Nintendo announces handheld-only Switch Lite coming in September 2019

The $199.99 system shaves $100 off the price of a standard Switch and trims features, including HD Rumble and TV output.

The long-rumored handheld-only Nintendo Switch has finally been announced. The Nintendo Switch Lite is due for release on September 20, 2019, setting Nintendo up for a holiday filled with options.

Priced at $199.99 ($100 less than the standard Switch), the Switch Lite trims out a number of features. The new console features built in controls, as opposed to the original model’s removable Joy-Con controllers. This decision lets Nintendo replace the button-style directional pad on left Joy-Cons with a standard D-pad. The console also eschews HD Rumble and the infrared sensor on the right Joy-Con.

The biggest change is that the new model “Swon’t” connect to a television. Thankfully, Nintendo Online subscribers can upload their data to the cloud, link their Nintendo accounts to an available original units, and continue playing on the TV.

The Switch Lite also drops the almost useless kickstand on the rear, which currently masks the SD card port. That port still appears on the back of the Switch Lite. The console itself is smaller (according to a Nintendo comparison), sporting a 5.5-inch touchscreen instead of the original model’s 6.2-inch display, and weights about .27 lbs less (.61 lbs to the original Switch’s .88 lbs with attached Joy-Cons).

In addition to three standard colors (yellow, grey, and turquoise), Nintendo has announced a special version of the Switch Lite that will be available on November 8, ahead of the Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield release on November 15. This is not a bundle that includes one of the two games though, and it will carry the same $199.99 price tag.

Nintendo hopes to bridge the gap between core consumers that are looking for a home-and-away Switch at $299.99 (with bundles likely to hit for the holidays) and those that prefer to exclusively play on handheld. For families looking for an additional Switch console for a multi-player house or those simply looking to upgrade their kids from 2DS to the new generation, the Switch Lite offers a more attractive price point.

“I think it was about time for Nintendo to come up with the Lite model,” said analyst Dr. Serkan Toto of Kantan Games. “3DS sales have become insignificant, summer 2019 is full of blockbusters, and Pokemon will come out in November. The September release makes sense. The feature set is cut down when compared with the original, but the $100 price reduction has to come from somewhere. I believe the Switch Lite will sell extremely well. I would be surprised if it wasn't the top video game hardware this winter - up to the point where it might even sell out in some regions of the world.” 

With a new Switch model on the way for the holidays, Nintendo’s forecast of 18 million units has strong support. In our coverage of the full-year earnings for fiscal year 2019, Toto told GameDaily that even that number was conservative. Nintendo shipped nearly 17 million units in the last fiscal year, missing a target of 20 million.

“Switch was already on pace to being the best-selling hardware platform of 2019, and the only platform forecast for year on year growth,” video games industry analyst Mat Piscatella with the NPD Group told GameDaily. “Switch Lite certainly increases that outlook. The $199 price point will have tremendous appeal, particularly during the holiday season, while Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield should attract a large number of new owners to Switch, many of whom will opt for the portable only device. The design should also make Switch a bit more kid friendly, while also appealing to adults that prefer to play Switch in portable mode. All in, I see significant upside to what was already a strong Switch outlook through the remainder of 2019 as well as into 2020 and beyond.”

The Switch Lite reveal today confirms one of the two rumored Switch models. As for the other, a “pro” model with upgraded performance, Nintendo might be pacing itself. Microsoft and Sony are slated to ship new hardware in holiday 2020, and the House of Mario may be looking to have something new for that party.

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Michael Futter is the author of The GameDev Business Handbook, a guide for creating and sustaining an independent video game studio, and The GameDev Budgeting Handbook. He is also the former news editor of Game Informer and has written about business and legal issues and video game industry trends for eight years.

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