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Our thoughts on the Nintendo Switch OLED Model

It’s been a while since we’ve had any big announcement that warrants getting the team to get their thoughts written down. The Switch OLED model has caused a lot of discussions this past week, and we’ve all been talking about it – and trying to figure it out.

Everyone will have their own opinion on what Nintendo’s going for with the OLED model of the Switch – this is ours.


Paul

Plays Switch on a 90/10 split between handheld and TV. I really only even connect it to the TV for reviewing for performance and capture.

While we were expecting a Switch Pro model coming out this year, I wasn’t expecting it to be a 4K model. The OLED isn’t what I was expecting either; with Nintendo, you get used to being surprised for better or worse.

The OLED model would’ve been a must-buy for me if they managed to make the handheld Switch run as well as it does in docked mode, at the very least. The OLED screen is still a nice upgrade, and hey, the new kickstand seems more reliable than the old one for the true thrill-seekers of balancing the Switch on that sliver of plastic. It leaves a lot to be desired, but that’s nothing new with Nintendo console/handheld upgrades. 

I spend most of my time with the Nintendo Switch in handheld mode. It’s the most convenient way for me to play. Even though the updates to the system are relatively minor, the screen upgrade is still tempting for someone who will be looking at that OLED screen more than a TV. 

While this new OLED model isn’t the ‘new’ model people thought they were getting. There’s more to consider with a more powerful Switch before we make the jump to that. Which companies will be willing to go back to their older games and update them? Would it become a licence for Nintendo to make ‘directors cuts’ of all the popular games. What about new games? Would they be able to run on the current hardware? It feels like there are some conversations missed when talking about what happens if Nintendo puts out a powerhouse device that everyone wants.

There are some things on an actual new Switch that could really be fixed as well. Fix the damn Joy-Con already. It’s not going to be fixed here, so any new model after this must. Even more internal storage could be added. Do we even need 4K? Could a model that does 1080p well and runs flawlessly be enough. For a handheld Switcher, there’s no guarantee it will be an upgrade, and a TV only model would be even worse off for those who don’t want to be tethered to the TV. If we’re going to change so much of a Switch in the future, would current accessories work either? This OLED model has the same size and specifications as the original to maintain compatibility – do you eventually break that? 

The OLED model still appeals to my desire to play slightly nicer looking handheld Switch games. Like Vooks and Ollie, the price tag is a real sticking point for now. By now, Nintendo knows people will still pay it, even though we should all know better and wait. I should know better, but I still have a preorder page sitting there. 


VOOK

Plays Switch 60/40 on the TV/monitor and handheld respectively. Most of that tied up with capturing screenshots and video.


When it comes to new hardware announcements, this week has been fraught with dangerous ideas. You’ve seen it, tweeted about it, and commented on it – so lets talk about the Nintendo Switch (OLED Model). Positive or negative, everyone has had their own take, and there are plenty of opposing arguments. So after taking a few days, talking to people and figuring out why this Switch OLED is coming out now, I can finally give some thoughts.

Is this the Nintendo Switch we’ve been asking for? Probably not. By we, I mean the hungry gaming crowd who always want more – the tech-savvy pro-crowd who want the latest and greatest. A shiny OLED screen will be nice, and the improvements to the stand and dock for the LAN play all play into this demographic. 

But taking those changes into account, the price then becomes an issue; what am I upgrading for if I play this all the time docked? Even if I don’t play it docked – a higher quality screen is all well and good, but if it’s just pumping out the same graphics then what’s the point . Still, despite how well it has sold. There’s still a lot of potential Switch owners out there. Plus, it’s Nintendo’s goal to have more than one Switch per household.

Personally, even if it’s not 4K – I’d like games just to run smooth, have high framerates and look good – especially on a shiny new OLED panel. I do like shiny OLED panels, they got me.

Then there’s everyone else who is poised to pick up their first Switch. Is this good for those people? Maybe? But would they would be just as happy spending half the price and just getting a Switch Lite? Perhaps a discounted regular Switch is OK too – because everything new on the OLED model isn’t all that necessary.

A problem almost exclusive to us in Australia is that the Switch hasn’t been RRP here for years. We’ve had the $399 or less price almost consistently. Only when the crunch of the pandemic hit stocks did stores stop discounting. So instead of just $60 more, the Switch OLED is a lot more expensive in Australia than other regions.

Bower’s Fury is one of the games that feels bigger than the Switch can handle.

The handheld/home console duality of the Nintendo Switch is a problem for Nintendo now that the hardware is ageing. It needs to be both a good handheld and a good home console, as it has been for more than four years. But a games are moving on, and ideas and ambition, even within Nintendo own games, are changing – the Switch still hasn’t managed to grown with it yet.

The OLED model feels like a little late, expensive and it’s not for everyone. The Nintendo Switch is a platform you play any way you want. This iteration is just another version or that – whether or not people want to spend that much to do it – at least they have that option.


Ollie

Plays 65% handheld, 35% docked. Docked primarily when playing multiplayer and capturing footage for review

Every part of the Switch’s lifetime is something we’ve seen before in Nintendo’s handhelds. We saw it in the Game Boy, leading from the original model to the Game Boy Pocket and Light, to eventually the Game Boy Color. The story is the same for the Game Boy Advance (GBA, GBA SP/AGS101, GBA Micro), the DS (DS, DS Lite, DSi/XL) and the 3DS (3DS, 3DS XL, 2DS, N3DS). Minor iteration on the base handheld is not only an established pattern for Nintendo, it’s basically their company motto. And first and foremost, despite Nintendo’s branding of the device, the Switch is a handheld that can be docked, and not a home console that happens to be portable. There’s a reason we’ve seen a handheld-only variant but never seen a home-only variant (as much as I would like one).

If we look at Nintendo’s approach to the Switch as a handheld, then, it’s easy to see where the OLED model fits in. It’s the DS Lite to the Switch’s DS, the 3DS XL to the Switch’s 3DS, in much the same way the Switch Lite is the current generation’s 2DS — a low-cost, feature-light variant that plays all the same games. In that regard, and in isolation, it’s hard to see where the gigantic levels of anger, aggression, and frustration comes from with the Switch OLED. This is the same thing Nintendo’s always done, in the same way Nintendo’s always done it.

The problem is that none of this is happening in isolation. Nintendo exists in a market where every other major player is slapping terms like “8K” and “120Hz” on the box, a market where the technical proficiency of a gaming device is just as talked about as (if not more than) the experience it provides or the games it offers. Nintendo exists in a media landscape where rumours are reported as leaks, where outright fake information is reported as rumour, and where the truth is a little less rigid than anyone would hope. And since basically day one, rumours of a bigger, beefier, 4K-ier Switch have been slapped across headlines, discussed over half a million pages of threads on forums like Reddit and Resetera, and gone trending on Twitter so many times that I’ve lost count. Hell, we’ve even discussed some of the rumours on the Vookcast. And with those rumours ramping up over the last 12 months, what we got was a perfect recipe for disaster.

The Switch’s technical shortcomings certainly don’t help in that regard, either. Across its lifetime, we’ve seen games that run at half the frame rate of its peers (or, in some cases, much lower), we’ve seen ports that barely run, and even within Nintendo’s own offerings, games running such a low resolution that their pixel counts were bested by games that released on the Gamecube. That’s not to say those games looked worse than a Gamecube game, they certainly made up for it in numerous other ways, but on paper alone that feels a little out of place — especially when Nintendo is insistent on calling the device a hybrid. It can’t compete with a PS5 or an Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo doesn’t want it to either. But we’ve all played at least one game where the Switch’s outdated mobile chipset actively provided somewhat of a barrier to enjoying a game, be it in Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s blurry handheld mess, or in Bowser’s Fury’s sudden frame drops that cause you to juuuust miss that jump because the timing was thrown off. The OLED Switch fixes none of those issues, with the same CPU, GPU, and RAM size/speed as the rest of the lineup. Given those shortcomings, and the whole damn world seemingly talking about a “Pro” model, you can understand, at least, where that frustration comes from. Everybody wants a more solid gaming experience, and Nintendo isn’t trying to offer that here.

I am on the record as saying that I’m 100% confident a Switch “Pro” is coming. I’ve said it numerous times during my time on the Vookcast and I’ve probably tweeted it a few times too. It feels like it’s a given at this point, and even after the announcement of the shockingly named Nintendo Switch (OLED model), I’m still just as confident. Regardless of what that looks like — whether it’s 4K or still 1080p, whether it’s packing fancy upscaling tech or the latest cutting edge chips — it will come eventually. The OLED model doesn’t preclude the existence of a more advanced model coming in the future, it’s just not that. Should it be? I don’t know! I couldn’t say. As Vook mentioned above, 540 odd dollarydoos is a heck of a lot of money to spend on an iterative upgrade, especially when it’s going to be sitting on shelves next to the perpetually sub-RRP OG model. For the vast majority of people, double the storage space and a slightly larger screen just isn’t going to be worth it, even if that screen looks gorgeous (and it almost certainly will). But when there’s a worldwide manufacturing shortage, especially in the microchip space, and both Sony and Microsoft physically cannot get enough consoles in stores to satisfy even half the demand they have, it’s clear that for now, the OLED is the best we’ve got. Maybe it’s not for you, maybe that’s just too much money, maybe you wanted something more, and those are all perfectly valid reasons to abstain from buying one. If nothing else, you can probably be content in knowing that it’s little more than an iterative update, and you’re not missing out on much by skipping it.


The Switch OLED model is out on October 8th, you can find a preorder guide here.

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About The Author
Team Vooks
When more than one of the Vooks team writes something together we use this account to publish it. No mere single account can hold us all.
1 Comments
  • Nicholas Steel
    July 12, 2021 at 7:02 am

    Sony and Microsoft have been targeting 60FPS 1080p, 60FPS 1440p and even 60FPS 4k (in some limited cases) this generation. Meanwhile Nintendo *continues* to struggle to hit 30FPS 720p.

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