After months of speculation, rumors, and leaks, Nintendo has finally revealed the Nintendo Switch Lite with an official video. The release of the new console, which will exist alongside the current Nintendo Switch, will be in conjunction with the anticipated release of Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening on September 20. The Switch Lite will essentially be the beginning of the cannibalization of the Nintendo 3DS market as Nintendo shifts its focus entirely to the Switch. With the absence of some notable features that are considered critical to the Nintendo Switch, will the handheld focused Nintendo Switch Lite provide the perfect entry point for gamers?
The Nintendo Switch Lite will be aggressively priced at $199, which is the current price of the New Nintendo 3DS XL. It is arguably the perfect entry price to get gamers into the Nintendo ecosystem. At this point, everyone including Nintendo has acknowledged that the 3DS family is slowly being replaced by the Nintendo Switch as first party software development has stopped for the now eight year old handheld, however, the Nintendo Switch Lite all but firmly cements this notion.
The Nintendo Switch Lite offers a considerably smaller footprint than its older brother. The Switch Lite offers a 5.5″ screen compared to the Switch’s 6.2″ size. The screen size will also maintain the 720p resolution with a higher pixel density due to the smaller display. By the same token, the Switch Lite also weighs approximately .27 lbs lighter than the Nintendo Switch, which is about 30% less. Users should also expect to see a slight bump in battery life. Nintendo gave the example of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild having about an extra hour of playtime, close to four hours, on the Nintendo Switch Lite.
The new handheld centric console will be available in three different colors: grey, turquoise, and yellow. The buttons will now be white to compliment the brighter console design. The natural and much needed addition of the D-Pad on the left side of the console will make gaming on retro games as well as fighting titles a more enjoyable experience. Yet, with a dramatic price difference compared to the traditional Switch system, there have been some notable concessions that had to be made by Nintendo. Some of these changes could be the difference in potential buyers opting to spend the extra money to purchase the $299 Nintendo Switch.
According to Nintendo’s own research which was published during their March 2018 Financial Results Briefing, close to 30% of Nintendo Switch owners were using the console primarily in undocked mode. TV mode was reported as the primary source of usage accounted for just under 20%. The remaining users which constitutes the majority was reported as utilizing both modes of play. Evidently, Nintendo is attempting to target users who play their Nintendo Switch as they would a Nintendo 3DS. The other market they are attracting are younger players whose parents may be hesitant to spend $300 on a system that is quite frankly more fragile than the clamshell designed 3DS and the rugged “doorstop” 2DS design.
The first major absence for the Nintendo Switch Lite is the lack of detachable joy-cons and as a result foregoes the HD-rumble and motion sensor. This is a clear cost cutting measure as the joy-cons offered some expensive albeit impressive technology. Surprisingly, however, The Nintendo Switch will not work for docked play. This omission is intriguing considering the Switch Lite appears to have the two pin holes on the bottom of the console that are used to assist in holding the device upright when docked. One could imagine that by having extra controllers and purchasing a standalone dock would have been fine for utilizing TV mode.
The impending release of the Nintendo Switch Lite highlights Nintendo’s focus on accessibility and expanding its player base with a cost-friendly console. Instead of making a more powerful unit that could play graphical intensive Xbox One, PlayStation, and PC ports, Nintendo opted to allow gamers who are put off by the Switch’s price tag the opportunity to experience gaming on the go. As a result, there are three primary targets with the Switch Lite: gamers that already own one of the other platforms and looking for a handheld system that can still play a good number of console quality games, younger gamers whose parents are put off by the $299 price tag, and handheld only players that have been holding out for a price drop.
The timing of the Nintendo Switch Lite’s release is perfect in regards to being a handheld. The same day release of the Game Boy remake Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is the perfect compliment for a handheld focused system. Just a few months later, Pokémon Sword and Shield will be releasing. The Pokémon franchise has many supporters that have been holding out on a Nintendo Switch system for the next generation of Pokémon. Early in 2020, Animal Crossing: New Horizons will be releasing. The Animal Crossing franchise saw a huge increase in success following the critically acclaimed 3DS release of Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Considering the plethora of excellent titles already available on the Switch, the addition of some “heavyweight” upcoming games should provide a perfect foundation for new adopters.
The Nintendo Switch Lite while undoubtedly lacking features that have been critical to the traditional Nintendo Switch is the perfect next step for the Japanese game company. Nintendo prides itself on making games and consoles that are inviting and enjoyable for gamers off all ages. The Switch was never supposed to directly compete as a graphical powerhouse among the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The company has instead focused on testing out new ideas and ways to play that have created some fantastic successes and bitter failures like the Nintendo Wii U. Either way the Nintendo Switch Lite will help fill in the space that will be left by the Nintendo 3DS’s departure and should fit in comfortably within the Switch’s console lineup.
*Photo Credit- UnSplash: Alex Haney