A reader explains why the Switch Lite may be one of Nintendo’s most important announcements ever and new era for the company.
The recent announcement of the Switch Lite struck me as one of the most uncharacteristically sensible business decisions in the world of modern Nintendo, and yet it was accompanied instantly by all the confusion and complaints we’ve come to expect around gaming hardware reveals.
First thing I’d like to say is as a current Switch owner and Nintendo fan, the Lite doesn’t appeal to me personally and I have no intention of getting one. All my Nintendo and portable gaming requirements are fully met by the standard model and I was happy to pay what I did for it.
Second, this isn’t meant as some sort of scathing commentary on those who don’t see the point of the Switch Lite or who think it’s a poor decision by Nintendo to release it.
But I thought I’d share a couple of thoughts, mainly because it seems blindingly obvious what the answers are to a whole bunch of questions that have nonetheless been asked lots of time by lots of people, but also to explain why I think the Lite’s announcement is great news even for Nintendo fans who have no interest in it.
Confused question #1: Why does this machine exist at all? Whyyyy?! *spontaneously drop kicks the nearest cushion*
It’s a low cost alternative to a superior model in the same manner as the 2DS to the 3DS or the Xbox 360 Arcade to the Core (a bit of an obscure comparison nowadays but I don’t think the Xbox One S All Digital Edition example works because there doesn’t seem to be a notable price difference).
It’s also a machine with an even heavier portable focus than the standard Switch, released in time for Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Pokémon Sword and Shield, and, slightly later, Animal Crossing. Renewed focus on portability with a new unit at this time in the Switch’s release schedule is just sensible marketing and gives another attractive price option for Christmas.
The obvious argument is that, as with the cheaper Xbox One S models, some deals will offer a standard Switch and a game for, say £250, meaning you might not save much at all by going for the Lite. I agree and I think £180 (maximum) would be a more sensible price but that’s a separate issue from ‘Why does this exist in the first place?’
Confused question #2: Why’s it called a Switch when it doesn’t switch?! *indignance manifests as a genuine bead of sweat*
Well, the first thing we need to do is distinguish this question from #1 as those are two very different matters. If we accept the rationale for the Lite’s existence, it’s pretty easy to address this one. Brand is an extremely important asset. When cloud processing reduces the only Sony and Microsoft hardware we eventually own to a mere controller, are we all going to be exasperated that there are no stations or boxes while we’re still inevitably referring to the services as such?
Would you prefer the budget version of the Switch to be called something completely distinct, prompting consumers to ask what sort of games it plays and to consider buying one in addition to the Switch they already bought the kids? I’d nominate the Nintendo Hitch as a dumb title myself…
‘But switching is the console’s main selling point!’ I’ve heard. Not for me it’s not. I clearly can’t speak for everyone, but I didn’t buy a Switch until it had the games I wanted. If you can’t list some software you’d like access to, you can dock and undock all night long until… something really graphic happens but you might end up regretting your purchase. Speaking of which…
Confused question #3: Why doesn’t it have a dock option? *hocks up a globule of phlegm in preparation for a bout of classy outburstery*
Granted, it probably wouldn’t have cost much more to implement an HDMI-out slot to give people the option, so this was probably penny pinching along the lines of ‘if they’re buying purely for portability, there’s no point putting this in.’
Plus, if the controllers aren’t detachable, you’d almost certainly need another controller or a separate set of Joy-Cons to use it docked. If you don’t already own a standard Switch, you won’t have any of those expensive controllers so it’s probably cheaper overall to buy a standard model. If you do already own one, why do you want another one that can also connect to a TV?
Confused question #4: Why don’t they release a model that’s not portable? *chomps into a loaf of Mighty White without removing the packaging*
I completely agree. That’s also a model that wouldn’t appeal to me but there’s absolutely a population of gamers that will never be interested in portable functionality and would rather not feel like they’re paying to meet unnecessary costs in the form of extra screens and little mini-controllers. I reckon they’d still turn a profit on a TV box and a Pro Controller if they charged £150-£180 and the market would be opened up potentially even further than with the Lite.
As already explained, though, I think the timing is better for the Lite and they wouldn’t want to suddenly bombard the market with different units. Plus, the price of the standard model will eventually come down low enough to assuage some complaints about what you’re paying for. I think it would be sensible to have the TV only ‘Nintendo Fix’ for 2020, though, possibly even more so than the much-requested next question…
Confused question #5: Where’s the Switch Pro I’ve been holding off for since March 2017? *Flicks a nearby insect. But I think it’s a wasp so I’ll allow it*
I know what the rumours are saying but I suspect there’s going to be even more disappointment, confusion and anger when either the Switch Pro is announced, and it only offers a small upgrade to the screen and battery, or it’s not announced at all.
There are a couple of obvious improvements for the standard Switch, but I can’t think of many that would’ve prevented me from buying one and certainly not many that I think a Pro would implement without coming in at a prohibitively high price.
It’s like these rumours have been treated as confirmation that a Switch will soon play direct PlayStation 4 ports uncompromised. Compare what the original already does with what a new model feasibly could do and I wouldn’t put money on the gulf being anywhere near big enough to hold off buying one for literally years.
What the Lite’s reveal really means
I’m sure there are other problems floating around that I’ve forgotten but now that I’ve largely brought peace and contentment to the world, let me just touch upon why I think the Switch Lite isn’t just a sensible decision but also a great bit of news for existing fans.
The newly appointed King of Nintendo, Suit Man Bowser, said the other day that the Lite wasn’t intended as a successor to the 3DS. This could be construed as a slightly worrying suggestion that after finally being in a position to pool their resources on a single platform for the first time since the 80s, they’ll go and announce a potentially redundant portable machine in a couple of years – spreading their games across too many platforms and once again failing to spin their plates.
On the contrary, I regarded it as a hollow reassurance for current 3DS owners. It might be the poorest performing Nintendo handheld ever but there are still 75 million owners they don’t want to unnecessarily upset.
Instead, the Lite’s existence feels precisely like the most reliable promise they can give that the Switch is where it’s going to be for both home and portable Nintendo gaming going forward. As the 3DS finally bows out (and it most certainly has done in terms of support), they’ve chosen the correct replacement and everything’s now in place for that big customer base to move over.
A single popular console platform means a healthier schedule of good exclusives. And the lean towards recognising the Switch as the Nintendo portable of choice suggests a willingness to support it for potentially much longer than it would have been as primarily a home console.
Commercially it’s a no-brainer. At Christmas the price options will be more attractive but I’m looking at, say, two years down the road, when Zelda: Breath Of The Wild 2 is out or on the near horizon (hopefully Metroid Prime 4 as well) and everyone who never owned a Wii U or an original Switch will likely be able to get access to some of the best games ever for the first time at less than £150.
If it’s primarily regarded as a portable platform by then – and the risk of some games beginning to look dated on 4K TVs might be another reason to encourage that – it might only be halfway through its lifecycle by that point. The Switch must be pushing 40 million units sold to date. I can see it ultimately outselling the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, let alone the 3DS.
Compounded with the confusion and inevitable negativity, the Switch Lite’s reveal was about as low profile as hardware announcements get, not deemed worthy of E3 just weeks before or a separate Nintendo Direct – when I’m certain less significant events have had one. But I expect we’ll soon look back on it as a definitive moment when Nintendo unofficially said goodbye to the business model of multiple core platforms, enabling the sort of first party momentum we’ve been demanding for years.
And all anyone can say just now is, ‘But it’s a Switch that doesn’t switch?!’ *Furiously releases elastic band towards grandmother*
By reader Panda
The reader’s feature does not necessarily represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.
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