An upgraded Switch console will launch early next year, according to a supply-chain source from Taiwan. According to information from the company that provides memory for both the Switch and Switch cartridges, Macronix.
Nintendo, of course, has previous history in updating its hardware without actually moving to a new generation, as it did with the ‘New Nintendo 3DS’. Although whether this move can be likened to that, or more to the more radical DS to 3DS shift is yet to be seen.
One big question is what chipset the new device would use to support both full backwards compatibility with current Switch titles and an upgrade in graphics power to a rumoured 4K output (presumably upscaled from a dynamic resolution, as it seems unlikely, and unnecessary, for the hybrid device would push a native 4K resolution).
Switch chip-maker Nvidia has stepped away from making system-on-chip solutions for third-party devices, instead concentrating its latest efforts in the automotive space. But Digital Foundry’s Richard Leadbetter believes it would make an exception for a new Switch, something that would be hugely preferable to Nintendo switching provider – say to Qualcomm – and GPU architecture.
“There’d be a fair amount more R&D required – architecting a new chip is expensive business – but this would guarantee compatibility with the existing library”
“It’s far, far more likely that Nintendo would work with Nvidia to architect their own chip,” Leadbetter told MCV/DEVELOP. “There’s already been a Switch revision with a new chip that would simply not exist if Switch did not need it – that would be the 16nm ‘Mariko’ chip used in Switch Lite and the battery extended standard Switch. This is a basic ‘shrink’ of the existing Tegra X1 processor, but it does have access to higher GPU clock speeds if required (so far, Nintendo has not tapped into them).
“For a properly enhanced model, there are still Tegra processors available from the automotive side of Nvidia’s business that could be customised to Nintendo’s spec. There’d be a fair amount more R&D required – architecting a new chip is expensive business – but this would guarantee compatibility with the existing library that a notional Qualcomm Switch would struggle to achieve with an entirely alien GPU architecture.
Rumour has it that the original switch deal was a marriage of convenience between the two companies, with the spare Nvidia inventory matching Nintendo’s needs. “With Switch now established as a major player capable of shifting volume, the idea of Nvidia working with Nintendo on a custom chip makes a lot more sense,” concludes Leadbetter.
Such an upgrade should mean an effortless transition for developers with existing Switch games.
These ‘upgraded Switch’ rumours have been circling for a long time now. But with Nintendo being fairly quiet this year, it seems entirely possible that now would be a good time to update the hardware, with display and mobile chipset technology having leaped forward since the original device was conceived.
UDN.com’s article also notes that it would expect nine cartridges to be produced for every new Nintendo Switch made. Based on that prediction, it seems the Taiwanese semiconductor industry isn’t planning for the end of physical distribution quite yet.