Just a couple of weeks ago, the famed honcho of the Legend of Zelda series, Eiji Aonuma, announced that the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild would be delayed into Spring 2023. It was an announcement that many of us were undoubtedly expecting, particularly given that 2022 is already playing host to the likes of Bayonetta 3, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and the more recently announced Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, which is lined up for the ‘Late-2022’ slot.
While we wiped away a tear from the corner of our eyes and lamented that we wouldn’t be playing BOTW2 over the holidays this year, the announcement video itself showcased some brand new footage from the upcoming sequel; so much so, in fact, that we even posited 16 theories about Link’s gnarly new arm. What we perhaps didn’t notice at the time — something we hadn’t considered until the chaps over at Digital Foundry talked about it recenty — was that the footage looks remarkably crisp for OG Switch hardware.
Now, game trailers running on slightly beefier hardware is no new thing, but the Digital Foundry team think that there might be some weight behind the theory that Breath of the Wild 2 could be coming to brand new Switch hardware. Whether that’s a ‘New’ Switch along the lines of the New 3DS, which offered a modest specs boost, or some variety of Switch ‘Pro’ or proper ‘Switch 2’ successor is impossible to say right now, but their main reasoning was that the volumetric clouds featuring prominently in the trailer look to be, in their expert opinion, too advanced for the humble Switch’s processing power.
This, alongside the higher resolution and anti-aliasing techniques may point to the game potentially being a “cross-gen” release, similar to the last game. Digital Foundry video producer Alex Battaglia stated, “since they are delaying it now, I think this is going to be the equivalent of what we saw with Breath of the Wild, then, where it launches on the old and also on the new and we see the nice benefits of the new”. You can watch the team discuss the clip in the DF video here:
Here at Nintendo Life, we’re a touch more sceptical, although we of course love the idea of a brand new toy to play with. The idea of a new Switch console releasing alongside Breath of the Wild 2 in 2023 is not entirely off the table, but with the OLED Model being only six months old at the time of writing, it seems unlikely that Nintendo will want to introduce another SKU to the market so soon. After all, with the original Switch now being over five years old, there are plenty of early adopters who see the OLED Model as a decent upgrade worth picking up. For Nintendo to come out a little more than a year later and say “whoops, sorry folks, this is the real upgrade” feels a bit premature, especially considering how healthy Switch sales are.
Then again, it’s possible that Nintendo may go down a different route entirely: chiefly, a new dock that upgrades the resolution when playing on the big screen. Since the OLED introduced a significant upgrade for folks who predominantly enjoy handheld gaming, a new dock would go towards benefitting resolution-chasing gamers who prefer playing in docked mode. This might give the ‘native’ output resolution a hefty bump via some in-built scaling tech — perhaps even going as far as 4K (though we’ve already seen various pieces of kit that do that). Then again, that doesn’t quite explain the volumetric clouds that Digital Foundry thinks are beyond the current Switch’s capabilities.
Ultimately, Breath of the Wild 2 is sure to run just fine on the current Switch; it kinda has to, right? The first game was perfectly playable and excellent on Wii U, and even the Switch version struggles in certain places (well hello there, Korok Forest!). There’s simply no way Nintendo will abandon a console that has — at the time of writing — now sold over 100 million units, outselling the mighty Wii. The first Breath of the Wild has sold roughly one copy for every four Switches in the wild right now, and Nntendo isn’t going to disappoint that audience for the sake of slightly fancier visuals.
As for a potential cross-gen release? Well, even given the ongoing difficulties facing manufacturers right now, it’s certainly possible, but we’re yet to be fully convinced. It just doesn’t seem like the right time to us, particularly when you consider that global chip shortages are likely to continue into 2023. We wouldn’t put it past Nintendo to offer some sort of upgrade/remaster of the game further down the line, however; perhaps some sort of collection that bundles both Breath of the Wild games for its next console? We’d be up for that!
The real question is whether Switch owners would be tempted to upgrade to new Switch hardware if this were a cross-platform (cross-Nintendo-platform, of course) release, because that’s what Nintendo would be banking on by employing same tactic used with both Twilight Princess on GameCube/Wii and BOTW on Wii U/Switch.
Would we upgrade? Of course we would, but new Nintendo hardware is tied to our jobs here, so it’s easier for us to justify. Would you upgrade, though?…
So, we’re not sure we’ll see a brand new Switch console releasing alongside Breath of the Wild 2, but we’d love to know what you think on the subject. Check out the polls below and be sure to leave a comment with your thoughts on the matter!