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The Switch Lite arrived in 2019. What comes next?


Sarah Tew/CNET

It’s nearly impossible to find a Nintendo Switch for sale, three years after the console’s launch. That’s both good news for Nintendo and a sign that Switch manufacturing is facing challenges in a year of coronavirus shutdowns. That’s a shame, because there’s no better time to be using one, when we’re still largely stuck at home.

Unlike the Xbox Series X and PS5, we can’t say that a next-gen Switch is coming this year. But that doesn’t mean we don’t already have some hints from Nintendo about what a Switch 2 might look like.

Nintendo has already stated that no new Switch hardware is on the horizon in 2020, but we don’t know how long the horizon is after that. Could the long-rumored Switch Pro eventually happen in 2021? I could see it happening and I think of it more as a Switch XL with some useful extras.

Nintendo refused to comment on this story.

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Nintendo’s 3DS lineup continued to evolve and the Switch might do the same.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Nintendo 3DS updates offer an idea of how the Switch could evolve

Even though the original Nintendo Switch arrived in 2017, there have been some evolutions since then. The more affordable, handheld-only Switch Lite arrived last fall, and has been the Switch that’s been the easiest to find in stock online. The dockable original Switch got a significant battery life boost at that time, too.

While Nintendo’s TV-connected consoles usually haven’t gotten many updates after launch, Nintendo handhelds tend to get evolutions every couple of years. The Nintendo 3DS (early 2011) was followed by the larger-screened 3DX XL (mid-2012), the Nintendo 2DS (2013), New Nintendo 3DS and New Nintendo 3DS XL (late 2014-early 2015), and New Nintendo 2DS XL (2017).

On that timeline, getting another Switch update, even if it’s not a full 2.0 version, later this year or early next year wouldn’t be unusual at all. In fact, I’d expect it.

Small updates could still offer a lot of upside

I could dream all day of how a brand-new Switch 2 could push modular gaming into uncharted territory, but the Switch is in a major success mode now and it seems extremely unlikely that Nintendo would shake that up. However, tweaking the hardware formula with some extra perks in a shiny new model seems like a very likely move.

The Switch is a system that gets a lot of wear and tear: Joy-Cons break, backs crack, they take dings and get tossed around by accident. Moving to a new version every few years isn’t a crazy idea for a serious player.

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The Switch Lite (top) and original Switch (bottom). There’s room for improvement.


Sarah Tew/CNET

My wish list:

An XL version with a larger screen (and 1080p?)

I admit, I squint at the Switch screen a lot, especially the smaller Switch Lite. The 3DS went bigger-screen and it could be an easy move to make an XL Switch that reduces the large bezels and expands the screen across the body. Maybe 7 inches, or 7.5. Make the display better and brighter, maybe even allow it to show the better 1080p resolution you can get on the docked Switch games.

An improved processor

The older Nvidia Tegra processor on the Switch can handle games just fine, but that venting fan on top shows it has to chug a little more than I’m comfortable with. Besides not requiring a venting fan (maybe), an improved Switch could also aim to boost handheld performance to what the docked Switch can do. It’s always been a bit weird that the Switch offers better graphics when docked than in handheld mode. Maybe a next-gen processor could help.

Easier docking

If the onboard processor can handle graphics better, maybe that also means that the weird, bulky Switch dock can be shrunken down, too. I’d prefer an official Nintendo solution that’s really compact and easier to pack and travel with. There are third-party options already, but I’m hoping the entire official package in-box gets more elegant.

Bluetooth audio

I still save a pair of wired 3.5mm headphones to plug into the Switch, somewhere near my bedside table. It’s absurd. Everything else works with Bluetooth headsets, but not the Switch. Nintendo’s controllers are wireless. Come on, introduce Bluetooth audio.

Fix the kickstand

The dockable Switch can also be a great little prop-up arcade machine for two players. I love that idea. The kickstand on the Switch doesn’t make that idea work very well, though. I need to balance it just right, or the Switch tips over (not a great idea with kids). Maybe a revised, smaller Switch dock could double as that prop-up stand.

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Switch Lite colors are nice. There should be more.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Include lots of colors (like the Switch Lite)

Just saying that colorful Switches are fun and the original Switch is only available in black.

Sturdier Joy-Cons with d-pads and analog triggers

Because the Joy-Con slots into Labo and Ring Fit Adventure and other accessories, I’m not sure it makes sense to change the general form of the controllers. But I’d prefer a less creaky revision that doesn’t feel so worn down over time. I’d like improved vibration and what would really be nice is a true analog set of trigger buttons for games that could take advantage of them (this is a wish list, right?). Also, glow-in-the-dark ones.

And: d-pads. The Switch Lite changed the left-side buttons to introduce a real, classic Nintendo-style d-pad that helps make games like NES Classics or Tetris 99 feel more natural. Joy-Con controllers on the original Switch don’t have d-pads, but it would be nice if one did. 

Don’t expect anything anytime soon

Nintendo’s recent plans are likely a lot different than whatever 2020 was originally meant to be. It’s hard to even venture a guess to what the games for the rest of the year will look like. Reports from years ago pointed to a pro version of the Switch arriving alongside the Lite. Maybe that pro (or XL) version is still coming, or maybe it’s now a bit farther off. An improved Switch XL would be welcome, though.

For the true expert opinion, however, I turned to my 7-year-old. He says, “Take two little controllers, pull them apart and pull up a tiny screen. It’s a Switch you can fit in your pocket.” I don’t know if a Switch Micro is happening anytime soon, but that’s what he wants and it’s not a terrible idea. 



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