Nintendo has always released "stop-gap" consoles in a single generation. Some might even argue that the Switch itself is a stop-gap, meant to carry Nintendo through the previous console generation until it could figure out what to next. Regardless of where you stand on that argument, most would agree that the Nintendo Switch OLED is unique. It's an actual upgrade and at the same time, it's not. It's got a prettier OLED screen with a more durable kickstand, but it doesn't perform noticeably better compared to the standard Switch. Not to mention, the Switch OLED is a missed opportunity for Nintendo to drop an actual upgrade that would help extend the lifespan of the Switch by a couple more years.
The difference between the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch OLED
The Switch OLED isn't necessarily a bad console. It's perfect for first-time Switch adopters as it's only $50 more compared to the base Switch. The problem here is that the Switch is showing its age now that it's already 4 years old. It was already a relatively weak console at launch, especially when compared to the PS4 and the Xbox One. Things have only gotten worse with the PS5 and the Xbox Series S/X already out.
Going back to the Switch OLED, several differences make it "better" compared to the base Switch, such as:
- The Switch OLED has a 7-inch OLED screen (compared to the base Switch's 6-inch LCD screen)
- The Switch LED has a larger and more sturdy kickstand (compared to the small and flimsy kickstand of the base Switch)
- The Switch OLED's speakers are larger and more powerful
- The Switch OLED's dock comes with an Ethernet port
The Switch OLED is better in every way, but was it really necessary?
Again, the Switch OLED is best if you're a first-time Switch owner. However, if you already have a Nintendo Switch, it's not that much of an upgrade. All the improvements like a kickstand, screen, and speakers, are inconsequential if you hook up the Switch OLED to a TV and even when you're on the go, you can't exactly enjoy the improved speakers unless you're lying and playing games on your bed.
Is the Nintendo Switch OLED worth buying?
Let us be the first to clarify that you can do whatever it is that you want with your money, but if you were to ask us, you're better off not upgrading. This way, you can buy, let's say, Pokemon Legends Arceus once it comes out, among others. Better yet, you might want to save that $350 of yours for when the inevitable Switch Pro arrives.
We say inevitable as if we have insider information guaranteeing that it's a sure thing. Mind you, we're well aware that it's not. Nintendo has shot down rumors of the Nintendo Switch Pro several times already and the timeline just doesn't make sense. The Nintendo Switch Pro will cannibalize the OLED sales if it is released within the next two years. In this case, the earliest we would say the Switch Pro is in 2024. At that point, Nintendo is better off just releasing an entirely new console.
TLDR; it's not that we're not recommending the Nintendo Switch OLED, it's just that we don't see it as a significant step-up.
The only scenario where we would recommend a Switch owner to buy a Switch OLED is age. The first few batches of the Switch had a smaller battery compared to the more recent releases. If your Switch is already half a decade old, then the Switch OLED is worth buying if only for the battery upgrade alone. Then again, an older Switch still has plenty of life and portable battery chargers for the Switch only cost around $150 - significantly less than the $350 price tag of a new Switch OLED.
What’s next for the Nintendo Switch?
Only time will tell if the Switch will be able to keep up with its contemporaries. If not for the COVID-19 pandemic, Sony would have probably phased out the PS4 by 2022. Because of the production delays faced by the PS5, the PS4 might continue getting big AAA titles and exclusives along with the PS5 until 2023. Even so, there are already a handful of PS5 exclusives with more coming.
The reason why we're bringing this up is that as video game developers and studios create games with the PS5 and the Xbox Series S/X exclusively in mind, the Switch will start to lose its appeal. We understand that Nintendo knows that its users are more than happy to dump cash for a Switch only to play Animal Crossing, Pokemon Legends Arceus, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sequel, but Nintendo is also smart enough to avoid some pushback once next-gen-exclusive titles start releasing.
Despite closing in on 100 million units sold, the Nintendo Switch has already started losing ground against the PS5. It's only a matter of time before the production catches up and more people start buying the PS5 and even the Xbox Series S/X over the Switch.
The Switch was already a great step in the right direction as we saw games like Apex Legends make their way to the portable console. If Nintendo wants to incentivize developers to start releasing their games for the Switch, it needs some serious hardware upgrades, regardless of whether it comes in the form of the Nintendo Switch Pro or an entirely different console.