Nintendo Switch Lite: Budget Console Will Debut With Crucial Missing Feature

The new Switch.... doesn't switch.

The new Nintendo Switch Lite, follow-up to the beloved Nintendo Switch console, was announced on Wednesday. The $200 Switch Lite is more compact, more colorful, more affordable, and has better battery life than its predecessor. But before picking one up when it is released on September 20, gamers should be aware that it falls short of the original device in one crucial respect, its “switchability.”

Essentially, the Switch Lite is a souped up version of the Nintendo 3DS, minus the extra touch screen. Its Joy-Con controllers are non-detachable, it comes with a D-Pad instead of the Switch’s four directional buttons, and it will be exclusively handheld, with no ability to link up to an external TV.

That’s right: Nintendo’s newest gaming system will not support HDMI output to a TV or larger displays, and it will even be incompatible with the original Switch’s dock. In many respects, it will fill a similar need as Sony’s 2004 PlayStation Portable (PSP), a way to bring console-grade games to a sleek, lightweight device. But gamers expecting a cheaper replica of the $300 system will be sorely disappointed.

So what could Nintendo be thinking? The Japanese gaming giant wants to appeal to a fundamentally different audience with its latest release, according to Yoshiaki Koizumi, the General Producer of the Nintendo Switch, speaking in the Switch Lite’s announcement video.

nintendo switch

Nintendo Switch Lite: Where It Comes Up Short.

The justification for the omission is that the Switch Lite is meant to primarily be a handheld device, Koizumi explained.

“In terms of features, Nintendo Switch Lite differs a bit from the flagship Nintendo Switch console,” he said. “First off, since Nintendo Switch Lite is a dedicated handheld device, it won’t connect to a TV.”

The lack of TV compatibility contradicts analysts’ predictions and reports about the Switch’s successor. Ben Arnold, the senior director of innovation and trends at the Consumer Technology Association told Inverse in April that he would “expect any new media devices to have a tie-in with the TV.” Nintendo went a different route.

Gamers that want a more immersive, console experience with open-world games like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey will still need to purchase the first Switch, which notably hasn’t yet been discounted to reflect the addition of a new console. It also backtracks on one of the original model’s biggest selling points: simple local multiplayer experiences.

nintendo switch lite
Three color options for the new Switch Lite: yellow, gray, and turquoise.

Local play with the Switch Lite will heavily rely on Nintendo Switch Online or local wireless multiplayer, which are both reportedly unreliable. A multitude of users have complained about consistently laggy online play through Nintendo’s servers. The local wireless play more reliably links Switches together using a wifi connection, but there have also been protests about spotty connectivity.

The Switch Lite allows users to connect other Joy-Cons and controllers to it as an alternative to online or wireless play. But that would mean players would need to huddle around its 5.5-inch display instead of using a TV.

Not ideal.

Nintendo’s new Switch Lite will still lower the barrier of entry for some of Nintendo’s most iconic games, but there’s no getting around the fact that if you wanted a Switch, the Switch Lite will feel like something of a downgrade.

Media via Nintendo