Playing The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom in 2023, it’s hard to believe that its predecessor, Breath of the Wild, was released in 2017, just as the Nintendo Switch launched.
The new Zelda game is a masterpiece – as you can read in our full review – but, much like Breath of the Wild, it reflects Nintendo’s hardware plans in an interesting way, raising questions about the Nintendo’s future hardware plans.
Breath of the Wild was a launch game for the Switch but was also available for the incumbent Wii U, a reflection of Nintendo’s quick and hard pivot away from its largely failed console: a game that could have been the crown jewel of the crown of the Wii U instead reported its disappearance.
Now, seven years later, the Zelda sequel is the triumph Nintendo would have hoped for, capping off half a decade of outrageously impressive sales figures for the Switch in all its iterations. That doesn’t mean Nintendo has it all figured out though.
While Tears of the Kingdom hasn’t had to close the gap with a new console, it nonetheless comes at a time when Nintendo’s hardware plans are seemingly on hold. How does Nintendo follow up on the Switch’s success, given how much it fumbled the Wii’s stellar performance?
A group of observers believe Nintendo’s plans for a Switch Pro have been translated and narrowed down to the eventual release of the Switch OLED – upgrading the console’s display but not its internals.
Nintendo Switch OLED
It’s the best Switch for our money, offering the best of all worlds.
If so, the move went well given the Switch’s continued relevance, but that still leaves open the question of what the next console will look like. The Switch is undeniably long in the tooth technically, but Nintendo has spent the last two years showing that resolution and frame rate don’t make a console king – if it can keep up with Tears of the Kingdom. on the Switch, it may not desperately need more capable hardware urgently.
Reassuringly for Nintendo, the real key to the Switch’s reign has been a steady stream of insanely good first-party games that you can’t play anywhere else. Tears of the Kingdom is the latest but, while we’ll get Pikmin 4 later this summer, that game is hardly a system seller and there’s a slight slowdown in what we know is coming further down the line.
The elephant in the room, of course, is Super Mario, which hasn’t had a new game since Odyssey in 2017 and must surely be a candidate to launch a new console if one is in the works.
So while we fully intend to bask in more of the glory of Link’s latest outing, we can’t help but wonder when Nintendo plans to take its next big step. We guess the idea of the dockable laptop is here to stay due to its popularity but, given Nintendo’s history, all bets are realistic.
While that all sounds rosy, the fact is that we’re entering a time of huge risk for Nintendo: it can’t afford another Wii U.