Sony could learn a lot from Nintendo about when to introduce a new console model

Somebody holding a Nintendo Switch – OLED Model in their hands
The Nintendo Switch – OLED Model was a mid-cycle upgrade that didn’t leave players behind

With rumours swirling that Sony could be developing a mid-generation console upgrade in the form of PS5 Pro, Doug Bowser reiterates that the current Nintendo Switch will stick around for “the next few years”.

Just when you think the Nintendo Switch has reached its peak in terms of what it has left to give, the handheld/home console hybrid continues to surprise with a stellar 2023 release calendar that includes the likes of Fire Emblem Engage, Pikmin 4 and, of course, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Yes, despite having entered its sixth year on the market, Nintendo’s device continues to be a raging success, proving that great games can come out on hardware regardless of age.

Sony, on the other hand, has recently been rumoured to already be working on a souped-up mid-generation console upgrade to the PS5. Supposedly called the PS5 Pro, the thinking – at least according to Insider Gaming’s report – is that by prioritising “accelerated” ray tracing, games could look and perform better than they already do. I struggle to believe that’s the case, though, since it still feels like the original PS5 has barely found its feet and PlayStation games still launch on the previous generation.

It’s a classic case of Nintendo placing the quality of its games at the forefront, while the other two major platform holders stay on a constant mission to push the power of their current-gen machines. Great games come out on both the Xbox Series X and PS5 too, of course, but I don’t think it’s a surprise that they tend to arrive far less frequently than anything Nintendo is doing. God of War Ragnarok and Horizon: Forbidden West were last year’s big first-party PlayStation games, for example, while Nintendo had Bayonetta 3, Xenoblade Chronicles 3, Kirby and the Forgotten Land, Splatoon 3… the list quite literally goes on.

That’s why the constant calls for a Nintendo Switch 2 release date constantly baffle me. Because, while I admit that the prospect of a more powerful hybrid device which is able to make Super Mario and Zelda games look better is enticing, what’s the rush to reinvest in a new eco-system when the current one is still impressing? Bowser was right in his recent Daily Mail interview to play down prospects of a Nintendo Switch successor launching soon; I agree with him that the existing console can enjoy “strong performance over the next few years” – and so do the hardware’s sales figures.

Due an upgrade

All this isn’t to say that mid-generation console upgrades are a bad thing, of course. It make sense that in order to keep a console eco-system exciting and to ensure players don’t get left behind compared to what’s available on other platforms, you want to provide a superior option. Even Nintendo itself launched the Nintendo Switch – OLED model four years after the original. But the differences here were very slight; the OLED model may have offered a better screen and better battery life but all games ran perfectly the same.

Should Sony progress with its plans for a PS5 Pro, it’s hard to see the reality where it wouldn’t in some way splinter its existing console playerbase and place additional pressure on game developers. We know this because when the PS4 Pro was introduced, it suddenly introduced options that weren’t there before. No longer were players stuck with running games at 30fps or 1080p if they didn’t want; instead they had the option of an increased frame rate or higher resolution. The primary benefit of a PS5 Pro being talked about right now is ray tracing, yet it’s hard to image there wouldn’t be additional performance boosts.

The problem is once a Pro version of a console is introduced, not everyone who owns it is on the same playing field. It’s a great way to treat players who want to enjoy AAA titles in the brightest and best fashion, until suddenly creatives also have to factor these SKU differences during development. It’s bad enough that developers are already having to make the same game on six separate pieces of hardware if you take into account PS4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch in addition to the current-gen PS5 and Xbox Series X|S.

This leads to the other remaining issue, and the main difference between the times when the PS4 Pro arrived and when the PS5 Pro is allegedly being introduced: Sony is still supporting PS4 through new game releases almost three years out from when PS5 launched. Cross-generation AAA titles are still a consideration for developers and publishers alike, so adding the PS5 Pro into the mix would surely add strain to what’s already expected from a studio perspective. It would make more sense to leave the PS4 generation fully behind before asking players who invested in PS5 to consider a PS5 Pro.

In a way, it’s good that Nintendo, Xbox and PlayStation are all undertaking different routes to market. This is exactly what you want from the platform holders in order to keep the industry competitive. Sony, in this instance, just needs to learn how to walk before they run; tapping into the full potential of the original PS5 model before setting eyes on a mid-generation upgrade. Nintendo’s lack of news about Nintendo Switch 2 might be frustrating, but it keeps players’ best interests at heart providing the great first-party titles keep coming.

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