Some people might call me an idiot, and Nintendo would call me an ideal customer.
I have a strange innate desire to buy a Switch Lite, either in Yellow or Turquoise, even though I already own a regular Switch. I‘m not the only person who feels this way.
Far from it.
Nintendo has long thrived with new version of old consoles, particularly in the portable space. They’re the masters of releasing a tweaked hardware revision and watching sales numbers spike.
While Sony and Microsoft touted themselves triumphantly for finally releasing true iterative consoles with the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, Nintendo no doubt patted their own back over how many different iterations of the GBA, DS, and New 3DS consoles they managed to sell to chuckleheads like me.
A mid-generation console refresh does a number of things. And these days, with the march of cell phones and computer tech, the expecations are perhaps higher than they were in the days of the DSiXL.
It usually comes with a cost savings for both the company and the consumer. It usually has a new industrial design, maybe with fun new colors or other cosmetic options. Sometimes, there’s even brand new features or extras.
In the case of the Switch Lite, the main new feature is an improved version of its Tegra X1 processor that allows for better battery life out of a smaller battery.
That’s not as exciting as a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X I’ll admit, but when combined with a new small design and new fun colors, it’s still enough to tip my Nintendo-addled self over the edge into desire.
Cheaper iterations of old consoles are the perfect time for new players to join in. But they’re also a great time for people who are already deeply entrenched in the ecosystem to re-buy the machine in a fun new shiny shell.
I know there’s no rational justification for this. But tech purchases are rarely rational. It’s exciting to get pumped about old video game things again, and the Switch Lite offers just enough new stuff at a low price point that my brain is screaming at me to buy one.
It’s cute! It comes in some fun colors, finally! And it has a proper Nintendo plus-shaped D-pad, something that’s notably absent from the stock Joy-Con options when compared to the pantheon of Nintendo controllers.
And it’s cheaper than the thing I already own and for some reason can’t just keep using exclusively!
Although Nintendo still lags far behind other consoles in online features, they thankfully support online account migration and cloud saves through their premium membership, so at least it’ll be somewhat easy to have my digital content on two machines.
Right now, I’m one of those folks that uses my Switch in a dead fifty/fifty split between the house and portable scenarios. The Switch is just portable enough to count as a portable. It’s like you’re carrying an Amazon Fire tablet and then strapping two controllers to the side.
Or you could use the kickstand in a pinch, but thanks to its strange viewing angle, I would prefer not to.
The notion of having an even more portable-friendly version of the same hardware with a little more battery life is very appealing to me.
Right now, if I know I’m going to play for more than an hour, I lug around a USB battery pack. It’d be great to lighten my bag a little.
I know I know, this is the ultimate in “convenience whining,” and it’s silly to want to buy a second version of a thing I already have that offers less raw functionality, from a certain point of view.
But Nintendo plays the iteration game so well, offering just enough differences in their models to make them all the more attractive to die-hard fans.
They’re not new tricks. Look at the gaming headset market, which pumps out new versions every year. Or iPhones. Or Microsoft’s controller design lab, a smart web site that allows you to customize your own Xbox controller for a small premium.
New colors and new quirks sell.
New sells. Even when it’s not entirely new.
If I were feeling really crazy, I’d also sell my original Switch and buy one of the just-announced standard-size models that’ll contain the updated internals and battery improvements.
I have to keep using the two docks in my home, after all.
I’ll probably wait for the rumored future Switch Pro/Super/2 to do that.
Nintendo has a potentially massive advantage over its competitors this holiday season, on a raw numbers front. They’ll have the lowest-priced machine that’ll still play 99.9 percent of their digital and physical releases. They have a strong lineup of first and third party exclusives this year, including a new Pokemon game.
And, they have a pending class action lawsuit against them over the ineffectiveness of a little rubber flap on the Joy-Con controllers allowing dust inside, which causes controller drift.
Okay that last one isn’t great, but outside of that they’re still in a strong position since the other two “teams” are biding their time for their big launches next year.
And Nintendo has never really cared about processing power anyway.
If they can weather the Joy-Con Drift Storm, (if they follow Apple’s example they’ll probably be fine?), then Nintendo stands to have a really exciting year.