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Mario Kart fans got some welcome news yesterday in the form of fresh downloadable content. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is getting 48 new tracks all based on courses from previous entries in the series. This is the first batch of new content for the game since it hit the Switch in 2017. But not all 48 courses are coming out at once. Instead, Nintendo plans to roll them out in six waves comprised of eight courses each. These waves will begin hitting Switch in March and continue through the end of 2023. And that timing is key because it’s probably the earliest that fans could expect to see a full successor to the Switch.

The dreams — or maybe they were hallucinations — of the Switch Pro are dead. Nintendo is almost certainly instead looking to launch a follow-up to the Switch — although that will likely be hardware that maintains the formfactor and momentum of what is now Nintendo’s best-selling home console of all time.

But with Nintendo already making plans for Switch content through the end of next year, what does that mean for Switch 2? Well, it probably indicates that the publisher is no rush to replace the original Switch.

If you don’t believe me, Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa himself said the console is still in its middle stages.

“Switch is just in the middle of its lifecycle and the momentum going into this year is good,” Furukawa explained in a conference call with investors. “The Switch is ready to break a pattern of our past consoles that saw momentum weakening in their sixth year on the market and grow further.”

And that potential for growth has led to Nintendo to invest further into a wide variety of games that can then feed back into that growth.

Nintendo games could keep Switch sales high well into its seventh year on the market

Yesterday’s Nintendo Direct was one of the company’s strongest ever in terms of breadth of content. The publisher is packing this year to the brim with big games in a way it hasn’t throughout the pandemic. That includes hardcore games like Splatoon 3 coming in the summer and Xenoblade Chronicles 3 launching in September. It also has Nintendo Switch Sports, a follow-up to the family-favorite Wii Sports, debuting April 29. Fan-favorite Mario Strikers: Battle League is coming June 10 while Kirby and the Forgotten Land is only weeks away with its March 25 release date.

That is a packed schedule, and it doesn’t even take into account the games Nintendo likely has lined up for its potential upcoming Nintendo Direct show in June. At that time, the company will almost certainly have more games to reveal for the rest of this year, but it may even give a glimpse into 2023. And if it attempts to maintain this release cadence, it should have plenty of content to keep the Switch exciting even as the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X begin to hit their prime.

Mario Kart is key here, though. The company is going back to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe because it knows it is going to stretch out this generation longer than it has in the past. At least for its home consoles. When we get a Switch 2, we’ll probably get a Mario Kart 9. But for now, supporting Mario Kart 8 is a great way to keep current Switch owners happy while giving newcomers another reason to get that game and to get the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pass for $50 per year (which gets you the DLC).

You don’t replace a system that is selling 20 million consoles per year

Nintendo expects to sell around 4 million Switch systems during the three-month period ending March 31. That will put it at 23 million Switch systems sold for its fiscal 2022. The forecast for the Switch in fiscal 2023 and 2024 will probably not be that high — but Nintendo could easily still sell around 20 million systems each of those years.

It’s difficult for a company to come in and pull the rug out from underneath a system that continues to sell that well. So Nintendo isn’t going to fight it. Like a bullfighter, it’s going to deftly step to the side and let the Switch’s bull energy carry itself forward. And it’s even going to wave it on with a red cape full of fun new games. I don’t know if this metaphor is working, but I expect that when the matadors at Nintendo HQ spin around, they will do so in an environment that is much friendlier for companies trying to launch new hardware than the one we’re in today.

And that probably puts a Switch 2 launch in March 2024 at the earliest and probably closer to November 2024.

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