Nintendo Switch Lite: From D-pads to sharable games, here's what we learned

Nintendo's Doug Bowser tells us about the Switch and the future of the 3DS

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
3 min read

The Switch Lite doesn't mean the Switch is going away -- nor is the 3DS.


Nintendo's newly unveiled Switch Lite, unlike its established older sibling, forces compromises like the lack of detachable Joy-Cons or the ability to connect to a TV in exchange for its cheaper $200 price tag. The Switch Lite is going truly handheld, a change from the original's big pitch of being able to go back and forth between TV and mobile. 

The Switch Lite marks the first new piece of gaming hardware since the New Nintendo 2DS XL came out in late 2017. It also suggests a new direction for Nintendo, which has successfully fended off the competitive threat of more hardcore games running on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, or more casual titles played on your phone.

But the Switch Lite also raises some questions. For instance, it could potentially replace the aging Nintendo 3DS platform. And does this open the door to more Switch variants (like the long-rumored Pro edition?). 

We took these questions to Doug Bowser, president of Nintendo of North America. Here's what we learned:

The Switch Lite has a D-pad, but don't expect one on Joy-Cons (yet)

The Switch Lite has changed the four-button array on the left-side controls with a proper plus-shaped D-pad, just like a Nintendo 3DS. It feels a lot better for controlling retro games, but don't expect any Joy-Cons that will add a D-pad anytime soon. Bowser says the Joy-Con's four-button design is made to be versatile in any configuration. "There are no plans, or nothing to announce, in terms of further variations of Joy-Con."

Nintendo's working on a way to make switching Switches easier (shared libraries?)

At the moment, Nintendo doesn't make it possible to easily play Switch games on two devices. For instance, if you wanted to buy a non-TV-connected Switch Lite and make it your console, you'd give up playing games on TV with the Switch. But Nintendo may be making it easier to live between two devices soon. "I could see this fitting into a household where there are multiple players... and one flagship Nintendo Switch," Bowser says about Switch Lite, adding, "Yes, you will have the ability to transfer between devices, your gameplay experiences. More to come there, but that is the intention." Maybe, when the Switch Lite is launched in September, we'll know more.

Watch this: Nintendo Switch Lite first impressions

No Nintendo Switch Pro console... yet

The Switch Lite is designed to appeal to tighter budgets, kids and new customers, but it's not really the Switch upgrade owners of the 2017 system might have expected. Reports have indicated that a "Switch Pro" with upgraded components is in the works, which may be delayed until next year. Bowser says nothing of the sort is on tap right now, referring to the original Switch as staying onboard for now. "It will continue on its path at the price we have it currently positioned at," he says. That being said, there may be a stealth chip upgrade in the original Switch.

The 3DS isn't disappearing (and 3DS games aren't coming to Switch yet)

Even though the $200 handheld-only Switch Lite looks like a future replacement to the Nintendo 3DS/2DS family of devices, Nintendo's not getting rid of the 3DS -- yet. "Short answer: the Nintendo 3DS does have a place beside the Nintendo Switch family of products, and we'll continue to support it as long as consumers continue to purchase them," Bowser told me. That being said, Nintendo still doesn't have clear plans to move 3DS software over to the Switch.

No SNES/N64 game news, but more NES games are coming

The Virtual Console possibilities for the Switch are strong, especially with a bunch of NES games and plenty of arcade ports and classic games from Sega, Capcom, Konami and others already available. However, SNES and N64 games remain MIA. "Nothing to announce at this time, but we continue to release NES games at a nice pace. We're well over 40, and we continue to release those on a monthly basis."

The Switch Lite ditching TV doesn't mean TV mode is going away

The Switch Lite may be handheld-only, but Nintendo's Bowser refuses to suggest that more handheld-based play is where Switch games are headed. "It's really how people want to play, and also it's based on the game," says Bowser, discussing how he still plays some games on TV. "We believe we're offering a choice."