Concerns About the Nintendo Switch Lite

Out of nowhere, Nintendo came out with a major announcement this week: the long-rumored Nintendo Switch Lite is a reality and it is coming out this September 2019. Essentially, the Switch Lite is a smaller, cheaper, more limited version of the Switch. As I already have a Nintendo Switch of my own, I knew right away that the Switch Lite wasn’t for me – being handheld-only was the dealbreaker – but I still appreciated it for what it is: an option for people who felt that the original Switch was too expensive, too big for a portable console, or too underpowered for a home console.

And yet, also as an owner of the original Nintendo Switch for almost two years now, I have several concerns about the newest model. Yes, I’m not going to buy one, but I’m a fan of Nintendo, and I do get concerned about anything that will create a negative perception of the company. So, let’s discuss the possible Switch Lite issues that I’ve been thinking about.

1. Are the Switch Lite’s analog sticks going to be more durable this time? 

If you don’t know this yet, let me tell you all about one of the biggest issues of the Nintendo Switch: the analog sticks of the trademark JoyCon suffer from drifting issues. Right now, both the left and right JoyCon of my Switch unit suffer from this, and while it can get resolved by a spray or two of compressed air, this issue keeps me away from playing in handheld mode when I can avoid it. I haven’t gone as far as buying new JoyCon, but I know that quite a few people have taken this route, especially those who mostly play in handheld mode.

The analog sticks of the Switch Lite look similar to those of the original Switch JoyCon. Will they have the same drifting issue?

Now, I’m hoping that Nintendo has learned their lesson and that they’ve fixed whatever it is that is causing the JoyCon analog sticks to drift because if the Switch Lite has the same issue, the options to resolve it are quite limited. At least I can use the Pro Controller and play in docked or tabletop mode, replace the drifting JoyCon with new ones, or even replace them with third party alternative controllers like the ones from Dobe, Nyko, or Hori. Since the Switch Lite has the controllers built in, if that revision also suffers from drifting issues then the whole unit will have to be sent in for repairs or be replaced entirely with a new one.

2. Is the Nintendo Switch Lite’s suggested retail price of $199.99 as low as Nintendo can go?

The Nintendo Switch Lite’s advertised MSRP of $199.99 USD may seem attractive at first but if you compare it to the original Nintendo Switch’s MSRP of $299.99, you’re really only saving a hundred dollars at the cost of a lot of features – the lack of HD rumble, the ability to play with another person via the two JoyCon, the IR Camera, and most importantly, the ability to play in docked mode.

It’s important to note that, given that the Nintendo Switch is more than two years old already, it has gone on sale quite a few times since release and is being sold by selected retailers in special bundles (like Walmart’s special $322.49 Switch + Starlink bundle) that save you quite a bit of money.

In my country, the original Switch is currently being sold at roughly around $291 USD – that includes import taxes, and various markups already. While local retailers have yet to announce how much they’ll actually be selling the Switch Lite for, speculation is it’ll be somewhere between $220 to $235 USD due to the same aforementioned import taxes. So for us, that $100 difference in price may end up even less.

I already own a Nintendo Switch so I’m not sure if I really would feel this way but I think that, if I didn’t own one now, I’d probably opt to spend for the original rather than get a Switch Lite.

3. Did the Switch Lite really have to be a dedicated handheld device?

A big part of the Switch name is due to the Nintendo Switch’s ability to “switch” between different game modes – from handheld to tabletop to docked. So I was surprised when Nintendo announced that the Switch Lite is strictly limited to handheld gaming.

I understand that it would be confusing for consumers if Nintendo didn’t use the Switch name for a device that plays Switch games, so there really isn’t an option in terms of branding. But to be honest, I was considering selling my Switch and buying a Switch Lite instead because it was more portable – up to the point when Nintendo revealed it’s limitation.

Not being able to play in docked mode was a dealbreaker for me.

I don’t have the technical know-how to really understand what the limitations were that prevented Nintendo from making the Switch Lite dockable, because we’ve seen third party docks in the market that are really small. Does it have anything to do with needing more power to feed higher res images when playing in docked mode, thus resulting in requiring more stuff that wouldn’t fit into the Switch Lite’s smaller body? I don’t know, maybe it does.

4. Is the Switch Lite compliant enough to USB-C standards to avoid bricking issues?

A major issue concerning the Nintendo Switch that blew up in 2018 revolved around Switch units that started bricking after a system update. This was narrowed down to users who used third party docks and/or chargers with their Nintendo Switch, which after some investigation by a very resourceful person, was concluded to be caused by the Nintendo Switch not being compliant to USB-C standards.

It wasn’t as big of an issue with the Nintendo Switch because the normal user would get the Nintendo Switch bundled with it’s own dock and charger. Only those who had unusual situations – wanting to play the Switch in two different rooms, thus the need for a second dock – were vulnerable to this. But with the Switch Lite being a dedicated handheld device, I can see more owners of that Switch version relying on third party chargers and USB-C cords because of how the Switch Lite is meant to be played.

While the bricking issue doesn’t seem to be as big of a problem as it was in 2018 (and I’m only basing this from online message boards and my social media circles), it was big enough of a problem for me to be concerned about now.

With all that said, I like the Nintendo Switch Lite. I’m not going to buy one because I prefer being able to play in docked mode, but I’m hoping that some of my friends would actually get a Switch now that there’s a cheaper version available. Still, I think people should pay close attention to reviews and maybe even wait a month or two after it’s launch before they decide to buy a Switch Lite. Wait until Christmas, perhaps?

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