Nintendo unveiled the Nintendo Switch Lite last week and the new hardware revision will become available September 20 alongside Link’s Awakening. It’s quite fitting that one of the Game Boy’s most beloved titles is launching alongside the handheld console, which removes some capability of the Switch in favor of a more streamlined, undockable experience. The system is poised to be the successor to the Nintendo 3DS and given its price and capabilities, it’s the perfect hardware to do the job.
However, there has been a pretty middling reception to the Switch Lite online. Many have pointed out that it loses the core functionality that made the Switch such a cool concept in the first place: that players had a console and handheld all in one. But the revision isn’t replacing the Nintendo Switch and the people that want a full experience are simply not the target audience here. Nintendo is looking at creating a system that is for younger children and more casual gamers that don’t want to spend nearly $300 on a new console that they won’t play all that often.
Nintendo has crafted a console that is specifically aimed at the Nintendo 3DS and 2DS owners that haven’t picked up a Switch yet. This can be seen in the form factor of the console as it doesn’t feature Joy-Con controllers. While that limits the options of what you can do as you can’t use the system in tabletop mode, it’s much more like the 3DS where everyone would need their own system to play locally. This also limits the moving parts, which is good for kids as them losing a single Joy-Con controller is a costly experience as you can only buy them in pairs.
The Switch Lite will replace the 2DS XL as the go-to console for kids
The biggest selling point for the Nintendo Switch Lite is its $199 price point. That is $100 less than the regular Switch and while it does lose some capability, it will still play the vast majority of titles on the system just fine. It’s also around the same price as the Nintendo 2DS XL, which is the primary handheld at the moment and retails for $149.99. Just $50 more will get players on the current hardware generation. However, it’s still a lot more than the regular 2DS and its ridiculously cheap MSRP of $79.99 and comes packaged with Super Mario Maker for 3DS. The latter is clearly still the best system for small children, but older kids that want the latest and greatest in gaming will want the Switch Lite.
One thing that always hurt the original Nintendo Switch model was that it just wasn’t all that portable of a system. Sure, you could take it on the go with you but you typically needed a carrying case or a backpack to put it in. The Nintendo Switch Lite is much more compact in design, and thus is pocketable as long as you’re not wearing skinny jeans (which you probably shouldn’t be anyways considering it isn’t 2008 anymore). This helps the system fulfill its actual purpose, which is to offer a console-like experience on the go.
It is also releasing at the right time to be a successor to the Nintendo 3DS. Not only are there no first-party games currently announced for the handheld that is at the end of its lifespan, but many of its most popular series are getting Switch entries. Within the next several months the Switch Lite will have a 2D Zelda, a new Fire Emblem, the next generation of Pokemon, and Animal Crossing. Those are all series that have become synonymous with Nintendo handhelds and now players need a Switch to play them. There’s also a Sword and Shield branded Switch Lite coming out in November, which shows that Nintendo knows exactly what it is doing: making the transition as smooth as possible.
The new handheld opens up more opportunities for Nintendo
Ask a Nintendo fan how many Nintendo 3DS systems they bought over its lifespan and you’ll probably receive an answer that they are embarrassed to admit. Many bought the system multiple times over due to revisions, limited editions, and color variants. While Nintendo has had different colored Joy-Con controllers for Switch, the Lite represents the first time that we’re getting colored consoles this generation. There are three colors arriving in September (turquoise, gray, and yellow) and we’ll get the first limited edition variant once Pokemon is out in November. Knowing how die-hard Nintendo’s fanbase is, many will double dip and buy multiple Switch consoles by the end of its lifespan.
Nintendo is always cautious about labeling a system a successor. It’s why it initially called the Nintendo DS a “third pillar” rather than the next step past the Game Boy Advance. With the Switch Lite, the company now have an opportunity to create multiple tiers of systems once again. The Lite clearly has the handheld space filled and the original Switch is in a weird middle ground. There are rumors of a Switch Pro revision that would closer rival the PS4 and Xbox One in power, so the future remains open for Nintendo. It’s more likely that it doubles down on the success of the Switch rather than revealing an actual powerful home console to go head-to-head with Project Scarlett and PlayStation 5. But now Nintendo has more options than ever before with this budget-priced handheld.
Even if the Nintendo Switch Lite isn’t the system for you, its release is great news for gamers. More people than ever before will be able to play Switch titles and join Nintendo’s current hardware generation. Its portable form factor and lower price are major factors that will help it appeal to both casual players and as a system that parents buy for their children. It’s the logical successor to the Nintendo 3DS and it’s hard not to see it being successful at doing so.