There are whispers in the industry – according to several ‘insiders’ that don’t dare to name their sources – that The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom will be the last "significant" game for the Nintendo Switch. Whether or not these whispers are true (or just represent the egos of a few chronic tweeters that can’t ignore the chance of a tiny bit of delicious, empty-calorie clout), it poses an interesting question: what does Nintendo look like in 2023 and beyond?
The Nintendo Switch launched way back in 2017 – almost six years ago at the time of writing. Per new reports from Digital Foundry, Nintendo is no longer working on a Switch Pro and is instead focused on a proper, full-fat next-gen console. This statement has been corroborated by other industry names.
"I have heard that after Zelda, Nintendo doesn't have a significant game for quite some time,” said industry analyst Chris Dring of GamesIndustry.biz. “From what I’m hearing I wouldn’t be surprised if Nintendo starts talking about new hardware by 2024,” says VGC boss Andy Robinson. If these comments are to be believed (though neither have committed these comments to articles on their respective sites, Dring and Robinson are both respected games media veterans) then it looks like Tears of the Kingdom really will be one of the last big games for the Nintendo Switch – and that leaves us with some questions.
The most notable question coming off the back of these revelations regards Metroid Prime 4. It’s already been over 15 years since Metroid Prime 3: Corruption launched on the Nintendo Wii, and fans of the series are clamoring for more (especially on the back of the incredibly well-recieved Metroid Dread making waves back in 2021). The long-troubled Metroid Prime 4 is supposedly going to be the lynchpin chapter in Samus Aran's first-person adventures, wrapping up her escapades in a final definitive way.
But, since Metroid Prime 4 was announced way back in 2017, the platform holder has been very quiet about the game. All we know is that things haven’t been easy for the title, and the project was more-or-less restarted from scratch back in 2019. The game was apparently not up to the lofty standards Nintnedo expects from its first party games (tell that to Pokemon Scarlet and Violet…) and Shinya Takahashi issued an apology, noting the project had been handed over to Retro Studios – a development outfit with a proven track record working on flagship Nintendo properties.
“It will be a long road until the next time we will be able to update you on the development progress, and the development time will be extensive,” Takahashi explained in a video. There’s an interesting word there: ‘extensive’. Even back in 2019, was it looking likely that Metroid Prime 4 would actually miss out on the entire Switch generation, and become something of a banner release for whatever comes next for Nintendo? In 2021, Nintendo reiterated there’s no actual release window for the game – why is that?
The stars could be aligning for the downturn of the Nintendo Switch, then. The most recent sales update we had from the publisher disclosed a massive 114 million sales of the hardware across the base model, the Lite, and the OLED versions of the console. At the time, there were almost 1 billion software sales on the device, too (which will almost certainly have crossed that lofty barrier over the holiday period). This makes the Switch Nintnedo’s best-selling home console… ever.
But it’s not all rosy. In November last year, Ninteno said hardware units sold “decreased by 19% year-over-year” with the shortage of semiconductors and other component supplies cited as a large issue for the company. The Switch is very successful, but it’s nearing its saturation point – going from wanton success into half-baked follow-up is probably something Nintendo doesn’t want to do again. It lost significant market share with the shaky launch of the GameCube, and the Wii U was an out-and-out failure. If Nintendo wants to keep this momentum up, the timing, feature-set, and appeal of its next console needs to be scoped out just right.
So, what does that mean for your average consumer and Switch owner in 2023? There are still semi-big releases to look forward to, aside from Zelda. Alex tells us that Fire Emblem: Engage is going to be another solid entry in the series, and Pikmin 4 promises to bring some macro-sized joy later in the year (in theory). Other than that, the Switch will continue to be a wonderful home for third-party games and indies… but you may want to temper expectations about other, marquee games arriving on the platform over the next 12 months.
And do you think we’ll ever see Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp? Because I don’t.