The Switch Mini could be a pretty big deal.
The Nintendo Switch hasn’t even had the chance to celebrate two months of existence and yet talks of Nintendo’s next possible move have already been spreading like wildfire. Word of a possible Mini Switch have been circulating on the web and one NeoGAF user created a detailed mock up of what this pint-sized Switch could possibly look like. Ironically enough, Nintendo has had nothing to do with sparking the rumors. Instead, analysts at Citigroup Inc. insist that the gaming giant will be forced to create a smaller version of the Switch by 2019 to accommodate children with smaller hands.
Reworking an existing console to fit the needs of smaller children certainly isn’t unheard of for Nintendo. In 2013, Nintendo removed the 3D function and clamshell design of the 3DS to offer a more child-friendly Nintendo 2DS. A smaller, lighter version of the Switch certainly sounds like a viable option for those who were sold by the hybrid console’s promises of portability. In theory, a pocket Switch sounds like a lovely secondary option for some gamers. The true challenge, however, lies in the many unanswered questions fluttering around the details of a possible Switch Mini.
Since the Switch Mini is still nothing more than an unsubstantiated prediction for the future, it still remains largely unclear how Nintendo would pull off a Switch Mini that is, at its very core, still a Nintendo Switch. Mock designs created by NeoGAF user jts show off what is currently the most plausible design concept for a mini version of the Switch. In order to allow the console to shrink in size, the design reduces the screen size to roughly five inches and ditches the TV dock and detachable Joy-Con controllers. This introduces what will likely be the biggest hurdle for a Switch Mini—making it switch. In order to shrink the Switch down any further, it seems highly unlikely that Nintendo would be able to keep their beloved motion controllers attached to the device. Some Switch owners have already complained that playing with the separated Joy-Cons as controllers feels a bit cramped and uncomfortable. Making them any smaller may completely strip Nintendo’s latest invention of any practical functionality for many users.
Another option would be to package the Joy-Cons separately without allowing them to attach to the console’s sides or making the Switch Mini compatible with the same Joy-Cons that are used for the standard Switch. This, of course, would also come with some substantial shortcomings. If the Switch Mini is created with the attention of attracting younger players, giving parents more pieces to keep up with could easily just turn into a headache. To make matters worse, removing the Joy-Cons would leave the Switch Mini feeling a lot less like a Switch and more like a souped up Game Boy Advance. Nintendo has a history of struggling with the branding and positioning of its new consoles and releasing a new version of the Switch that doesn’t actually feel like a hybrid anymore may cause entirely too much confusion.
But there is still hope for the possibility of the tiny Switch sibling. Nintendo may have fallen in love with their new and improved motion controllers but faulty Joy-Cons and a design that isn’t comfortable for many players with larger hands may have resulted in a bit of a silver lining when it comes to the Switch Mini concept. The Joy-Cons are certainly not the stars of the Switch show, which means there is likely a sizable consumer base that would prefer to be without them. Making the Switch Mini compatible with the standard Switch’s Joy-Cons would provide a fair option for those who are more intrigued by the motion controllers while also adding a nice perk for any consumer that already has a Switch in their household.
So with the Joy-Con debacle out of the way, Nintendo would be able to focus on the true headliner of the Switch show—the dock. Getting rid of the Joy-Cons will likely rub a few consumers the wrong way but as long as a Switch Mini can still be docked and switched into a TV mode, it would still rightfully be able to wear the Switch name with pride. If all Switch accessories are compatible with the new model, adopters can easily use Joy-Cons or even Pro controllers after they have docked their mini Switch. If Nintendo can successfully create such a hybrid without sacrificing even more on the battery life while in a portable mode, a Switch Mini would not only provide a lighter alternative for those interested in the Switch but it would also have the potential to step in as the successor to the Nintendo 3DS.
After more than five years on the market, the Nintendo 3DS is the next console rumored to be up for an upgrade soon. It seems like a Switch Mini could make the perfect successor. The transition would be relatively easy for Nintendo since many of the 3DS’s best selling games already have a title announced for the Switch or rumored to be coming to the Switch in the near future. That list includes iconic franchises like Mario Kart and Pokemon, which is rumored to be coming to the Switch under the title Pokemon Stars. So while the Switch Mini is an idea shrouded in mystery (it is just a theory from a party that has no relation to Nintendo after all) it is a concept that has a lot of potential. It could continue Nintendo’s domination of handheld gaming by giving consumers the freedom to decide if they want to utilize its hybrid capabilities or not. It would also allow Nintendo to focus on building one expansive game library that would be accessible to both its home console and handheld console consumers. All the while, it would also be successfully delivering a Switch that is child friendly and more portable than the hybrid originator.
Simply put, this random suggestion by Citigroup may actually be a solid idea for Nintendo so long as it can satisfy the needs of those interested in the hybrid concept while also catering to Nintendo’s massive population of handheld users. If a new, smaller Switch offers compatibility with original Switch accessories, maintains a solid battery life despite being reduced in size, weighs less than the original Switch, and comes with the option to purchase its own Switch Mini dock, it could truly be the type of move that reminds gamers everywhere why Nintendo so rightfully belongs in the Big Three.