Be happy with the Nintendo Switch you've got, because you're not getting a new one this year

Commentary: In a year of new consoles, don't expect anything new from Nintendo. That's OK, because what I really want is better software.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
2 min read

The Switch Lite: still great.

Sarah Tew/CNET

A revision to the Nintendo Switch, which debuted nearly three years ago, feels overdue. Some sort of pro-enabled revamp was expected last year, and never came. Instead, there was a very minor hardware revision (the Switch V2) and the Nintendo Switch Lite, which is more of a refined, budget-minded handheld version than a true sequel. 

Despite some rumors of a true new Switch upgrade, Nintendo says there will be no new Nintendo hardware in 2020. Meanwhile, Sony and Microsoft have the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, respectively, arriving by the end of the year, so it would be a crowded market anyway. 

Nintendo's hardware history has often seen strange periods of quiet, and others where everything happens at once. The Nintendo Wii aged out for a while before the Wii U emerged. The Wii U trickled along for years until the Switch arrived, already well into the life cycles of the PS4 and Xbox One. Nintendo hardware is never bleeding-edge, graphically, anyway. 

Gradual evolution

Nintendo's handhelds have gone through many series of subtle revisions, instead of true sequels. The Game Boy evolved slowly into many forms before the Game Boy Advance. The Nintendo DS did, too. The 3DS got bigger, then smaller and more refined, then became a non-3D nonfolding budget system, then evolved again. Maybe the Switch Lite is the way the Switch will change: small tweaks, refinements. A smaller one, a bigger one. One that feels better.

The Switch Lite just arrived last fall, and newer models of the original Switch got a welcome battery boost, so maybe nothing in 2020 makes sense. I've gravitated to bouncing between the Lite on the go, and playing a fuller-sized Switch at home over Wi-Fi using Nintendo's awkward digital game-sharing system across the two devices. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

If there's anything I really want from the Switch, it's for Nintendo to fix its cloud save and share awkwardness, and allow multiple Switches to share games as easily as my iPhones and iPads, or my Kindles, or most other modern devices. It's about software, not hardware.

Nintendo's 2020 path for now just seems like putting out great games, and continuing to be a portable way to play indie works of genius, like Kentucky Route Zero. I'd be more than happy with that. 

Better luck next year

Of course, I want a better Switch. One with better graphics, improved Joy-Cons, less screen bezel, something with a better docking system, that feels even more refined.

But with Sony and Microsoft's new consoles likely to cost a lot, and most other new gadgets becoming more expensive or possibly even being harder to make, I'm also OK with the Switch just being relatively affordable and good like it is now.

I've already recommended which Switch to get, but also, really, both the Switch and Switch Lite are both fine. You could play one, or the other, or both. 

There's an easy way to avoid holiday-season new-console envy from the Sony and Microsoft camps: Be happy with the Switch you've got.

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