Some Nintendo fans and industry watchers came away from Tuesday’s Nintendo Direct perplexed that the company didn’t roll out a new Nintendo Switch model, which has been heavily rumored and reported for the better part of a year. Mere weeks before E3 2021 kicked off, Bloomberg reported that we could see the new 4K-ready “Switch Pro,” as some are calling it, before June 12 “to allow publishers to showcase their full range of Switch games.”
Nintendo didn’t do that, of course, because Nintendo knows better than to showcase its next major hardware release at E3. The company seems to have learned that lesson a long time ago, in the wake of the disastrous E3 2012 reveal of the Wii U and the E3 2010 reveal of the Nintendo 3DS, which stumbled out of the gate so badly that Nintendo slashed the price of the handheld a few months after launch.
E3 2012 was the last time Nintendo held a traditional press conference at the gaming industry expo — the type of presentation where executives stand on a stage and hold up a video game console for the first time. Nintendo has held virtual presentations, both packaged Nintendo Direct videos and Treehouse Live streams, at E3s since.
Hardware reveals haven’t been part of Nintendo’s E3 plan for nearly a decade now. Instead, Nintendo has often followed E3 with minor to major hardware announcements weeks or months later. It unveiled the Nintendo 2DS in August 2013; the New Nintendo 3DS in August 2014; the NES Classic in July 2016; the Super NES Classic in June 2017 (after E3); and the Nintendo Switch Lite in July 2019. The original Nintendo Switch was revealed in October 2016, a comfortable distance from that year’s E3, a show that traditionally takes place in June.
It’s easy to see why Nintendo keeps its hardware announcements separate from E3 proper (and other video game events like Gamescom and Tokyo Game Show). New hardware means a more complex equation for upcoming games. Fans will invariably wonder how the new Legend of Zelda game will run on a 4K-capable Nintendo Switch (or what the new Mario + Rabbids game will look like on existing Switch hardware). Instead of focusing on the games, Nintendo would be forced to muddle its message, getting bogged down with discussion about frame rates, resolution, and other technical nitpicks.
All of which is to say that if the Nintendo Switch Pro (or New Nintendo Switch, in keeping with Nintendo’s hardware revision naming style) does exist, and if the company plans to announce it this year, an announcement could be imminent. And we’ll all be able to focus on what the next Nintendo Switch does without the distraction of a new Metroid game.
Nintendo has a consistent record of releasing new hardware every year, including unexpected physical products like new Game & Watch handhelds, Nintendo Labo, and Super Mario Lego sets, and all signs point to the company doing so in 2021 as well. Fans may just have to wait a little longer.