Nintendo is expected to launch the ‘Switch 2’ console this year. Here’s what to expect

Nintendo is likely to release a new Switch console this year, analysts told CNBC, as the Japanese gaming giant looks to capitalize on the interest in its characters ranging from Mario to Zelda.

The Nintendo Switch first launched in March 2017 and marked a new type of hybrid console where gamers could play on their TVs but then take their controller, attach it to a tablet, and game on the go.

This approach, which combined the at-home aspects of console gaming with the portability of mobile games, proved very popular with gamers. Nintendo has sold 132.46 million units of the Switch, making it the company’s second-most successful console after the handheld Nintendo DS.

Since the Switch’s launch, Nintendo’s shares are up more than 200%. The console has helped the company sustain sales momentum over the years thanks to its steady and strong stream of first-party games and popular characters.

Games involving Mario, Zelda and Pokemon are among the Switch’s best sellers.

But there are signs that sales are starting to slow and Nintendo needs something new. In its September-quarter results, Nintendo said revenue fell 4% year-on-year and profit dropped 19%.

“I think the new device will come out in 2024, probably in the second half of the year,” Serkan Toto, CEO of Tokyo-based games consultancy Kantan Games, told CNBC.

“The original Switch is now almost 7 years old, sales are going down … So it’s absolutely high time for a new Nintendo system this year.”

Piers Harding-Rolls, research director of games at Ampere Analysis, expects the launch of the new Switch in the fourth quarter of this year.

For Atul Goyal, managing director at Jefferies, the timings of the launch will depend on recent sales. If the Switch remained popular in the holiday quarter then Nintendo could push a new console out to the Fall of this year, Goyal said. If Switch sales dropped in the December quarter, the new device could come as early as Spring or Summer, he added.

Nintendo has not announced its December-quarter results yet.

Launching a new console this year will also allow Nintendo to capitalize on the popularity of a number of its key characters following movie releases. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” has raked in more than $1 billion in box office sales since its April release and helped Nintendo see a bump in revenue in the June quarter of last year. In November, Nintendo said it plans to develop a live-action film of The Legend of Zelda, one of its most popular characters.

What do we know about Switch 2?

Not much at this point as the company has been tight-lipped on what’s next. Analysts are expecting what they’re dubbing the “Switch 2” to follow the hybrid approach set out by its predecessor.

“I’m expecting Nintendo’s next console to be a Switch follow-up, as the hybrid device approach has been so successful,” Harding-Rolls said, adding that there’s likely to be an upgrade in capabilities to the company’s console controllers too.

Kantan Games’ Toto said he expects the successor to be a “new device and not just an upgrade.”

“Nintendo needs to drastically improve specs after 7 years, so they will absolutely release a successor,” Toto said.

Such an appraoch, building on the success of the Switch, makes sense to many.

“An evolution, not a revolution, in the console strategy is likely. In other words, an iPhone model. With that comes the opportunity to ease the 130M+ Switch audience into a familiar but more powerful form factor, and the ability for Nintendo to sell compelling 1st (and 3rd) party games to a scaled audience,” analysts at Moffett Nathanson wrote in a note in December.

Will the ‘Switch 2’ sell well?

Harding-Rolls said the performance of the new console will be impacted by the availability of the product. But he said he can see it “achieving similar levels to the original Switch during its first Q4 sales period,” which equates to around 7 million or 8 million units sold to consumers.

Analysts at Moffett Nathanson said the Switch 2 is unlikely to “match or surpass the Switch,” arguing the current Nintendo console benefitted from people buying gaming consoles while staying at home during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Still, the analysts said “this next console can match or even exceed the early performance of the Switch but trail off as we get into year four and beyond,” as Covid-inflated comparisons of Nintendo’s fiscal year in 2021 and 2022 are “too challenging to overcome.”