This is the question on my mind after the announcement that Nintendo will release a Lite version of the Switch. This one is, obviously, lighter to hold than the regular version because it is geared strictly toward mobile gamers. The Joy-Con controls also don’t come off — meaning it technically lacks the “switch” aspect of the Switch. The Lite comes out on September 20 at $199.
I already own a Switch and consider it the best family console available on the market right now. The versatility enables multiple members of a household to use it without dominating TV spaces, and it has a very nice library of indie and Triple A games to choose from. Also, it’s the only place to play Breath of the Wild and Xenoblade Chronicles 2, so there you go.
But buying ANOTHER Switch seems like the very acme of bourgeois trash, even for someone like me who gets to write off stuff like that as business expense. What are the pros and cons?
First on the list is the fact that the Lite is probably the death-knell for the 3DS and by proxy all non-phone, non-tablet mobile gaming. That was probably inevitable anyway. The 3DS has been on life-support for a while, but it truly does suck for people who prefer the mobile platform to the television one. Mobile ports have always labored under the stigma of being inferior versions of consoles, just as consoles originally labored under the stigma of being inferior to arcade cabinets. Those distinctions have largely disappeared except to frame-rate and DPI nerds, but the stigma remains.
Yet Nintendo always carved out a special niche for its mobile offerings. Several big series like Metroid and Legend of Zelda, had exclusive releases that made handhelds hold their own. Not to mention Pokemon. By creating a system that operates as both console and handheld, Nintendo has put an end to that legacy.
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The company has addressed some practical concerns. Game libraries can be shared across the two systems, so that’s good. Considering how much of a pain in the ass it is to link Fortnite accounts across consoles I’m not going to hold my breath that the sandbox shooter will allow multiplay in the same game across the two, but if they figure out how to do that it will make my daughter very happy.
The thing I most worry about is the hardware. Specifically the Joy-Cons. I’ve run into a problem recently with my Joy-Cons where the thumbsticks drift. All thumbsticks will develop problems eventually, but the Switch ones seem to be particularly prone to issues. Russ Frushtick at Polygon has a great write-up on this concern. He’s on his third pair of Joy Cons. Nintendo has never formally addressed the issue that I’ve seen, but apparently it has something to do with wear and tear internally causing debris to build up. You can sometimes fix this with compressed air, but it isn’t easy or even that reliable.
Replacing the Joy Cons is not cheap. A new pair generally runs around $80, and for obvious reasons you’d want new rather than used. That’s annoying, but it will be far worse if the controllers are permanently attached to the system. None of the FAQs about the Lite so far have mentioned this glaring problem yet.
So, should you buy a second Switch just so that multiple people in your home can enjoy it separately? Well, the price is right. A Switch and a Switch Lite combined is still likely to be cheaper than the next generation of consoles. It’s also likely to be the system of choice for the hardcore handheld gamer. If we can be assured the thumbstick issues have been dealt with perhaps that the two systems could enable multiplay on the same title then it might be worth it. Regardless, it’s going replace your 3DS so be prepared for that.