After swirling around in the rumor mill for months, the Nintendo Switch Lite was officially revealed. It’s significantly cheaper than the original Switch, ditching the hybrid design in favor of a smaller body, slightly improved battery life, and a traditional directional pad.
With these changes, it makes sense why Nintendo says the Switch Lite is designed specifically for handheld play, yet many people have argued that it lacks what made the original system so special. Nintendo’s new handheld isn’t a replacement for the Switch — it’s a device aimed at consumers looking for a more affordable, more portable, and more durable option.
If you purchased the Nintendo Switch at full price, the Switch Lite likely doesn’t appeal to you. But there is a more frugal customer base that has been waiting for a more affordable alternative. Despite a few exceptions, the Switch Lite delivers the ability to play Nintendo’s library of Switch games and at the same resolution as the original console. The control layout remains unchanged, and with the purchase of a stand, it can even be used with a separate controller, including the Joy-Cons. At a $100 discount, that isn’t half bad.
This approach to the Switch Lite shouldn’t come as a shock, either. Nintendo has released cheaper alternatives to its hardware collection for years. The 2DS removed the 3DS’ main hook — the 3D effect — and still found an audience with younger players. The Game Boy Micro shrunk the Game Boy Advance down to size and dropped support for the Game Boy Color. Even the Wii underwent a revision, with a smaller version of the console cutting the price but removing GameCube support. All these systems underwent major changes that may not have appealed to their initial audience. But they were not sold as replacements. They were alternatives aimed at a more frugal consumer.
While fans celebrated the announcement of the Switch Lite, many people took to the internet to express their disapproval. Hot takes started pouring in from those who were unimpressed with the system because it lacks some of the core features that many current Switch owners love. But Nintendo isn’t discontinuing the original Switch. In fact, it will be getting a revision in late August that improves its battery life.
With the 3DS all but dead, the Switch Lite reduces the need for a true successor. Those only interested in playing portable games can just save their hard-earned money and pick up a Switch Lite. This is where its reduced weight and size actually come into play. If someone never intends to play their console on the television, then why go with a heavier, more cumbersome, more expensive option?
We won’t know the appeal of the Switch Lite to Nintendo’s young players until we see sales figures, but it’s pretty clear that one of the biggest target audiences for the new handheld is children. Nintendo’s timing for releasing the Switch Lite is no coincidence, either. It arrives just before the holiday season, ahead of the launch of Pokémon Sword and Shield — a franchise well-known for attracting a younger crowd.
Parents that don’t want to see their hybrid console dropped or Joy-Cons lost after handing it over to the kids can pick up its smaller sibling with the grippable matte finish and controls fixed to each side. The $200 price tag in comparison to the original system’s $300 only makes it that more appealing for parents to buy as a Christmas present for their kids.
Nintendo has always tried to make games for more than just “core” players, and with the Switch Lite, we have just that. It’s cheaper, offers a better handheld experience, and its reduced size is perfect for traveling. Will the Switch Lite ever be a substitute for the original Switch? No. But it might be the perfect option for someone who doesn’t need all the bells and whistles.
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