September 23, 2021

The Switch Mini: My Thoughts

As evidence for a Switch Mini piles up – from larger than anticipated orders for memory to an actual accessories company basically throwing up a massive slew of screenshots of the damn thing – I’m finding myself oddly smug about the whole thing. It certainly looks like a real thing now.

Whilst many argue the toss over much of this, I’ve said this repeatedly and consistently over the last year; a new hardware revision is not going to be seeking to increase power or memory or anything crazy like that. People like consistency, they like base models, and the demand for more expensive variations of what you can already buy and play games on is vastly smaller than you’d might expect. Why pay for a second or two reduction in loading when that extra $60 can buy you a game or two or three?

No, the goal of a redesign is akin to an actual Nintendo success story; the 2DS. Cut out what isn’t being used, or isn’t as important, simplify the design to make manufacturing cheaper and then push the thing out at a vastly reduced cost.

This isn’t new. Or even really news. We go through this and whilst the Wii U was an anomalous blip (even the Wii and Gamecube went through some remodelling over their lifespans), Nintendo is inherently very good at the whole Hardware Refresh thing.

Well, mostly.

The New Nintendo 3DS XL is why I don’t believe reports of a “Switch Pro” any time soon. For all intents and purposes, the NN3DSXL – my god, it doesn’t even work abbreviated – was a bit of a disaster. It was more expensive, and those exclusive games? Yeah… they didn’t really drive sales. Which is why titles like Hyrule Warriors Legends decided to NOT be… you-know-what exclusive and couldn’t run on the base units in any way whatsoever, which only further damaged sales figures.

It was lovely, true, but…

Remember, Nintendo wants MONEY.

If the New-Whatchamacallit had worked out for them, I would absolutely be saying there was a chance of a New Nintendo Switch Deluxe XL EX+@ Championship Turbo model on the horizon. But it didn’t… and to be fair, even the PS4 “Pro” and XBox One X models haven’t exactly taken the market by storm, vastly outsold by their base models. Everyone has tried this trick this generation. It didn’t work, because the amount of consumers that care about POWER and PERFORMANCE (bonus points if you read that in a Jeremy Clarkson voice) are outweighed by a more nuanced and casual market that just wants a cheap, affordable games device by which they can play stuff that people tell them is good.

This WAS common knowledge too – Sony made mad, mad bank with the PS2 back in the day in this very way. Even Microsoft pulled it off with the XBox 360, though admittedly the Red Ring of Death scandal kind of forced their hand early on. Nintendo has been doing this with their handhelds since the Game Boy Color. Cheap sells; the only reason the PS4 won this generation is largely because the competition fell down very quickly. And the Switch is proving that whatever your lead… a better idea even multiple years later can nip at your heels with surprising efficiency if you let it.

(And to be fair, the PS4 was also relatively speaking the cheapest thing this generation too, since Nintendo couldn’t drive down the cost of the Wii U.)

So what I’ve seen of this “Mini” model from pictures and reports is simple; cut costs. No JoyCon, and I’m assuming with that no HD Rumble. Perhaps even removing the IR sensor under the right controller side and limiting it to one gyro sensor. Package this in a smaller, single-form shell which can be mass-pressed cheaper and faster with less fiddling around… all of this in the name of reducing costs. Even the “dock” in the pictures is a simpler and smaller form, which means less material and less waste.

I’m guessing the aim would be to get it sub-$200, drop it during the Holiday season to coincide with Pokémon and watch the money pour in.

And trust me, this will sell.

For all the talk of it possibly being “just handheld”… I can’t see that happening. There’ll still be a couple of USB ports in the smaller dock and likely an HDMI-out to hook up to a TV. That’s the whole appeal of the Nintendo Switch, and again, removing something that defining – especially when the name of your system plays into it – would be a disastrous mistake for Nintendo.

The whole “Switch” thing is firmware-based anyway, it’s got nothing to do with the dock, so removing that element makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. That means altering the firmware for a very specific model and… just no, that’s too complicated and too expensive.

All of this would be about cost-cutting. Make it cheaper. Fit more units into a single shipping container. Get more out there for less. Sell it cheaper. Sell more. Make as much money as possible.

With the next year or so being clearly packed, this should be a wise strategy and with the PS5 and XBox Scarlett likely due in the Fall 2020 period, this is the best time to get those Switch units down in cost. If the next-gen has a slow start, then Nintendo will once again get to hoover up developer support and worldwide sales (and if that happens, expect Switch sales to end up closer to the PS2 and Nintendo DS).

Even if it kicks off well, and those dizzying 150-million sales units become a distant dream, Nintendo will have smaller developers and old-gen ports to tide it over for a couple of years whilst it works on the full next-gen model of the Switch.

Nintendo has survived on far less, that’s for sure.

*innocently whistles*


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