This editorial is published on behalf of the original author, Allyson.
I admit, I got pretty giddy when the Nintendo Switch Lite was announced. I’m an avid Nintendo Switch gamer and play in handheld mode the majority of the time. Using my Nintendo Switch in handheld mode makes sense for me due to my frequent traveling to visit family and my desire to play during my lunch break at work. This portability is especially convenient when my husband is playing on the Xbox using our television to be able to sit next to him playing my own game on the Switch. I’m a prime candidate for a handheld-only version of the Nintendo Switch. However, I’m not as impressed as I anticipated I would be.
Image from Nintendo
This new, smaller version is seemingly more durable due to the Joy-Con remaining permanently affixed to the console, unlike the original Switch. As stated previously, this is a handheld-only version of the Nintendo Switch. It is unable to connect to the Nintendo Switch Dock in order to display your game onto your television screen. This removed feature isn’t very concerning to me, as the “Lite” name implies that some features will be missing from the original version. However, some of those missing features do seem like a step back from Nintendo.
At first glance, the absence of a kickstand makes complete sense. After all, the Switch Lite has been marketed as a handheld-only console. However, that seems to not entirely be the case. The Nintendo Switch Lite announcement video states that games that are only able to be played in handheld mode are playable on the Switch Lite, which would exclude games such as Mario Party. Confusingly, the same video mentions that in order to play 1-2-Switch, you must purchase separate Joy-Con.
This completely contradicts the statement of allowing handheld-only compatible games, as 1-2-Switch does not support handheld mode. Additionally, the official Nintendo Switch Lite webpage displays a graphic at the bottom showing that Joy-Con controllers are not compatible with the Switch Lite. The Compare page states, “for games that do not support handheld mode, players can wirelessly connect compatible controllers (sold separately) to Nintendo Switch Lite.”
The last quote seems to solidify that users can play those additional non-handheld games with a purchase of separate Joy-Con, but the conflicting marketing is confusing without some digging into multiple Nintendo webpages. Not much information past this seems to have been released regarding the extra Joy-Con “workaround,” but if tabletop mode is indeed an option, a kickstand would have been a worthwhile addition. It’s a tiny gripe, though.
I also understand why the Joy-Con are no longer detachable for this Lite version, but I do have concerns surrounding this idea. There is an issue referred to as Joy-Con drift in existing Nintendo Switch Joy-Con where dust and debris or heavy use cause internal hardware to become damaged within the joystick element. Spawn Wave on YouTube explains exactly how the damage occurs through a breakdown of a joystick and I highly suggest watching his video if you’re at all curious. This causes the joystick to register false movement and causes “drift” in the game being played.
This drift may range from changing the camera view to the character marching off on their own. While this can be fixed, it typically requires taking apart the Joy-Con which the average user most likely does not feel comfortable doing themselves. Nintendo does offer their own repair service as well for the Joy-Con.
Recently, the Joy-Con drift issue has seemed to become more prominent in the news. A class action lawsuit began to move forward against Nintendo due to the large number of users experiencing this problem. Nintendo responded in a statement to The Verge,
“At Nintendo, we take great pride in creating quality products and we are continuously making improvements to them. We are aware of recent reports that some Joy-Con controllers are not responding correctly. We want our consumers to have fun with Nintendo Switch, and if anything falls short of this goal we always encourage them to visit http://support.nintendo.com so we can help.”
After the statement was issued, Vice reported that Nintendo has rumored plans to fix any drifting Joy-Con for free. The free repair would apply even past the one-year warranty. Additionally, it was stated that Nintendo allegedly plans to issue refunds for past repairs related to the drift. There has not been an official confirmation from Nintendo at the time of publishing. If this is all true, it is good news for any Switch owner. However, until the joysticks are swapped out in new production Nintendo Switch consoles for a better quality joystick, the Joy-Con drift issue will still remain and continue to be a concern.
This brings me back to the Switch Lite. With non-removable Joy-Con, you cannot swap out the drifting Joy-Con for one that is correctly functioning and resume play while sending in the malfunctioning Joy-Con for repairs. Instead, you would be stuck with the issue until your Switch Lite was shipped off for repair, during which time you would be without your entire console. While I hope that Nintendo would have thought ahead about the potential Joy-Con drift issues, we simply do not know what may occur.
Also removed is the HD rumble feature, which I feel is one of the Nintendo Switch’s hidden gems. With HD rumble, Nintendo has managed to use vibrations to. “mimic the wave patterns of sounds.” When the developer decides to implement this within their game, the rumble sensation truly enhances the experience and allows for players to feel more immersed in the game’s world. This is one area though where I feel that more information is needed. Perhaps they may still include some form of a rumble, but not their signature HD version. Hopefully we get answers soon.
Screenshot from Nintendo Site
The increased battery life seemed like the biggest draw to the Switch Lite. The Lite boasts 3 - 7 hours of battery compared to the current 2.5 - 6.5 hour duration. However, a minor revamp to the original Nintendo Switch was announced recently which includes a much larger bump in battery life up to 4.5 - 9 hours. This begs the question, what is Nintendo’s goal with the Switch Lite?
The price point of the Nintendo Switch Lite, while cheaper than the original Nintendo Switch, does not seem quite as low as it should be given all of the removed features stated above. When looking at a $100 price differential between the two consoles and the removal of a dock which alone retails for $89, the remaining removed features would add up to roughly $10 in theory. It would be shocking if the removable Joy-Con, HD rumble, kickstand and larger screen were valued at $10 combined.
The boosted battery life seemed to be the main draw to either purchase your first Switch, or purchase a second for travel purposes. However, with the updated regular Nintendo Switch getting an even beefier boost than the Switch Lite, I question what the real draw is meant to be for the Switch Lite.
In my opinion, the Switch Lite is definitely the better option for young kids with the increased durability and lower price tag. Additionally, the Lite’s fun colors are definitely a pull as well as the slightly reduced weight -- nearly a third of a pound difference compared to the original Switch.
However, in my opinion, these differences are just not enough to justify a change from the regular Switch to the Lite, unless you just prefers a smaller screen and smaller overall size. I can’t even seem to justify purchasing the Lite as a second Switch despite searching for a reason. It seems that maybe Nintendo is still trying to guide gamers towards their original Switch with the option to introduce younger gamers to the Lite.
Nintendo has been known to make seemingly strange decisions in the past -- see the 2DS XL in the same clamshell design as the 3DS/3DS XL, for instance -- so I suppose we’ll just have to keep guessing. I’ll still be at my local game store to check out the in-store Switch Lite demo when it becomes available, but Nintendo would have to announce an amazing new feature I didn’t know I needed to convince me to splurge on a second unit.