Nintendo is planning a revision of its megapopular hybrid home/handheld Switch console for 2019, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. The goal is to maintain sales momentum for one of the fastest-selling video game systems of all time.
This news is among the least surprising stories of the week. A revised Nintendo Switch model was inevitable. Still, the WSJ did great work to get some facts. The newspaper is reporting that manufacturers and suppliers are gearing up for the production of the “Switch Lite” (that’s my name for it). But it’s still early days. Nintendo isn’t sure what improvements it wants for the 2019 model.
But you only have to look at Nintendo’s history to know this was coming. Over the course of the 3DS, Nintendo launched six different models. That was up from four different DS models. Hell, the Game Boy and Game Boy Advance had multiple different models as well.
I would argue that Nintendo has always known it was going to revise the Switch. It probably expected to do it by 2018 if sales were slow. It was just a matter of time before we would get something like. this.
And the reasons are obvious.
The Little Brother Effect
People often like to point out that the reason Nintendo handhelds sell so well is because many people buy multiple versions. And that is absolutely right. I bought a 3DS, two different 3DS XLs, and a New 3DS XL. But here’s the crucial thing: I only still own the New 3DS XL and the original 3DS. I sold one of the 3DS XLs and gave the other one away.
Nintendo handhelds benefit from The Little Brother Effect. When the company releases a new Game Boy, DS, or 3DS, people typically didn’t throw their old system into a drawer and forget about it. Most people either sell them second-hand or give them to someone like a younger sibling. This means that Nintendo got another hardware sale to the same customer, but it likely also got a new software customer as well.
And this whole strategy works because hardware purchases are expensive. A $300 Switch is a lot to ask for a lot of people. But a $150 Switch on Craigslist or a hand-me-down from an older sister who can’t help but always buy the latest hardware is a gateway into Switch software ecosystem.
Sony and Microsoft have absolutely tried to emulate this strategy with the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X. All of these companies are trying to expand their install base by building hardware for the fans most willing to spend $300+ for a noticeable upgrade.
Put another way, you and I — the fools who already own a Switch and will go out and buy this new one as well — are subsidizing people who are more thrifty and probably happier and better as humans.