There was a bunch of cool stuff to get excited about during today’s E3 2021-adjacent Nintendo Direct presentation. Metroid Dread is real, Advance Wars is back, and Tekken’s Kazuya Mishima dropped the entire Super Smash Bros. Ultimate cast into a volcano. But one major announcement was notably missing in action: an upgraded Switch console.
I can’t blame anyone for expecting Nintendo to reveal a New Nintendo Switch or Nintendo Switch Pro or Super Nintendo Switch or what have you alongside E3 2021. It seemed far more likely than Metroid Dread being revived, at least. Not only is E3 the biggest video game industry event of the year, but the months leading up to the show were full of credible reporting about an imminent Switch-related announcement. And I don’t mean from some random jerk on Reddit or 4chan.
Why did everyone think a Switch Pro was coming?
After reporting on Nintendo’s plans to produce an upgraded Switch model in August 2020, Bloomberg dropped a follow-up story in March 2021 with new details, specifically indicating that the hybrid console would feature a larger, OLED handheld screen and enough power to output 4K graphics while docked. Nintendo’s plans were reportedly to begin production over summer 2021, for a holiday release.
Two months later, speculation went into overdrive. A third Bloomberg report, published on May 26, claimed that Nintendo was potentially preparing to unveil the new Switch model ahead of E3 2021’s June 12 start date in order to give publishers the opportunity to announce exclusive games for the beefier console. The report was not definitive in its timeline, suggesting that an E3 reveal was possible but not guaranteed. A day later, Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier (who didn’t write the original story) made a speculative Tweet about the possibility of a reveal that night. His tweet, which he tells Kotaku was misinterpreted as definite proof, has since been deleted but a screenshot has been saved here.
While neither of these events said that a Switch Pro would absolutely happen at E3, that’s the way many average readers took it anyway. Expectations were set, even if they were based on a misunderstanding of the reporting.
Bloomberg’s details were echoed by other reputable publications, like Eurogamer, who suggested that their own independent reporting supported Bloomberg’s findings. Other Nintendo insiders, like Emily Rogers, tweeted that an announcement was “imminent.” A new Switch model was also listed by various online retailers (which may or may not have been prompted by rumors) and folks pointed to a GameStop advertisement mentioning a “New Nintendo Switch” as evidence of an E3 reveal. (A source with first-hand knowledge of GameStop policies told Kotaku that the company often capitalizes words like “New,” “Pre-Owned,” and “Refurbished” in promotional copy to avoid confusion among guests.)
Yet a “Switch Pro” did not materialize in the suggested timeframe. Just crickets from the big N.
Why wasn’t a Switch Pro announced at E3 2021?
As you now know, it didn’t appear at this week’s 2021 E3 event, either. To date, and despite the copious leaks, Nintendo’s not made a single peep about any sort of plans for a new Switch.
It’s hard to say with any certainty why Nintendo didn’t use E3 2021 to show off the upgraded Switch that we all know is coming at this point, but we can make some educated guesses.
The last year has been pretty difficult for the video game industry, not to mention the world at large. Although profits are up for many major companies, developing games and manufacturing hardware has been a nightmare. Not only did the covid-19 pandemic force many studios to implement work-from-home policies, which hampered aspects of development like motion capture, but the chips necessary to make consoles have also been in short supply.
Sony, for instance, expects PlayStation 5 shortages to last into 2022. It’s not hard to imagine these issues extending to production of a new Switch model.
Another factor is that Nintendo doesn’t really need the large stage of E3 to launch a new product because it’s done such a great job of creating its own brand of PR event via its semi-regular Nintendo Direct presentations. Nintendo can launch a “Switch Pro” whenever it darn well pleases, totally assured that fans and press will be eager to consume and propagate the news whenever NIntendo’s ready to share it.
The most entertaining possibility is that Nintendo simply held back the announcement in response to the aforementioned reports and rumors.
While beloved after decades of creating some of the most enduring icons in gaming history, the Japanese company has also been known to cut off its own nose just to spite its face. According to comedian and Adam Ruins Everything host Adam Conover, Nintendo pulled the plug on a live-action Legend of Zelda series after The Wall Street Journal uncovered plans for one in a 2015 report. Conover further claimed to have been working on a claymation Star Fox show that was also canceled in response to the leak, despite not having been mentioned.
“A month later, suddenly there were reports that Netflix wasn’t going to do Legend of Zelda anymore,” Conover said. “I was like, ‘What happened?’ And then I heard from my boss that we weren’t going to do Star Fox anymore. I thought that was weird, so I asked him what happened, and he said, ‘Oh, someone at Netflix leaked the Legend of Zelda thing. Nintendo freaked out.’”
Whatever the case, it’s also a fact of life that plans just change sometimes, even at a show as big as E3 2021. There’s little doubt that an upgraded Switch model is on the way, especially as new releases like Immortals: Fenyx Rising and Super Mario 3D World: Bowser’s Fury continue to chug and lag on the original console. It all just comes down to when Nintendo feels it’s best to officially let the cat out of the bag.
Until then, I guess we’ll just have to be content with looking forward to Metroid Dread and Breath of the Wild 2. It’s difficult, I know, but I’m sure we’ll manage. Somehow.
Correction 12:19 p.m: We have clarified Bloomberg’s reporting, along with some added context on why a referenced Tweet was deleted.