Just days after the announcement of the Switch Lite, Nintendo revealed that a new model of the original Switch launches in August. It contains identical specs to the original but features an extended battery life, upping from 2.5 – 6.5 hours to 4.5 – 9 hours. The upgrade is relatively minor, but the news reinforces Nintendo’s embracement of the Switch as a handheld device, something the publisher long shied away from. Read on for what the new Switch models mean for Nintendo and its fans, and how it changes the system’s identity.
The Switch is now a true hybrid
Since the launch of the Switch, Nintendo maintained that the system isn’t a console/handheld hybrid, it’s a home console you can take on the go. Most fans disagreed. Many Switch owners, myself included, spend the majority of their time playing in handheld mode. But Nintendo was reticent to abandon the Nintendo 3DS and the device’s 75 million owners.
Since 2017, new releases for the 3DS have largely been limited to enhanced ports of older titles like Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn and compilations like WarioWare Gold. Those titles don’t require many resources and can be developed relatively quickly. Anyone familiar with the industry knows Nintendo’s focus has lied with the Switch since its launch.
With the announcement of the Switch Lite, as well as a new Switch with better battery life, Nintendo can end its charade. The Switch Lite is marketed as a handheld and, even though the publisher still won’t refer to it as a hybrid, a Switch with a longer battery life is more valuable on the go.
The new switch models encourage Nintendo to develop different titles
If Nintendo truly considers the Switch a “home console you can take on the go,” the publisher developed all first-party games as home console titles. However, much of its upcoming offerings was clearly developed for handheld or console play. The Pokémon, Animal Crossing, and Fire Emblem series are predominantly known as handheld titles. Their release dates just months after the launch of the Switch Light aren’t a coincidence. Nintendo developed the games to appeal to new owners of Switch Lites.
The release of the Switch Light may even encourage Nintendo to revive older series known for their handheld titles. Maybe Nintendo puts resources towards the return of beloved, long-dormant Game Boy series such as Advance Wars or Donkey Kong Land. Fans can dream, right?
The Switch and Switch Lite serve different audiences
With only one version of the Switch available, the entire demographic of Switch owners used the same system. But the release of the less expensive, portable-only Switch Lite will likely attract a younger crowd and more casual players. Hardcore gamers will cling to the original model, or maybe even upgrade to the version with better battery life. But the Switch Lite makes perfect sense for kids (and their parents) or casual gamers who just need something that can play the new Pokémon and Animal Crossing.
More Switch models to choose from is only a good thing. The release of the Switch Lite means more gamers can find a version of Nintendo’s latest console that serves their needs. A less expensive model will also create an influx of Switch owners. That will increase game sales, which will encourage developers to devote more energy to making Switch titles. The new models reinvent the identity of the console and will transform the system’s audience. That makes this a thrilling time for fans eager to see where things go from here.