We're less than one week away from seeing the Nintendo Switch Lite in stores. Nintendo announced the first significant revision of the Switch a couple of months ago, but some were dismayed that this turned out to actually be a downgrade over the original model, rather than an upgrade. With this new option entering the market at just $200, is it a more suitable option for you? Should it even exist? That's what we'd like you to discuss, but first, allow me to express why I think it makes sense.
This isn't new
Launching a Nintendo Switch Lite without detachable Joy-Con and without the ability to connect to a TV, essentially ripping out the "Switch" factor of the hardware may seem like a stupid idea at first. But this isn't the first time Nintendo does something like this. To reach a broader audience, and thus, increase sales, Nintendo understands that it needs to target different demographics with products that cater to their preferences more. So, it creates a sort of tier system, with revisions of the same hardware coexisting on the market at varying price points.
A recent example is the Nintendo 3DS. First launched in March of 2011, the 3DS cost $250, though it soon dropped to $170 after disappointing sales. Then, in the summer of 2012, it introduced the Nintendo 3DS XL, which cost $200 but offered the largest screens on a Nintendo handheld and much better battery life than the smaller model. And then, in November 2013, it introduced the Nintendo 2DS.
This model cut out a lot of features from the regular models - it was a larger, slab-looking console without the hinge that let it fold in half (making it less portable), it dropped the 3D feature that gave the 3DS its name, and it didn't even have stereo speakers. It was a significant downgrade, yes, and it cut out the feature that had defined its family of consoles up until that point, but it was just $130 at launch, $40 below the regular 3DS.
Eventually, the two initial models received a spec bump with the New Nintendo 3DS family, which kept the same price. Later, even after the Switch was already on the market, Nintendo introduced the New 2DS XL, which brought back stereo sound and the clamshell design, but still without 3D. The New Nintendo 2DS XL cost $150, which was still lower than the normal 3DS. The original 2DS model also stayed on the market, though at an even lower price - it currently sells for just $80, officially.
Collectively, the entire Nintendo 3DS family has sold just over 75 million units, and over 22 million of those have come from the two 2DS models. Opening up to the lower end of the market lets Nintendo sell hardware to people who might otherwise not be able to afford it or perhaps don't need the additional functionality. For those that do, the higher-end models are still there.
The Nintendo 3DS is pretty much dead
Nintendo released the Switch to a world after the Wii U fiasco, and it knew better than to put all of its bets on the same horse. It kept the 3DS around, and it actually extended its lifespan with the launch of the New Nintendo 2DS XL. But the tiered strategy continued, except now its most expensive offering was the Switch, and the 3DS family served as an entry point for the lower end of the market.
However, the supply of new 3DS games quickly slowed down as the Switch proved to be more successful than its predecessor. After Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon in late 2017, most of the games brought to the 3DS were ports or enhanced versions of older Nintendo games, such as Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn, Luigi's Mansion, or Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story + Bowser Jr.'s Journey. This created an even bigger gap between the 3DS and the Switch, pushing those looking for all-new experiences towards the more expensive hardware.
But this also signaled the impending irrelevance of the 3DS as a whole, and with no more games coming to it in 2019, Nintendo would be left without a lower-tier offering for those looking to enjoy its experiences. The Nintendo Switch Lite is here to bring back that tiered strategy, while also allowing Nintendo's developers to focus on a single system to spend money and resources on. At $200, the Switch Lite severely undercuts the original Switch, matching the price of the 3DS XL and bringing the ability to play Switch games to a much larger audience.
It doesn't have to be for everyone
It's important to note that, just like the 2DS, it's entirely acceptable that this particular hardware revision isn't for you. If you're into the concept of the Switch, and the ability to go from a portable to a home console is what makes it worth it to you, then naturally the Nintendo Switch Lite isn't a valid option for you. It's not trying to be, and that's ok. It's not like Nintendo is doing away with the original Switch concept - its newly-announced Ring Fit Adventure certainly seems to favor using a TV.
But maybe you're more interested in the games on the Switch than the concept of it. Maybe you already have your Xbox One at home, and you feel like that maximum 1080p output of the Switch would be a waste on your big 4K TV. Maybe you don't get to play on a TV at all, and you want something smaller that's easier to carry around so you can play in more places on the go. Or maybe, and that's probably Nintendo's biggest target here, you're looking to buy something for your child and you don't want to hand them a $300 piece of equipment for them to break.
Granted, $200 is still a significant amount of money, but saving $100 is also nothing to be scoffed at, and it's a much smaller risk to be taking in case it breaks. Plus, the Switch Lite might actually be more durable than the regular Switch, because it gets rid of one of the more fragile-looking parts of the hardware - the Joy-Con connectors. If you drop a Switch, it's likely the Joy-Con will pop right off, breaking the locking mechanism along the way. The new model will be much less likely to suffer from something like that.
In my opinion, the Switch Lite is filling in a very important gap in Nintendo's market strategy, and it's certainly the right time to do it. It's interesting to see that hardware revisions for Nintendo hardware, especially lower-priced ones, tend to arrive very close to the release date of Pokémon games, which are generally marketed towards children. The original 2DS launched on the same day as Pokémon X and Y, and though the Switch Lite is predating Pokémon Sword and Shield, a special edition for that game was announced at the same time as the console itself.
As I said, it doesn't have to be for everyone, but it's certainly a valid option for the market that it's targeting. Parents looking for holiday gifts for this year will have cheaper hardware options available alongside a brand-new Pokémon game, while also having access to other well-known Switch games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. They will also be prepared for newer games that might come in the future, since the Switch is still a supported platform, unlike the 3DS.
With all that being said, though, what are your opinions on the Nintendo Switch Lite? Let us hear your thoughts in the comments below!