Nintendo 4K kit claims and Switch OLED Models out in the wild ahead of launch
Hello hello everyone and welcome to this week's Nintendo recap. There's a lot to talk about seeing as how the Nintendo Switch OLED model found its way into several people's hands more than a week ahead of launch. Metroid Dread previews have also released showing the game in a very favorable light. Finally, although Nintendo has denied it, Bloomberg reported that the gaming company has been passing out 4K kits to outside developers and telling them to create games that support 4K. Let's talk about Nintendo gaming!
Switch OLED model already in the wild
During a preview event on Monday, select persons were able to check out the upcoming Switch OLED Model in person. This upgraded console is set to release next Friday, October 8, so it makes sense that Nintendo is ramping up for the launch. Strangely enough, it seems that some very lucky fans have been able to get their hands on the new OLED model already. Because of this, several comparison images and videos against the original model have shown up on Twitter and YouTube. The common focus on these comparisons is that the larger, brighter screen looks amazing in person and makes the original Switch screen look outdated.
So is the Switch OLED model worth buying? That depends on what Switch you currently have and how you plan on using it. For anyone who owns the original Nintendo Switch or the Switch Lite, the OLED model is a very big upgrade. It has longer battery life, a bigger screen, a better kickstand, double the internal storage, and an improved dock that sports a LAN port. Keep in mind that even if the internal storage is doubled, you will still want to grab a microSD card. The jump isn't quite as big if you already have the Switch V2 that launched in 2019 since they both have the same battery life, but it's still an improvement overall.
If you've got the original Switch or Switch Lite, it's definitely worth considering upgrading to the OLED model. You can even trade your old Switch at a used gaming store and use that money towards your new purchase. Just make sure to reset your Switch before selling it.
Metroid Dread is looking good
Along with the OLED Model event, some journalists got a hands-on preview of Metroid Dread on Monday. From what everyone's been saying, it looks like this game is going to be a hit. The general consensus is that the game picks off where Metroid Fusion left off, offers great voice acting, and looks absolutely gorgeous on the Switch OLED Model.
Samus is hunted by the EMMI robots throughout the story and it looks like the added need for stealth changes up the usual Metroid formula to provide more tension and purpose to the levels. We'll be doing a full review on the game once it launches so check back with us next week.
Nintendo 4K kits & a new Switch
This Wednesday, Bloomberg reported that "employees at 11 game companies said their teams were in possession of Nintendo's 4K development kit for the Switch." The report goes so far as to say that one of the employees works at Zynga Inc. but didn't want to be identified since "they weren't authorized to discuss their projects publicly." For anyone who doesn't know, development kits are a standard thing in the gaming industry. It's special hardware that helps developers create games for specific consoles. It would be one thing if Bloomberg only had one source, but they state they've gotten confirmation from employees at 11 different game companies. If that's true, it's much harder to hide that Nintendo is up to something.
When Bloomberg reached out to Nintendo for comment, the Japanese gaming company basically only stated that the reporting was "inaccurate" but didn't elaborate. Then a few hours after, Nintendo came out with an official statement saying they are not supplying tools for a Nintendo Switch with 4K support and have "no plans for any new model other than the Nintendo Switch - OLED Model."
We also want to restate that, as we announced in July, we have no plans for any new model other than Nintendo Switch – OLED Model, which will launch on October 8, 2021. (2/2)We also want to restate that, as we announced in July, we have no plans for any new model other than Nintendo Switch – OLED Model, which will launch on October 8, 2021. (2/2)— 任天堂株式会社（企業広報・IR） (@NintendoCoLtd) September 30, 2021September 30, 2021
Kotaku then reached out to Zynga for comment, but the developer denied having any 4K developer kits from Nintendo. "As a Switch developer for the upcoming Star Wars: Hunters game that Zynga announced on a recent Nintendo Direct, we can confirm that none of the developer kits Zynga has or is in receipt of are 4K developer kits." So now things are pretty confusing. Is Bloomberg wrong and there aren't any Nintedo 4K kits out there, contrary to the 11 sources they claim to have? Or are Nintendo and Zynga not telling the truth in an attempt to protect their non-disclosure agreement projects from the public?
Nintendo Switch dataminer, @SciresM on Twitter, entered the conversation by tweeting a very good point. For the last two Switch systems (Switch Lite and OLED model) there were plenty of indicators within Switch firmware and code that these two systems were on the way. However, he says there is "literally zero evidence" of any new devkits or hardware. There would probably be coding in reference to the upcoming 4K support in the coding, but no one has seen any. Of course, one reason for this could be that the 4K kits aren't for a new Switch iteration, but for the next-gen Nintendo console.
For what it's worth, there is literally zero evidence in firmware/code that Nintendo is working on any other/new hardware at the moment. Zero indication of unknown devkits and no firmware support.
For Lite ("hoag") and OLED ("Aula") we had about 1.5 years of advance signs in fw.For what it's worth, there is literally zero evidence in firmware/code that Nintendo is working on any other/new hardware at the moment. Zero indication of unknown devkits and no firmware support.
For Lite ("hoag") and OLED ("Aula") we had about 1.5 years of advance signs in fw.— Michael (@SciresM) September 30, 2021September 30, 2021
Things get a little more interesting when you realize that, not one but two patents from Nintendo just became public on FPO this last Thursday. That's supiciously close to just after this whole 4K kit news came to light. They detail AI image upscaling up to 4K and 8K. It's important to remember that companies create patents all the time that they don't do anything with. However, this AI upscaping very well could be used to make Nintendo Switch games look good in 4K without developers needing to dive into each game's code separately and update it. If there is a new Nintendo console on the way, whether another Switch iteration or the next-gen console, this might even be used to make certain backwards-compatible games look good on a new system.
But what about Nintendo's denial of the 4K kits? The thing is, we know for a fact that Nintendo has denied things in the past that turned out to be true. This is usually achieved by choosing words very carefully. For instance, last year when rumors for a new Switch were flying around Nintendo president, Shuntaro Furukawa stated that there were no plans to launch a new Nintendo Switch model in 2020. Obviously, this wasn't a lie, but something was cooking behind the scenes at that point, as we know since we're getting the new OLED model next week. Nintendo found a good way to sidestep the rumors, which makes sense. The company wants to be the one to call the shots since it needs to report to its key directors and investors. So it wouldn't be out of the question for Nintendo to be handing out 4K kits right now. I'm absolutely positive the Japanese gaming company is working on the next-gen Nintendo console at least. But we need more evidence to know if the 4K kit reports are true.
Keep in mind that Nintendo's current goal is to do everything it can to ramp up sales for the OLED model. If there is a more powerful Switch being worked on right now, the company wouldn't want fans to focus on it as this could get people's interest away from the OLED model and hurt sales.
It makes more sense that 4K will be coming to Nintendo's next console generation and not the Switch line anyway. But considering how many years it takes to make games and the fact that we're already five years into the Switch's life cycle (console lifespans are usually 3-7 years), I could definitely see Nintendo preparing developers for the next generation rather than the fabled "Switch Pro" or a Switch with 4K. After all, every console needs to have games available at launch in order to sell well.
Now, I'll bring up one other thing worth considering. You might recall a few weeks back that we learned with the Switch's 13.0.0 update that the new OLED model dock can receive updates, which the original Switch's dock couldn't do. This has led some people to wonder about the hardware in the new dock. If it features an HDMI 2.0 instead of the HDMI 1.4 used in previous console versions, that means the system could eventually receive an update that allows it to support 4K. Suddenly, those 4K kits don't seem quite as far out there, huh? As soon as I get my OLED model, I'll be taking it apart to see what I can learn from the system. I'll report back on that when I can.
So long for now
There's been an awful lot of attention surrounding the Nintendo Switch OLED this week, but that's not surprising considering it arrives on store shelves next Friday. It's hard to know for sure whether the reported 4K kits are real or not. However, considering Nintendo is focusing so much one OLED model and the Nintendo Switch is pretty far into its life cycle, the 4K kits could be for the next generation of Nintendo consoles.
Until next time.
- Rebecca Spear
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Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.