It's not surprising that Nintendo has announced a redesign of the switch, but it's one few surprisingly, the Switch Lite has lost the characteristic ability of the system to … switch. The new version is designed exclusively for portable games, which means that it has no removable controllers, a stand or the ability to play on a TV.
That is exactly how video game consoles are doing. While new generations of hardware introduce much more power and functionality, revisions within the same generation often take certain steps backwards. Whether the trade-offs were made to save costs or because certain elements were considered unimportant, throughout their history, all three current console manufacturers have released multiple machines that have killed different functions.
The question is, as always, how much those missing functions mean to you.
Nintendo has been doing this since its first home console, the NES. Released in 1993, the NES-101 was a total redesign of the 1985 NES with a new controller, a top-load cartridge slot, and a sticker price of just $ 49.99. The hardware was largely the same, but the composite video and audio outputs were removed, which means that you had to connect it to your TV with an RF connection.
Nintendo followed a similar formula for the release of the New-Style Super NES in 1997. These redesigned SNES removed the power button and eject button, while also relying on video output options. S-Video and RGB have been thrown overboard for a composite-only port. The New Style Super NES also missed the expansion port that was only ever used for Japan's exclusive Satellaview peripheral, which allows users to access games and other content via satellite broadcasts.
The Nintendo 64 came and went without modifications, and the GameCube never received a redesign (unless you measure the Panasonic Q, which was a DVD player that looked like Japan only and looked like a toaster and had a GameCube in it). However, the GameCube received a silent revision that again removed the video output capabilities. Models produced from 2004 removed the cable port from the digital AV component, which means that the system could no longer use the 480p progressive scan mode in games that support this.
The Wii succeeded the GameCube and had a lot in common with its predecessor, including full backward compatibility and ports for memory cards and controllers. That functionality was abolished five years after launch, but with a 2011 hardware revision that removed compatibility with earlier versions and no longer came with the iconic vertical standard of the Wii. Instead, this model was meant to sit horizontally under a TV. Nintendo even went so far as to refocus the Wii logo 90 degrees to drive the point home.
The Wii Mini was a much more drastic reduction. It definitely didn't look like the original Wii, with a red-black body and a top-loading disk drive. More importantly, it cut out all internet functionality and compatibility with earlier versions, meaning it literally did nothing but play physical Wii discs. Even for $ 99.99 that was a hard sale in 2013.
The early portable revisions from Nintendo have since become straight improvements that have replaced their predecessors in every possible way. Unless, for example, you have missed the green screen of the original Game Boy on the greatly improved Game Boy Pocket or the contrast switch of the Pocket on the much more powerful Game Boy Color. (I actually missed that a bit.) Even the jump to a new generation in 2001 with the Game Boy Advance saved all the features of the Game Boy Color.
From now on, however, it will be complicated. The first version of the Game Boy Advance, the SP, followed in 2003 and was generally well received for its clamshell design that eventually included a front-lit screen. But it was also a harbinger of disaster when Nintendo decided it wouldn't be a problem to remove the headphone jack. For example, if you want to listen to the Aria or Sorrow soundtrack in reasonable loyalty, you should buy a dongle.
This was even less useful than it is now – it's not like Game Boy AirPods was ever something – and Nintendo hit back with the 2005 Game Boy Micro, a slim redesign with a small, high-quality screen and, yes, a headphone jack . But the Micro had a pretty big disadvantage of its own because it broke compatibility with the entire library with original Game Boy and Game Boy Color games.
The Nintendo DS, which was released the same year, had the same degree of Advance compatibility with Game Boy. The DS Lite of 2006 was an extremely simple improvement, with much brighter screens and tighter design around identical internals. But the DSi in 2009 was a more complicated upgrade proposition.
On the one hand, the DSi was by far the most important mid-range upgrade that Nintendo had ever released. It had larger screens, a faster processor and more RAM than the DS Lite, while two (very bad) cameras, 256 MB internal storage and the ability to download DSiWare games from an online store were added. The design was even tighter than that of the DS Lite, and the built-in operating system was much more complete.
On the other hand, the DSi has also completely broken the Nintendo link to the Game Boy by completely eliminating the secondary cartridge slot. This not only had an adverse effect on compatibility with earlier versions. (A considerable number of simultaneous DS games used the Game Boy slot for accessories such as the Rumble Pak and the Guitar Hero series & # 39; unusual Guitar Grip.) The DSi and the larger version, the DSi XL, were enormously more capable systems, but this disadvantage meant that they were not necessarily straight substitutes for the DS Lite.
The 3DS was a completely new platform with many new functions and it did not lose much of its life. The 3DS XL was more or less just a larger version, while the new 3DS was a mid-range revision that improved technical capabilities and added more controls without getting rid of anything. But when it was time to take something away, it was a bomb.
The 2DS not only looked weird, but it had a name that sounded like an April Fools joke. A 2D version of a console that used 3D as the primary selling point? The jokes wrote themselves. But in the end Nintendo was proved right. Many high-profile titles stopped supporting 3D and the latest 3DS revision – the 2DS XL – was the best so far for anyone who didn't care about the feature.
Sony has also fluttered with the possibilities of its console from the first days of the PlayStation. Different versions of the original PlayStations were released with changed internal mechanisms and AV outputs. The most logical conclusion was probably the removal of the RCA jacks from the first model, which later followed a cult in audiophile circles. The smaller PSOne redesign in 2000 removed the serial port, which was used for the link cable of the PlayStation, but he did not miss anything else; the little used parallel port was already removed in an earlier revision.
The PlayStation 2 has also undergone some minor adjustments – did you know it had a FireWire port at launch? – before landing on a more substantial redesign. However, this time the change was much more drastic. The 2004 "PS2 Slim," as it was called, was an incredible reduction in size, meaning there was no room for the large 3.5-inch drive bay of the original model that housed the network adapter.
That was no problem for online play itself, because the PS2 Slim had an Ethernet port built in. But it did mean that the console dropped support for the PS2 Hard Disk Drive, a 40-GB drive that could speed up loading times in some games and was required for a few – especially Final Fantasy XI. The lack of HDD compatibility also meant that the PS2 Slim could not run the PS2 version of Linux, which was considerably less controversial than when Sony patched it out of the PS3.
In fact, almost everything about the original PS3 model was controversial. Sony introduced the ambitious system at $ 599 and soon came to the position that it had to do everything to reduce costs. Even the console that was released in Europe four months after its introduction in the US was less capable than the original model.
Initially, the PS3 achieved full hardware-based backward compatibility with the PS2 by integrating the Emotion Engine CPU and Graphics Synthesizer GPU of that system on the motherboard. The Emotion Engine was removed for the European launch, whereby the software emulation solved some – but not all – play. As a result, the European PS3 could only play about 72 percent of the PS2 library, and the same was true of an 80 GB model launched in the US.
Later in the year it got worse with the worldwide launch of the 40 GB PS3. This model was sold for $ 399, a significant price reduction that Sony could partially achieve by reducing the Cell processor to a more energy-efficient and cost-efficient 60nm. But the machine was scaled back in a number of serious ways: two USB slots, all flash card readers, Super Audio CD support and PS2 backward compatibility were lost altogether. The 40 GB PS3 no longer contained the graphic synthesizer and therefore completely lost the ability to play PS2 discs. All subsequent PS3 units, including the two large slim redesigns, were based on the 40 GB feature set.
Around the same time, Sony began various iterations of its first real portable console, the PlayStation Portable. The 2008 PSP-2000 was a small "slim" update with a few welcome changes, while next year's PSP-3000 yielded a much better screen. Neither of the two models has really removed anything from PSP & # 39; s comment, but that would come in 2009.
The PSP Go was one of the most radical console redesigns of all time. It was much smaller than other PSP models, with buttons hidden behind a sliding mechanism, and most controversial of all had no UMD disk drive. That meant no physical games and no UMD movies: everything had to come from the digital PlayStation Store. Nevertheless, Sony invoiced a considerably higher price for the PSP Go than other PSP models. It didn't click, not surprisingly, and Sony started bundling it with various free games. It was an experimental device that was ahead of its time in some ways: it was the first time a console builder attempted to sell full retail games digitally.
However, the final PSP model went completely in the opposite direction. The PSP-E1000 was only released in Europe in 2011 and it was a cheaper budget model with a mono speaker and no Wi-Fi support. You could still download and transfer digital games from a PS3 if you really wanted to, but in practice this was a PSP focused on physical disks.
Sony & # 39; s successor to the PSP, the PS Vita, only lasted long enough to get one redesign, and it was then an interesting proposition. Almost everything was an improvement: the size, the weight, the life of the battery. But the switch to a perfectly good but boring LCD screen from the lively OLED screen of the original model meant that it felt slightly cheaper, although the build quality was better. It was not really a case of losing a function, it was more a subjective change that made you nostalgic for the days of scorching psychedelics Lumines stages in your retinas.
Microsoft also has a history of controversial console reviews, although it took time to continue. The first Xbox only got internal tweaks, intended to improve reliability and defend against modding, although Microsoft quickly fell back on its bulky original controller by switching to the smaller S model.
The Xbox 360 got a smaller S model in 2010 and added a dedicated port for the recently released Kinect sensor, along with the built-in Wi-Fi and a few extra USB ports. The 360 S has not removed any important functions, but has made major changes to the storage situation by removing memory units and the expensive Microsoft clip-on hard drives in favor of a regular SATA drive.
A later redesign, the 2013 Xbox 360 E, removed a single USB port as well as component and S-video outputs and was particularly notable for its visual similarity to the upcoming Xbox One. In general, Microsoft has endured the 360 generation without much controversy over hardware revisions. The biggest problem was by far the defective original model.
But we all know what happened to the Xbox One. The platform was launched in 2013 with Kinect at the forefront of its UI and games line-up, and flopped alongside the smaller, faster, cheaper PS4.
Microsoft worked quickly to straighten the ship, adjust dependency on the user interface on Kinect, and then sell versions of the Xbox One in 2014 without the sensor in the box. When it was time to release a new version of the console, the Xbox One S didn't even have a Kinect port, and last year Microsoft stopped using the hard-to-find Kinect USB adapter.
The Xbox One S would have been completely unthinkable for anyone in the audience who watched the original Xbox One presentation from Microsoft. In that light, it is one of the most important console revisions of all time. But by the time the S was released, it was in the least not controversial.
This is partly because it would otherwise have been a great update, placing a 4K Blu-ray drive and HDR support in a much smaller and more attractive box. (Around the same time, Sony released a slightly slimmer PlayStation 4 that removed the optical audio port.) But it's mainly because very few people, whether consumers or developers, really liked Kinect in the first place. Microsoft's crush on technology almost sank the platform before the company realized it was heading in the wrong direction.
That's the thing to keep in mind when evaluating products such as the Nintendo Switch Lite. Substantial functionality has been lost, yes, but are there many people who would rather not have had it in the first place?
In the case of the Switch, I think the answer is indeed yes. It is a much more impressive handheld than a home system and due to its portable nature, Nintendo has been able to charge $ 299 for such modest hardware according to modern console standards. For people who would only use the phone in handheld mode, the chance of a more device focused on portable devices with a better battery life and a saving of $ 100 is very attractive.
For everyone else, well, they don't have to buy the Switch Lite. Rumor has it that Nintendo is also working on a more powerful model. Wait for that.
As long as it has not deleted anything useful.
Photography by Evan Amos, whose work in the public domain on video game hardware is an incredible gift for the world.