The Nintendo Switch is the first video game console I’ve loved as an object on its own terms.
I recognize how ridiculous this sounds.
The Nintendo Switch is different. Sure, the Switch is a conduit to brilliant video game experiences, but it’s more than that. The Switch is an experience in and of itself. It’s an object that’s transformed the ways you could interact with home consoles. It’s different.
I’m a time-poor parent of two, and the Switch is the console that gave me back my video games. I can play on the bus, on the train, in bed before I sleep. This is traditional handheld fare but, again, the Switch is different. It bends to my will. On the few occasions I do have time to sit on the couch and play video games the old-fashioned way, the Nintendo Switch pours itself into the gaps of my life seamlessly.
Best of all, it feels premium and important. Traditional handheld experiences (the PlayStation Vita is probably the best example) have been great in the past, but the Switch isn’t “just” a “handheld,” it’s Nintendo’s main console. You’re not playing a watered-down, spin-off version of Zelda developed by Nintendo’s B-team, you’re playing THE Zelda. You’re not playing a port of a video game you once played on a big screen a decade ago, you’re playing video games at the cutting edge. That’s the difference with the Nintendo Switch, and it’s a big difference.
The Nintendo Switch is more than just a handheld.
Unless, that is, you’re talking about the newly announced Nintendo Switch Lite. Then it literally is just a handheld.
OK, so let’s talk about the Nintendo Switch Lite.
As of Wednesday the 11th of July, The Nintendo Switch Lite has gone from perennial rumor to actual thing you can (potentially) buy in September 2019. It’s already a polarizing update. The Switch Lite is smaller, lighter and more compact, designed exclusively for handheld play. At $200, it’s also slightly cheaper than its predecessor, which retails at $300.
But most controversially, the Nintendo Switch Lite is handheld only. It doesn’t “switch,” it’s not a malleable, fluid experience that bends to the will of the user. That feature has been nerfed. Which sort of goes against everything the original console stood for.
Or does it? Maybe the Nintendo Switch Lite is just an evolution, a supplement to a console that’s already changed the game significantly.
Initial reaction to the Nintendo Switch Lite announcement has been mixed, to say the least. There’s the price, which is lower than that of a traditional Switch, but perhaps not low enough to justify the loss of several key features.
Of prime importance among those features is the ability to dock and play the Switch through your TV. This is the defining feature that makes the Nintendo Switch “switch.” For many, the loss of this feature will be a deal-breaker. I understand this sentiment, but in context it’s far from all-important.
It seems obvious, but if you care about docking your Nintendo Switch to a TV, you should buy the original Switch. But many don’t care about that feature or picture themselves using it. Those people will flock to a cheaper, more compact version of the console.
The Nintendo Switch Lite might not work for you personally, but it will certainly meet the needs of others.
There are children, obviously, whose parents are looking for something to distract them during holidays or weekends. The cheaper, colorful Nintendo Switch Lite clearly caters to a younger audience looking to upgrade from their Nintendo 3DS. Kids who want to play in their room, in the back seat of the family car or at lunchtime in schools across the country.
Also: In the fragmented media consumption landscape of 2019, there are people who simply don’t own televisions at all. There are gamers who travel for work, gamers with long commutes. Gamers who don’t feel the need to pay extra for a feature they won’t use.
Or gamers who just don’t want to play the Nintendo Switch in docked mode. There are a lot of them. More than you think.
But perhaps the most lucrative potential audience for the Nintendo Switch Lite: people who already own a Nintendo Switch. I count myself among this group of deranged individuals. People begging for an excuse to buy a second Nintendo Switch.
Someone like me, who already has a Switch that lives in the dock. A console regularly played by my two young children and a wife utterly obsessed with Overcooked. I’ve found myself at a regular loose end. What am I supposed to do when my wife and her good-time buddies are playing Overcooked on our one large-screen TV on a Saturday night?
Join in? Hell no. I hate Overcooked.
Making sense of the Switch Lite
The Nintendo Switch is so popular in my house that it’s a regular shit fight for who gets to play. I can’t take it to work if the kids are on holiday from school. I can’t take it on work trips overseas because my wife and kids want to play it at home.
In our house, the Nintendo Switch is popular because it’s so malleable. In a weird way a cheap second Nintendo Switch, one that’s free to roam the uncharted planes of public transport and overseas travel, is the perfect supplement to a Switch that stays at home. It’s a first world problem for sure, but one Nintendo has absolutely identified and intends to solve with the Nintendo Switch Lite.
It’s an indulgent second purchase, but a purchase I’ll most likely be making. I like the idea of having my own Switch. A Switch that lives with me, free from the scratches and bodily fluids of rogue children on a rampage. Free from the vile clutches of my wife and her Overcooked obsession.
Also whoo! Cute colors!
The Switch Lite speaks to Nintendo’s tradition of absolutely milking the life out its successful handhelds. The Nintendo DS became the DS Lite, then the DSi, then the DSi XL. The 3DS became the 3DS XL, then — amazingly — the 2DS. Then the “New 2DS” and the “New 3DS.” Later we got a “New 2DS XL.” The Switch is unlikely to be the exception.
Nintendo is in the habit of making you buy the same handheld console twice. Or even thrice!
It’s also in the habit with its consoles of providing an insane amount of options to appeal to the broadest possible market. This is precisely what’s happening with the Switch Lite. It may not be for you, but it sure as hell will appeal to someone. And that group of people will buy it in droves.
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