Is the Switch Lite the death knell for the Nintendo 3DS?
Nintendo this week revealed the Switch Lite, a handheld-only version of the Switch with a slimmer form.Â Naturally, the inclusion of this new Switch into Nintendoâs stable begs the question of what place the venerable 3DS has in the new family. Is the 3DS about to exit the stage. I would say maybeâ¦ but the Switch still has a long way to go.
Nintendoâs had a handheld in its stable since the original Game Boy came out in 1989. The Switch Lite would be the first time the handheld has been related to the companyâs home console in anyway, even though the console itself canât be docked in the regular Switchâs port or be connected to a TV.
Now that weâve got a next-gen handheld, I knew it wouldnât be long before we started seeing commentary about the imminent âdeathâ of the 3DS, as it would seem thereâs no longer a place for it in the paradigm. But letâs not count it out just yet â because the Switch still has some climbing to do before it can replace the incumbent.
And I donât just mean that in the sense of the Switch having to replace the 3DS in some sentimental terms â I mean the former is not yet as ubiquitous in the market as the latter is. Nintendo needs its handheld to fill a certain niche that the current Switch doesnât â it needs to be truly portable in order to capture the same attention as the console itâll be helping phase out.
For starters, Nintendo of America President Doug Bowser toldÂ Time Magazine the 3DS was doing âquite well,â and also added: âRetailers continue to support both the hardware and the software. And as long as thereâs consumer demand for 3DS, weâll continue to support it.â And all signs point to consumers continuing to support it until they have a good reason not to.
The 3DS and its predecessor the DS have sold, combined, about 230 million hardware units, according to Nintendoâs public sales figures. Thatâs a mind-boggling number of consoles. The DS alone has outsold the Wii by over 50 million units, and the Wii is practically the poster child for Nintendoâs console success.
Since the release of the Switch, 3DS sales have plummeted â especially in Japan. But what you might not know is that the sales in Japan have not exactly risen at a commensurate rate. Granted, Japan is not as broad a market as the Americas or Europe, but in Nintendo sales it usually keeps up with their numbers fairly closely. In the case of the 3DS, it sold like gangbusters in Japan fairly consistently across its lifetime, and I highly doubt Nintendo wants to lose that market â and itâs that market itâll likely want to win over. Itâs not just Japan thatâs crazy for the 3DS, but they make a good case study for what the Switch will have to do to replace its predecessor.
The Switch is also not a highly portable console by itself. Oh, it can be carried and used on the go, but can it be comfortably slotted into a pocket or a purse? Iâve tried â and unless yâall have bigger pockets or purses than I do, the answerâs âno.â The slimmer form of the Switch Lite shows Nintendo is attempting to address this, and hopefully they succeed.
Itâs possible the introduction of the Switch Lite will herald the end of the 3DS. But itâs not going to be an immediate (pardon me) switch. The market will take some time to get used to it, and to having a Switch thatâs not part of a âhome console,âÂ itâll start to take the same place in their hearts. The 3DS is here to stay â for the time being, anyway.