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Nintendo Switch Pro a no-show at E3: Reset your 2021 expectations

No new hardware and Breath of the Wild 2 in 2022 suggest that you should be happy for now with what you have.

The Switch Lite (2019) is still the most recent Switch hardware, along with the V2 Switch that brought longer battery life.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Reports said Nintendo might announce a new Switch Pro soon. As of this year's virtual E3, it still hasn't happened. And, maybe, that should have been expected all along.

Nintendo's four-year-old-plus Switch hardware still doesn't have a successor yet. The relatively low-key E3 edition of Nintendo Direct was full of games, including WarioWare, a new 2D Metroid game and another teaser for Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 coming in 2022. But hardware wasn't there -- unless you count a retro Zelda Game & Watch.

Now playing: Watch this: Watch every trailer shown at Nintendo's E3 Direct

In retrospect, maybe that wasn't surprising at all. At a virtual conference, games are easier to spotlight. Nintendo's Switch sales numbers also remain extremely strong, suggesting no new hardware is really needed right now at all.

Plus, there's the aftereffects of a year in the pandemic. Chip shortages, difficult work-from-home disruptions and lots of other 2020 challenges have made 2021 a year when new products may be significantly more difficult to launch.

While Sony and Microsoft are well into a next-gen console cycle that started last fall, Nintendo is continuing to bank on its games as a key factor over hardware. For now. And even now, killer-app PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X games are few and far between, and next-gen consoles are still really hard to buy.

Reported Switch Pro upgrades (or whatever the hardware might be called: Super Nintendo Switch?) promise a new Nvidia Tegra processor, 4K TV-connected gaming when docked and a larger OLED display. Hopefully, Nintendo eventually upgrades the not-exactly-great Joy-Con controllers, too. My wish list for Switch upgrades has several features I'd like to see happen. 

Now playing: Watch this: Nintendo unveils Legend of Zelda Game & Watch gadget

The last Switch hardware update was the handheld-only Switch Lite, which went on sale in 2019 alongside an original Switch revision with longer battery life. The Lite remains Nintendo's most affordable Switch, and has a more compact design and sturdier-feeling controls, plus a D-pad. But it can't dock with a TV, and ditches the original Switch's innovative detachable controllers which can work for same-room multiplayer games.

The expected Switch Pro update, which could still be announced this year, looks to specifically be an upgrade to the original TV-docking Switch. Whether it replaces the original, or sits at a higher price as a new model, is still unknown... because nothing's been announced yet. But with Nintendo's next big games (Splatoon 3, Breath of the Wild 2) coming next year, it seems increasingly likely that a new Switch would launch alongside them, not before.

Meanwhile, it's starting to look like buying a current-gen Switch should be fine. For now. But you never know with Nintendo.