The Nintendo Switch has been a fairly solid success for Nintendo, returning the company to the upper echelons of the console world after some time spent with the less-successful Nintendo Wii U.
Like its competition, Nintendo has opted to do a mid-generation upgrade by providing a new version of the Switch. Unlike the competition, though, this version actually removes a major feature in order to lower the price of the console and to improve the handheld experience.
one with the power of a traditional console
The Nintendo Switch Lite is Nintendo's newest handheld device, albeit one with the power of a traditional console. How it works - and what it represents - might say a lot about Nintendo's future plans.
In many ways, the Nintendo Switch Lite is a more streamlined experience than the original Switch. It represents a kind of change in design philosophy that might have some wondering about exactly how Nintendo sees the base console at this point, but it's also a nod to the changing demands of the market.
By taking away one of the big features that made the Switch what it originally set out to be, Nintendo has created a handheld console that is perhaps more realistic in its scope than its more versatile cousin.
The good news is that the streamlining of the Switch leads to relatively little in terms of utility loss. If you're the kind of person who regularly plays games in the handheld mode, you're not actually going to see much of a difference in your gameplay experience. In fact, it's entirely possible that the reason that many Switch users wouldn't want to upgrade to the new iteration of the console has nothing to do with lost features and more to do with a lack of need to switch consoles in order to do something that's already being done.
While it's certain that this streamlining isn't for everyone, it's important to look at this new console as what it is - a cheaper version of the Switch that allows more players to access the growing library of Switch games. What the system uses in basic utility it makes up for in savings.
The big change between the Switch and Switch Lite is, however, still one that centers around the loss of a major feature. When the Switch was originally announced a great deal of its marketing centered around the fact that users could 'switch' the device between a handheld and traditional console mode.
The new Switch Lite completely does away with the console mode
The new Switch Lite completely does away with the console mode, creating something that's an entirely handheld experience. Given the sheer number of Switch players that have only ever used the handheld mode, this does make a lot of sense.
Of course, doing away with the ability to switch between the console and handheld modes isn't the only change that's come with the new iteration of the Switch. The detachable Joycons are also a thing of the past in the new unit - a move that means that you're no longer guaranteed to have two Switch controllers with you wherever you go, but also one that adds a little more stability to the feel of the platform. The good news for existing Switch owners, though, is that you can still connect your classic Joycons to the new system if you wish to use them.
There are a few other little changes that actually got a long way towards making the system a little more useful for handheld play. The Switch Lite is a little lighter and a little smaller, with a slightly better screen than in the older version of the Switch. The Lite feels much more comfortable to play around with than its bigger predecessor, especially if you're looking to use the system for lengthy play sessions.
Though there's honestly a lot to talk about in terms of if and how the Switch Lite is an upgrade from the original Switch, the bigger news is that Nintendo's actually following a fairly similar path to the other major console manufacturers with its choice to put out new hardware. This is really the first time that Nintendo has chosen to make any kind of mid-generation upgrade on its main console, a move that it has typically reserved for its handheld line.
While it might not seem like a big deal that Nintendo is putting out a Lite version of the Switch, it shows that Nintendo really is making a strong play for this generation of consoles. After all, the Nintendo Wii U had some fairly significant problems catching on, but Nintendo never seemed to push to make any changes that would be apparent to the average consumer.
The fact that Nintendo is doing so with the Switch might be due to the fact that the console is far more popular, but it also might mean that Nintendo is more serious about keeping this particular game ecosystem alive.
What's particularly interesting about this new console is that it also represents Nintendo taking a hard look at feedback from players and deciding to get rid of a major feature of the system. This makes the Switch Lite a bit like the console version of the 2DS - a machine from Nintendo that is refocusing on core gameplay over gimmicks.
The release of the Switch Lite also gives players the chance to speculate about Nintendo's future. The fact that it's coming up with a new version of the console at this juncture almost certainly means that there's a fair bit of life left in the Switch platform - something that wasn't necessarily a given since both Sony and Microsoft are releasing new consoles in the next year. While most would hope that the Switch wouldn't be put to rest less than two years into its release cycle, it's nice to have some confirmation.
On a less positive note, it's also becoming less likely that Nintendo will be releasing a successor to the New 3DS. Though 3/2DS line has been a valuable workhorse for Nintendo for quite some time, it really looks like the Switch Lite is going to take its spot as Nintendo's portable console of choice.
it's possible that something like a Switch 4K could be in the works
The release of the Lite also gives rise to some speculation about whether or not Nintendo will release more upgrades to the Switch line. Both Sony and Nintendo made 4K upgrades to their core systems, so it's possible that something like a Switch 4K could be in the works. The fact that Nintendo seems to be iterating on this console platform definitely makes more upgrades to the Switch seem much more likely than they would have been a year ago.
The Nintendo Switch Lite is a handheld-only alternative to the Nintendo Switch that drops one of the console's big features in favor of providing a better portable gaming experience.
The big change has reduced the price and made it a better fit for some players, but it also shows that Nintendo might be treating this console generation differently from those in the past.
Though the future is unclear, one thing is for certain - the Nintendo Switch Lite is a release that is certain to please those who have been looking for a cheaper handheld alternative to the base console.