How long will the Nintendo Switch Last?


Update July 2021: Updated to take into account the announcement of the Nintendo Switch OLED.

The Nintendo Switch will die. 

It’s inevitable. 

Eventually, Nintendo, like all console manufacturers, will replace their existing console with a new console. 

The outgoing console’s last duty: to add to our mountain of disposed, unwanted, and outdated gadgets. 

But not everybody sends their old console out to pasture for one final frolic before the Sun sets. 

Some like to keep their consoles longer. 

And that got me thinking…

How long will the Nintendo Switch last, anyway? And I mean that in two ways:

The first is how long until it’s replaced by the Switch 2 or whatever Nintendo calls their next-gen console (How about Nintendo Switch-Up?). 

The second question is how long will the Switch last into the future. It’s a question that is often asked by retro gaming enthusiasts and gamers. After all, we all want to wring as much value out of the Switch as possible before buying a ticket to board the next-gen band-wagon. 

So, eager to find an answer, I swung on my best Sherlock party outfit, and strode (into the other room where my laptop was) into an investigation. This is what I found…

How long will the Nintendo Switch last? The switch should last until at least 2026 when games stop getting released. A successor to the Switch should be released in late 2023 to early 2024. In the long term, the Switch should stand strong against time’s armies. And will serve admirably as a retro console in the coming decades. 

Ok, now you’ve got a quick answer, let’s delve into each point in a little more detail, starting with how long until the Nintendo Switch is replaced. 

How long until the Nintendo Switch is replaced? 

The original GameCube is home to some stunning retro games.

One of the biggest questions quivering on the lips of console gamers is how long will their console last until it’s replaced. 

After all, a console is a big investment in both time and money. 

You’ll be spending thousands of dollars over the next few years buying games. 

So it’s good to know how long your console will last. 

The length of time between Sony and Microsoft’s console generations is easy to predict: Roughly 6 years. 

But Nintendo’s console generations are a little more random.

I wanted to see if, in amongst the crazy Nintendy chaos, there was a pattern to their console generation releases. 

To determine the Switch’s future, I needed to grab a spade and dig into Nintendo’s console past. And I started with their handheld consoles. 

Nintendo’s handheld console lifespans tend to be all over the place. Or so I thought…

  • GameBoy  1989 – 2003 (14 years). Years until replaced – 12
  • Gameboy Advanced – 2001 – 2010  (9 years). Years until replaced – 3 (!)
  • Nintendo DS – 2004 – 2013 (9 years). Years until replaced – 7 
  • Nintendo 3DS – 2011 – 2020 (9 years). Years until replaced – 7
  • Nintendo Switch – 2017 – ? 

So the average time between console releases, recently, is about 7 years. 

In this list, I didn’t include handheld upgrades as we actually see them quite consistently every 3 years. In fact, Nintendo Switch has gone one of the longest periods without an upgrade. This is due to be remedied by the Nintendo Switch OLED in late 2021. 

Now, how about Nintendo’s home consoles:  

  • NES 1985-1995 (Western World) (10 years). Years until replaced – 5
  • SNES 1990 – 2003 (13 years). Years until replaced – 6
  • N64 1996 – 2002 (6 years). Years until replaced – 5 
  • GameCube 2001 – 2007 (6 years). Years until replaced – 5
  • Wii 2006 – 2013 (7 years). Years until replaced – 6
  • Wii U 2012 – 2017 (5 years). Years until replaced – 5
  • Nintendo Switch – 2017 – ? 
The original gameboy advance had no back light making it, in some cases, almost impossible to use. But it was like having a mini-SNES in your pocket which was fantastic for the time.

The length of time for a Nintendo home console to be replaced tends to be consistently around 5-6 years. 

Given this data, I believe that we will see an upgraded Nintendo Switch in late 2021 or early 2022 (I was right! The Switch OLED was announced by Nintendo two months after this article’s original creation). This would be nearly 4 years after the initial release of the console which was March 2017. 

This date is in keeping with rumors swirling about the internet that a Nintendo Switch Pro or “OLED” is being readied for release in late 2021/early 2022. 

Moving forward, I believe that, based on the data above, we will see a true successor to the Switch in 2024. A full 7 years after the Switch’s debut. This is in keeping with Nintendo’s 7-year replacement cycle with handheld consoles. 

Finally, I think that most game production for the Switch will end or be massively reduced after 2026. This is 9 years after the Switch’s debut and this time frame is in keeping with when 3rd party game developers slowed game production on Nintendo’s other popular consoles. 

So you can see that there is plenty of life in the old Switcheroo yet. 

How long will the Nintendo Switch last in total? 

At the time of writing, the original Game Boy is 32 years old. I still have mine and stack of Mario games.

As mentioned earlier in the article, there’s a lot of gamers out there, myself included, who are interested in the Switch’s longevity from a retro console perspective. Will it be a viable retro console, like the SNES and NES, in 30 to 50 years in the future? Or will it disintegrate like last week’s florist flowers?

Will I, in 50 years’ time, be able to dust off my old Switch and show the grandchildren how old-school gamers used to roll? 

In this section I’ll look at the pros and cons of the Switch’s design that help it fight off father time and his minions. 

Cons

I’d rather get the bad news over with first and deal with it. So here are the cons… 

Li-Ion Battery 

If you’re interested in playing the Switch in handheld mode way into the future, you may come up against one small hurdle: The battery.

Li-ion rechargeable batteries start to deteriorate after 500 charges or so. Eventually, as cells within the battery wither and die, the amount of voltage the battery can produce decreases. This will eventually lead to the battery being unable to support the Switch’s power needs. 

Though, as you’ll see in the pros section, it is quite easy to replace the Switch battery. 

LED screen

LED screens slowly fade over time with use. Plus pixels deteriorate and get stuck. I’ve got an old GameGear. Over time its screen has decreased in brightness so much, it seems like I’m trying to view it while it’s immersed in a vat of muddy water. 

Moving parts 

The Switch has a number of moving parts inside the game cartridge slot. Moving parts are always a point of potential failure. 

General deterioration 

The console over time will get its fair share of bumps, scrapes, and bruises. As the scars of races won and lost, battles hard-fought, and platforms jumped and missed mount up, small problems start to appear. Joy-cons won’t mount properly, screens will crack, vibrant colors fade to pastel, buttons lose their click, triggers, their spring. 

The end of the eShop 

Buying games digitally is convenient and often cheaper than buying physically. But, eShops have a tendency to shut down without a moment’s notice. 

Just look at the PSN store for the PS3, Vita, and PSP. So the ability to buy digital-only games can disappear nearly overnight. 

Switch SSD 

The Nintendo Switch is home to a 32GB SSD. This is great for loading games quickly and for speedy transitions between levels. After all, who wants to be stuck on a loading screen? 

The problem is, SSDs have a finite lifespan. The more you write to an SSD, the more the little cells that store the binary bits deteriorate. At first, the SSD can compensate for this by writing data across the entire SSD spreading out writing cycles. Eventually, every bit will be written thousands of times, and the SSD will fail. Like Thanos destroying Earth, it’s Inevitable

Plus, it’s not possible to replace the SSD chips on the Switch’s mainboard. So what you have in your Switch, you’re stuck with, for life. 

Pros

Now I‘ve got the bad news out of the way, I’ll take a look at some of the features that’ll help make the Switch a Retro console win. Features that’ll help it last the ages. 

Flash memory on game cards

The memory contained in the Switch game cards is read only. This means that, in theory, it should never deteriorate. 

Think of it this way: Imagine if somebody chiseled your name, and only your name, onto a rock. That name could stay there visible for thousands of years. Whereas if people chiseled their names into that same rock every day, the act of “re-writing” the rock over and over would slowly disintegrate the rock until nothing was left. 

It’s the act of continuous writing and rewriting that does the damage to flash memory. 

So your game cards should last you a lifetime as they are not being rewritten to. 

The Switch can take a beating

The switch is made of some seriously durable materials. I’ve seen Youtube videos of someone tossing a Switch out of 1000 feet in the air helicopter. And the Switch still worked after impact. 

Ok, yes, the Joy cons exploded in their effort to save the Switch’s main body. But it still survived. 

And if it can stand up to a thousand foot fall, fighting off time’s battalions will be a cinch. 

Components can be replaced

The Nintendo Switch is surprisingly easy to get inside off. Just buy a screwdriver that is designed for the Switch’s unique brand of screw and you can have the back plastic shell off in under a minute. 

From there it’s easy to replace key components such as the battery and button mechanisms. 

Electronics are built to last

Other than the Xbox 360 with its infamous red ring of death, I’ve never encountered a console that’s had a hardware issue due to poor electronic components. 

And the Switch is no exception to this rule. Nintendo builds its consoles to last. And just like the SNES and the Gameboy, the Switch will still be playing games long after many of us are filling urns. 

Conclusion 

An article of mine wouldn’t be complete without a lovely little bullet-point summary at the end (I love bullet point summaries!).  

So, instead of rabbiting on even more, I love to do that to, let’s take one last look at the best points from this article: 

  • The average time between Nintendo handheld consoles is 7 years 
  • The average time between Nintendo home consoles is 5 years
  • I believe, based on this information, that:
    • We will see a Switch OLED in late 2021
      • Which has been pretty much confirmed
    • We will get a new console in late 2023 to early 2024 
    • First-party Nintendo game production will end shortly after mid-2024
    • 3rd party game production for the Switch will slow to crawl by 2026 as devs move over to new consoles
  • The Switch will last a long time like most consoles which will make it a great retro console
    • Its internal SSD hard drive could deteriorate over the coming decades making the console useless.
      • This won’t happen for a long time. 
    • Other issues like mechanical failures can be fixed, 
    • The battery will deplete over time, they can be easily replaced. 
    • The console and its electronics were built to high standards and will stand up well to the rigors of time. 

What Next? 

If the Nintendo eShop ever shuts down, will I still be able to download games I own? First off, any games you “buy” on the eshop, you don’t actually own. You are paying for a license to use the software. You don’t own anything. And Nintendo reserves the right to withdraw that license at any time without warning. Bet you wish you bought physical copies of all those games now, right? Yes, at first, I’m sure Nintendo would make the games available to re-download. But once the eShop is gone, it would only be a matter of time before the ability to download previously bought games disappears. 

Nick Sinclair

Having played games since the golden age of the Commodore 64, Nick finally took the plunge and studied Creative Game Design in university. After 3 years of "Study", Nick co-founded a games company where he soon discovered his true calling: writing about games. 11 years later Nick writes about a tower of topics, but gaming is always stacked neatly at the top.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Posts