The entire point of a Nintendo Switch is to switch between home and portable console play. The Nintendo Switch Lite shows a lack of faith in their own design philosophy.
If you ever hoped Nintendo would launch a console with technological advances on par with the competitive field at the time of release after the Super Nintendo, you have been living a dream. Ever since the Nintendo 64 launched with its three-pronged controller and stuck to four-player capacity, the company has been marching to the beat of their own drum.
The Nintendo Switch is no different, as the company took a gigantic first step forward into the ninth generation of video game consoles by pushing not for advances in hardware technology, but to smash the wall between dedicated handheld and home console. They created a system that launched $100 cheaper than the magic $399 launch price with games that marvel us and capture the imagination even with hardware specs below what PS4 and Xbox One offered in 2013.
That’s why I’m baffled, confused and disappointed that the company announced the Nintendo Switch Lite, two and a half years after Nintendo embarked on a drastic new approach to generational games development, by completely disregarding its core hardware identity; the ability to “switch” (*click*) between portable and home console.
No, I’m not here to say Nintendo is doomed or the company is in freefall. I completely understand why they would want to sell a console at $200 so close to the holiday season about a year away from Sony and Microsoft joining Nintendo in the ninth console generation; a handheld device with hardware specs acceptable for consoles in 2019 at $200 makes sense.
It runs counter to the core gaming experience Nintendo has provided for decades, as they have traditionally been the home for children, families and mature gaming enthusiasts coming together.
Contrarily, it cannot be undersold just how much the Nintendo Switch Lite goes against what Nintendo has sold the console on by fragmenting its users and what games they can play. Pokemon Let’s Go! Pikachu and Eevee just released this past holiday season, yet the games are already in the top 5 in platform software sales.
In order to properly play these games with a Nintendo Switch Lite, you need to buy separate Joy-Con controllers. Furthermore, you also need to buy the Joy-Con Grip to charge them, which pretty much erases the savings you would get from not buying the $299, adaptable original version. Playing in handheld mode alone doesn’t compare to the intended gameplay experience.
It’s just a small part of a larger problem with the Nintendo Switch Lite; this console is a multiplayer-oriented device that has been segmented off to focus on single-player experiences. It runs counter to the core gaming experience Nintendo has provided for decades, as they have traditionally been the home for children, families and mature gaming enthusiasts coming together. It’s part of the company’s identity.
Just look at the top games sold on the Nintendo Switch’s software lineup. The Switch Lite can’t properly play offline multiplayer in Mario Kart 8, removes the second-player Cappy in Super Mario Odyssey, takes out most of the multiplayer fun in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate; so many of Nintendo’s top games have had core gameplay options removed for the price of $100 cheaper.
Speaking on the sales front, the Nintendo Switch Lite’s lack of features with a name that doesn’t clearly indicate how much functionality it removes might be a crucial deterrent or mitigating factor come the holiday shopping season. Just like the Wii and Wii U was confusing branding, it’s not hard to imagine misinformed buying the cheaper, newer console and expecting to get full functionality.
At the same time, the entire point of the Nintendo handheld line is to provide a more compact, portable line of gaming experiences that’s more affordable than home consoles. Nintendo Switch Lite games aren’t going to be coming in at that $40 price point; you’re still paying for fully immersible console experience at a $60 games price, but only as a portable device.
When it comes to the more technologically demanding games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, performance in docked mode is notably better because of the boosts it provides. The only benefit the Switch Lite provides over the base platform is its better battery life (thanks to 5.5″ screen versus 6.2″ of the base Switch and lack of I/R and HR Rumble), but it only moves the dial by 30-60 minutes, as well as a D-pad over directional buttons.
Once again, I appreciate Nintendo’s attempts to get a cheaper console out this holiday season in time for the new Pokemon video games, especially when Sony and Nintendo are ready to knock on their door next year. At $200 and what the Nintendo Switch Lite cuts out, however, I feel like the company is switching away from the identity of what their gaming space is all about.