While not currently announced in any official capacity, rumours online for a while now have been circulating that a successor to the Nintendo Switch is releasing in 2024.
From credible Pokémon leakers discussing next gen performance patches for existing titles, to rumours of specific studios receiving development hardware, it seems increasingly likely that 2023 is the final year that the Nintendo Switch will be the primary Nintendo hardware on the market, before something new comes along to replace it.
While we don’t know anything official about a potential Switch 2, all rumours currently seem to suggest that, at the very least, it will maintain the same basic concept as the current Nintendo Switch, releasing as a portable system which can be docked to play games on the TV at a higher resolution.
So, taking as fact the idea that a Switch 2 is coming in 2024 and will maintain the same basic form factor as the current Switch, I wanted to take some time today to have a look at the state of accessibility on current Nintendo Switch hardware, and talk about some of the things that I think we need to see improve on a hypothetical Switch 2 to improve Nintendo’s level of accessibility support for disabled gamers, and bring them more in line with PlayStation and Xbox.
Day One Accessibility Controller Support
When the Xbox Series S and Series X released toward the end of 2020, the pair of consoles made gaming accessibility history by being the first consoles to ever release with accessibility controller support available on launch day.
The Xbox Adaptive Controller was released back in 2018 for the Xbox One, and while not specifically designed for the Xbox Series consoles, it did work on day one with the new generation of Xbox hardware.
Having accessibility controller support available day one for a new console is really important, as it allows gamers excited for next gen games to be able to hop in on day one, and not have to wait weeks, months, or years to get in on the hype.
While I don’t expect Nintendo to announce and release their own accessibility controller in time for the release of the Switch 2, if nothing else I want Nintendo to ensure that the Hori Flex, a third party accessibility controller for the current Nintendo Switch, is supported on launch day for the Switch 2. This would not only ensure that disabled players could pick up the system on launch day, but also ensure those who’ve already invested in a Hori Flex don’t have to shell out down the line for a new expensive accessibility controller needlessly.
In a perfect world I’d love to see the Xbox Adaptive Controller or PS5 Access Controller also supported, but that’s pie in the sky thinking. I think getting the Hori Flex supported… that’s doable.
An Official, Mass Produced, One Handed Controller Grip
While I don’t foresee Nintendo releasing their own accessibility controller between now and the release of a potential Switch 2, one thing I would love to see considered for a Switch successor is Nintendo officially mass producing a one handed grip accessory for whatever Joy-Con equivalent the Switch successor will likely support, given its rumoured form factor.
Currently, there are creators online that are 3D printing to order grips that allow a player to comfortably hold two Joy-Con controllers in a single hand, and access all of the controller’s buttons one handed.
These are expensive, as they’re made to order, but this could be an area where mass production could help make these more affordable, and make one handed play on a potential Switch 2 more readily accessible.
Co-Pilot Mode Support
Co-Pilot mode is a system level feature on Xbox consoles that allows for two controllers to be registered as a single player, allowing for a variety of accessibility setups that would not otherwise be possible for disabled players.
Players can use a standard Xbox controller alongside an Xbox Adaptive Controller, or two regular Xbox controllers as part of one setup, even independently remapping each controller to better lay out hard to reach buttons.
PS5 Controller Assist is currently available in Beta, and is functionally very similar, with the exception of not allowing independent controller remapping.
With the release of a potential Switch 2, I’d really like to see Nintendo catch up with the competition on this one, and support an equivalent of Co-Pilot mode in their next system.
Allow players to use a JoyCon in one hand and a Hori flex with connected external buttons on the floor, or a Joy-Con in conjunction with the 8BitDo LiteSE accessibility controller, to have low resistance alternatives to pressing L3 and R3.
Catch up with your competitors and make this feature an industry standard.
Accessibility Store Tags
Look, there’s a LOT of complaints we could make about the eShop on the Nintendo Switch, but for now let’s focus on just this one.
Today, on both Xbox and PlayStation’s digital storefronts on console, disabled players can find out accessibility information on certain video games without having to look up external accessibility reviews from creators like myself, and this is something I am incredibly happy about.
On Xbox, a game’s developer can apply to have tags listed on their game’s store page that tell players prior to purchase that their game contains features from a list of common accessibility features. To get these tags applied to a store page the game not only needs to have those accessibility features present, but also feature them to a sufficient degree of execution quality as to be useful to most players in need of the feature. This is the gold standard of how accessibility store tags should be implemented.
PlayStation also features similar store tags on PS5, but primarily for first party titles at present, though this does seem to be improving.
Nintendo is the only one of the three major console makers to not feature any form of accessibility tags for games on their online storefront, and if the Switch 2 could implement this type of support, this would become an industry standard, something I’ve long been pushing to see happen.
Make sure disabled gamers know before purchase if a game is going to have features that they need to be able to play your game.
System Wide Colour Blindness Filters
This one’s nice and simple. While automated colour blindness filters are not a great accessibility fix for colour blind gamers, they can in a pinch make some games playable that hadn’t considered colourblindness when they were originally being designed. Having system level filters to try and make certain colours more discernible from each other is something that the other console manufacturers are already doing, and something that Nintendo is behind the curve on adopting.
High Contrast Support
I talked about this a little last year, when Marvel’s Spider Man was released on PC, and therefore on Steam Deck, but I would really love to see Nintendo start featuring High Contrast Mode support in all of their first party games on a Switch successor, or earlier than that if I’m honest, there’s no reason they have to wait to do that.
High Contrast Mode visuals were first popularised by The Last of Us 2, and allow players to turn a game’s world greyscale, while highlighting important interactable elements in bright contrasting colours.
This feature has since started to pop up in non PlayStation titles, such as the recent Saints Row reboot, showing that PlayStation doesn’t have exclusive ownership of High Contrast Mode, a feature that I think is all the more useful on handheld consoles.
With handheld device screens smaller than a TV, seeing fine details can be more difficult on a handheld for some blind or partially sighted gamers. High contrast Mode support on small screen games helps make up the difference, and is a place where this tech could be really, really impactful.
Support for large Joy-Cons
Assuming that the form factor of the Switch 2 is similar to the current Switch, we’ll likely be seeing the system launch with controllers that are similar to the current Switch Joy-Cons.
Now, whether or not a Switch 2 would support the same Joy-Con controllers as the current Switch model is currently anyone’s guess. If the screen on the Switch 2 is larger than the current Switch, controller size might need to change to adapt to that. New controllers might be released to support some bonkers, wild new technology that Nintendo wants to make a core part of the new system’s identity.
The thing is, the current Switch’s Joy-Con controllers are too small for some users to comfortably or accurately hold and use. There are third party Joy-Cons for the current Switch that are larger and easier to hold, but if those aren’t supported on a potential Switch 2, it would be great to see Nintendo officially offer a larger Joy-Con variant that players can purchase, as the current Switch has proven that that is something there is a sizable demand for with players.
Better First Party Accessibility Design, Settings, and Messaging
Again, there’s no reason this couldn’t happen today, we don’t need to wait for a new console generation for Nintendo to be able to make this particular leap, but a new system is a great chance to start fresh on a new footing.
Nintendo is, without a doubt, the weakest of the three console manufacturers right now, when it comes to making sure that their first party video games are accessible, and that they’re communicating accessibility information in advance of release to disabled players.
Nintendo frequently releases video games with unavoidable motion controls, games with basically zero accessibility settings options, games with mechanics that require hearing to engage with, without any alternative options, and a lack of even basic standards across their titles.
With Xbox and PlayStation today, I can pretty confidently rely on a certain set of features to appear across most titles that their studios release, and some knowledge of accessibility settings a week or so before the game releases, at the latest.
With Nintendo, I’m lucky if reviews that mention accessibility release before the moment a game is on sale, and there’s no consistency in which options will appear between one game and the next.
Nintendo’s biggest issue when compared directly to Xbox and PlayStation today is one of inconsistent options and messaging. You can’t rely on a Nintendo game to be accessible the same way you might an Xbox or PlayStation title, and you certainly can’t count on them messaging that information in advance.
Now, there are probably other accessibility improvements we could ask for from Nintendo, such as making sure that all Switch 2 games offer an option to play them without mandatory motion controls, but some of these feel like a stretch to ask current day Nintendo for, even in a somewhat optimistic list like this.
Nintendo is dragging their feet on accessibility improvements in their software, and as such I feel like certain things I’d love to see happen are just not realistic to hope for right now.
But I don’t think it’s unfair to expect Nintendo to try and keep pace with the wider console gaming industry, and avoid being the one company preventing certain accessibility improvements from becoming industry standards that gamers can widely rely on.
There’s bound to be other accessibility improvements that you’d like to see in a potential Switch 2, so let me know in the comments what you’d like to see Nintendo improve by the time we get to their next console.
And Nintendo, if you’re reading this, I love your games, and I’m asking for things to be better because I want to be able to praise the games I love most more easily.