Nintendo Switch Lite

It’s here!

I’m not sure what to think - this is clearly a cut down model that doesn’t replace the existing machine, focusing solely on portable play.

Its design looks really appealing - I love the pastel hues which bring to mind the DS Lite and Japanese PS Vita Slim models. It’s a very attractive looking machine.

The new Tegra X1 (T214 or T210b) is said to be fabricated on a 16nm process compared with the now-aging 20nm used in the original X1 (T210). That gives a revised model the usual power efficiency gains required to reduce the battery and thus, chassis size. But I’m really surprised it retains the active cooling given the improvements to power efficiency, and the exclusive emphasis on handheld mode.

Given it also doesn’t support other play styles it’s also stretching the definition of the brand a tad. I’m actually surprised this is the case considering the SoC is still actively cooled and the USB-C interface is being used. In theory they should be able to bump up the GPU clocks but maybe it’s an intentionally cut feature to reduce confusion (you’d need a new dock design) and justify the two model tiers.

I’m also surprised the screen size is reduced to 5.5” - while it retains the same resolution I can see this decision stretching the legibility of some games’ interfaces to breaking point. Many Switch games simply take the interfaces designed for large TVs and computer monitors, leading to tiny text on the 6.2” display. It’ll be interesting to see what the hit is because quite a few Vita games had extremely small text on its 5.0” display and 5.5” is in the middle.

It’s great that Nintendo originally designed the Switch from the top-down by focusing on a lavish hybrid. Developers have had to support two power profiles (docked and portable) for every game released since launch, so no one loses out with a model like this existing (edit: I forgot they gutted HD Rumble so that might cause developers to lose confidence in supporting that feature in the future).

But let’s get the most important question out there: how does that D-Pad feel to use!


Love the d-pad, yellow looks great, I would buy this if it actually could connect to TV.

Biggest drawback is going to be trying to play games designed for TV shoehorned onto a 6 inch screen for handheld play now on an even smaller screen.

I like Nintendo’s strategy here and this move gives us a lot to speculate about in terms of Nintendo’s plans for future hardware.

I’m slightly bummed that they didn’t decide to call this the “Micro Switch” to harken back to the Game Boy Micro with a cute pun, but certainly, calling it “Lite” was the most intelligent thing they could have done, instead attempting to evoke the DS Lite and it’s unparralled success.

I think it’s a smart system to capture a younger audience of gamers who may not be able to convince their parents to throw $300 at a system. It’s also good for those who want the system for handheld mode only and also want to play that way using a genuine D-Pad, or just need something more compact. They shouldn’t need to shell out console prices for handheld-only functionality.

So the price point is probably a very nice reading of the market and this will likely be the product to replace the 3DS and 2DS hardware family in the next few months or so. I expect them to fully stop production on those systems in Spring of 2020 if I had to guess.

Then, if they can manage to drop the price on both the Switch and Switch light by holiday 2020 - just in time to compete with next gen systems - I think they’ll be able to sustain some good sales for another year or so. At $150 and $250, they will probably be undercutting next gen hardware by a significant margin, being the de-facto console for families who need to buy holiday gifts for their kids and don’t want to break the bank.

After that, the hardware is going to really start showing its age though. That’s not something which bothers me, but I do think Nintendo is going to need to introduce a really compelling “next gen” product by 2021 if they want to sustain their momentum this time.

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Having had some more time to reflect on it - I do think this system will miss some of the magic of what the Switch is about.

Previous Nintendo handhelds were defined by their bespoke approach to user interfaces. The DS is the champion of this - its tried-and-tested hardware (hardware sprites!) and traditional controls, combined with its dual screen and stylus-driven setup, encouraged developers to think outside of the box with their approach to game design. That led to games which absolutely could have only worked in their handheld format.

By comparison the PSP and Vita by and large never answered the question about why their games (and ports) were best played on handheld because the hardware design nudged developers to approximate what they were doing on console instead. Not all games were like that but it’s how the system was defined.

Fast forward to 2017 and the handheld market had declined significantly with the rise of mobile, and we live in a world where software is expected to be more ‘portable’ - that is ported to many systems, where those systems have to conform and support a multitude of modern engines and input systems. It makes sense that Nintendo would have to build a platform that conforms with the market, and so that’s what the NX platform was about (Iwata spoke about having to make software more ‘portable’ with the next platform back in 2014, and how games should run across several systems like iPhone and iPad).

And so Switch was a step away from what would define Nintendo platforms in the past. Its unique features weren’t about redefining how games could be designed, but instead they allowed existing games to be played flexibly on a system that adjusts itself to suit the player. Basically, its detachable Joy-Con controller inputs, and cheeky kickstand adapt around you, making it almost the opposite of older Nintendo systems. Think about how the N64 or Wii would have redefining input devices that instead asked the player to adapt to them instead. The world has changed.

Thus in contrast to the PSP and Vita I feel Switch was the first system to do console gaming on the go right. This is because it was designed as a flexible, portable home console. I finally got back into local multiplayer gaming because of the flexible Joy-Con controllers, the kickstand, and the docking mechanism. The large screen meant that those TV-designed user interfaces from console games could finally work on a portable. The Joy-Con inputs featured the full suite of button inputs and large, clickable analogue sticks. The internals - particularly the large battery, and active cooling with copper heat pipe - meant the CPU could handle two power profiles to not only deliver ‘AAA’ style games, but games which could also scale up to TVs when the Switch was docked. The Switch saw Nintendo take the defining features of TV gaming, make them good enough, and deliver them in a more accessible, portable package.

So where am I going with this rather long post? Well, I just feel that by gutting a lot of ‘Switch’-like functionality the Switch Lite loses a lot of the above appeal which made the Switch special as a portable console. It feels more like a Vita in its execution than a Switch to me. It will serve that purpose well - and better than Vita - but it’s definitely lost some of that magic. Not even being able to take off the controllers and put the tablet on its side for some Tate style gaming feels like a deal breaker for me.

This is no different than what they’ve done in the past with something like the 2DS. This is a cheaper smaller handheld focused system that is going to do gangbusters in Japan, and sell to a shit ton of kids in the West.

Seriously this isn’t to replace your current Switch, or for the hardcore gamer. When the Switch pro gets announced, that will be for those people. This is for kids, and the Japanese market.

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You’re absolutely right - in terms of the market it’s absolutely positioned to cater to that market. And it’ll do a good job.

By calling it a Switch Lite it’s almost detracting from what the Switch is about though (unless Switching from your two Switch devices counts…), and it certainly redefines what ‘Lite’ meant in the DS era, where you were getting an unarguably superior and more capable device that was also smaller and lighter.

I mean, I gotta admit I love how it looks, but I’m also not sure about losing the actual “switch” functionality. I’m really surprised they ditched the Joycons. I basically use mine 99% docked so this isn’t for me. It is pretty damn stylish though!

I dig the Pokémon one too actually:

Nintendo says “no plans” to bring D-pad to Joycons:

That’s pretty irritating but not surprising that they’d gate the d-pad as a way to pressure people into getting a Lite. I guess I’m just going to have to look into getting a Joycons with a d-pad mod at some point. Anyways, my final thoughts as to why I don’t want a Lite:

-I play my Switch pretty equally between TV and docked.

-I know this is a YMMV kinda thing and I’m happy Lite is now available for those wanting a smaller model but I’ve personally never had any comfort problems using Switch as a portable and have taken it with me on multiple plane rides and international trips using an old soft zipper Gameboy carrying case I’ve owned since ‘92.

-No detachable Joycons also means it can’t be used in TATE mode with a Flip Grip or a Hori stand and obviously I play a LOT of shmups and arcade titles on my Switch in TATE mode using both of those options.

I hate the joycons and have zero desire to play Switch games on my TV. Combined with a smaller size that makes it easier to bring with me when traveling and the Switch Lite is perfect for me.

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Indeed sounds perfect for you then.

I’m happy for the people who this is for and now am waiting for the “pro” version as I almost never use mine undocked.

Fuck you nintendo. :apathetic:

At least completely fix the pro controllers then.


I use mine docked 90% of the time so I’m keen to see what the Pro will bring. Apparently also due this year!?

The genius of Switch was to cover two markets: home console and handheld. If Pro still does that, then this Lite is just opening them up to a third market: kids.

The clear advantage here, is that Nintendo gets to consolidate its efforts into a single platform, and a single ecosystem. Losing the core “Switch” functionality and appeal means that folks who want that will have to pay more for the core system. Those looking to graduate from the 3DS/2DS line, or parents who want to get their kids a Switch, but can’t justify the $300 cost can more easily dive into this, especially if they already have a Switch for the family. A family plan for the Nintendo Online service, and suddenly a pair of Switch Lite systems become the new hotness for car rides, or fun for family game nights. I think this was the right move for Nintendo.

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I just sat down to watch the reveal video with my 2 sons (6 and 8 years old), which I believe are in the prime audience for the Switch Lite.

I assumed they would be super into it, but their reaction was surprisingly lukewarm. What dampened their enthusiasm was the fact that it doesn’t connect to the TV, while rightly highlighting the fact that Switch can already be a handheld.

Obviously not scientific data, but I wasn’t expecting such a reaction from what I imagine to be the main target audience for Nintendo.

I imagine any kid would want the bigger and more feature rich version if given a choice. This is probably better for those who don’t have the choice, like lower income families.

I love the Switch but I am probably 99% handheld. Honestly I’d prefer games to not use any special Joy Con stuff as far as HD rumble or motion controls go!!

But I have a modded Dpad Joy Con already and think the size is currently perfect so this isn’t for me… until they’re cheap in 5 years!

In any case, as always, I’m glad I buy physical copies of games!

I do like the colors and I know at some point in the next ten years I’ll have a Switch Lite. I just hope Nintendo continues to make cool games I dig. The more successful their hardware is the better.

I agree that it’s the right decision for Nintendo to make - I absolutely believe making a handheld-only Switch is a good idea.

There are just some elements of the execution which don’t sit well with me. Particularly the name which feels like a contradiction of the ‘Lite’ moniker used in the past, and what ‘Switch’ has always stood for. And I think for the price, while it offers great value, they’ve cut costs too far to the point where there won’t be much hardware magic left. They even gutted the ambient light sensor which handled auto brightness - something that makes sense for a handheld you travel with- which seems like the decision made by a stringent bean counter rather than the hardware team.

While the Switch in theory meant that Nintendo could consolidate its efforts on one platform, it feels to me that mobile is taking significant resources away that would have once have gone to 3DS. Alphadream were hiring for mobile devs for instance, and Mario Kart’s producer now heads up the mobile teams. Running the mobile games as services also takes resources away, and Switch games generally being these big budget efforts means we’ve seen a much lower variety and quantity of first party titles this generation than before.

To be fair, 3DS was still around and getting games like Box Boy during Switch’s tenure. In fact, it’s still officially being produced. I think once it’s gone for good, we’ll see more of these types of smaller games on Switch.

Like Sushi Striker, which was a small game in all but price to be honest.

That’s true, though I still remain pretty sceptical.

Consider that the last ‘big’ first party 3DS games to arrive came in 2017 and would have been completed before the end of the Switch’s launch window: Ever Oasis (Grezzo), Metroid: Samus Returns (not many Nintendo staffers on that one) and Fire Emblem Echoes (Intelligent Systems). Sayonara BoxBoy did arrive before Switch’s launch in 2016 in Japan, for what it’s worth, so it technically doesn’t count.

There were other post-Switch games on 3DS, like Tank Troopers (Vitei), and Style Boutique 4 (Syn Sophia) and Mario Sports Mix (Camelot) and Mario and Luigi remakes (Alpha Dream) but they aren’t really big productions that would take a lot of resources, with Camelot managing to work on a Switch game at the same time.

It’s just frustrating that since the Switch’s release Nintendo has only really shown interest in bringing two smaller games to market: Snipperclips at launch and BoxBoy two years later. Labo was encouraging though.

It’s more concerning when you have developers like Giles Goddard, whose team at Vitei used to make games for Nintendo like Steel Diver, Theta and Tank Troopers, claiming that modern Nintendo is “all about the money” (see below!) because it isn’t interested in investing in experimental games from second parties anymore.

It’s all very risk averse. For example Nintendo didn’t greenlight Game Freak’s experimental games after Harmoknight on 3DS. Giga Wrecker, Pocket Card Jockey (for its original Japanese release - NoA picked up the localisation) and Tembo the Badass Elephant are the ones I think. You’d assume Game Freak would have shopped them to Nintendo first. And even HAL Laboratory’s experimental UFO catcher game didn’t find a home under Nintendo, instead being self-published on phones. Then you have Monster Games, who have decided to go back to doing their own thing, presumably because Nintendo only asked them to do ports like DKC Returns 3D and Xenoblade 3D after they were previously utilised for their talent in arcade racing games.

In a way it’s unfair of me to expect Nintendo to keep being invested in smaller games when their first party strategy is converging with Sony’s. Big tentpole games to drive hardware sales. But it always felt to me that having another platform with its own set of expectations allowed Nintendo’s developers, like R&D1, Alphadream, Game Freak and Intelligent Systems, to thrive at what they did best.

Giles Goddard Interview with Martin Robinson

It’s much the same. It did change a bit after Iwata-san passed away. Now it’s very focussed on money. Iwata was adamant that their core philosophy should be on the game, not on the money. Now it’s almost entirely the money, which does worry me a bit.

Giles Goddard interview with Source Gaming

I think internally they are only really interested in doing the big projects now…whether that was since Iwata-san passed away or not, I don’t know. But they are less inclined in doing experimental things now, I think. Maybe they think that all the experimental stuff can be handled by the ‘Nindies’. I’m not sure if Iwata-san would agree with the direction that Nintendo [is going] because that means that they are going to have to create bigger and bigger games every year. I’m not sure if that would be sustainable in the long term…I think Iwata-san had a very different vision for Nintendo.

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The smaller size is so much better for public transport but without the docking feature it send like half a console. It’s weird that portables in the past were fine but this feels gimped.