of these areas. A nice speed bump that would make it easier for developers to release games that don’t struggle with the framerate would of course be awesome, but I’m not holding my breath.

Might we see a screen that’s brighter and clearer, that looks more like a modern smart phone screen? Absolutely. But a jump in resolution or size is less likely.

So what’s left?

My realistic wishlist for a new Switch includes a lot of small quality of life improvements. A slightly larger battery would be worth the weight, and Joy-Cons that are better suited for larger hands or longer sessions would be amazing. There are so many of us whose hands cramp when they play a demanding game in portable mode for more than a few minutes.

More internal storage so the mini SD card doesn’t feel like such a mandatory immediate purchase with the system would also be great, and storage is cheap these games. The 32 GB that comes standard with Nintendo Switch now is just paltry when you look at the size of many games.

One of Nintendo’s most valuable assets is the data it has collected about how people are playing their Switches, and that will likely lead to improvements in some of the most standard use cases. The kickstand, for instance, gets much more use than I would have expected and just isn’t up to the task. Making something a bit beefier that could support the Switch while it’s being played on the road seems like it would be a simple, but welcome, addition to the hardware.

A boost to the system’s Wi-Fi range would also be a major improvement over the existing system.

This is probably my own niche tastes coming through, but a built-in way to play the system in tate mode for vertically oriented games would be incredible. There are third-party add-ons that help with this issue, and games that support the feature, but so far there’s no easy way to get everything aligned so it’s easy to use. Imagine a kickstand that can hold the system in other landscape or portrait mode when you set it down. Check out the Flip Grip gallery below to see how Nintendo might tackle this issue.

So is that all?

Probably! Getting a hardware refresh two years after launch doesn’t seem that strange these days, but Nintendo won’t want to mess with a good thing and fragment the market. So expect a slightly better screen, maybe some more storage and a few other basic quality of life changes that will make the new Switch better, without making it feel like all-new hardware.

But who knows? Nintendo never does the expected thing — it’s not like any of us saw Labo coming before it was announced — which means the reported new hardware might veer off into some new direction. But I bet Nintendo is going to play it safe and release a system that’s better than the original, but not radically so.

Also, if they could make the Joy-Cons a little quieter when they rumble? That would be fine.

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