The Switch Mini rumours have been coming thick and fast over the last week or two. Despite Nintendo plainly stating that the E3 2019 Nintendo Direct would not feature a new hardware reveal, it was half expected there might be a cheeky announcement. We’ve heard multiple stories from respected outlets for a while now, as well as manufacturers and retailers listing accessories for the as-yet-unannounced hardware revision. It almost feels that the sheer force of the internet is willing this thing into existence, whether Nintendo planned it or not.
But of course it surely has planned for the revision. There’s a 3DS-sized hole in the market that the current Switch isn’t quite filling. As a budget option the 3DS (and 2DS) is still a fabulous device, but any parent knows that only the latest and greatest will do in the playground. Give a six-year-old a choice between a full, mint-in-box NES library or a Switch with Smash Bros. and Fortnite and it’ll be bye-bye retro quicker than you can say "Stadium Events".
The original Switch concept made for a great sales pitch as a ‘household’ device, bringing together an increasingly fragmented family unit with one device. Having become the go-to local co-op machine, Nintendo can now afford to play up the other side of Switch’s dual identity – the portable, solo gaming device (that also interacts with other Switches). In shareholder meetings, it’s been made clear that Nintendo plans to get more than one Switch into households, following the 3DS business model rather than the traditional home console route. Switch, after all, is not a ‘traditional’ home console, and it can take advantage of its hybrid nature in more ways than one, branching out into other rooms of the house.
The imagined smaller dimensions of a Switch Mini may cause some of us to hold our current console and wonder just how much smaller the unit can get before reaching Game Boy Micro levels of cramping discomfort, but the fact is that we still surf ebay in the vain hope of picking up one of those beauties for a decent price, if only as a showpiece. Switch could certainly stand to lose a little weight. The current screen is lovely, and while we’d ultimately prefer it to lose the bezel and grow in size (if not resolution) in a ‘Pro’ model, it could stand to shrink a little for a Mini variant.
The Joy-Con themselves arguably couldn’t be made any smaller and fusing them to the screen is the only practical way to reduce the size of the unit as well as eliminate components and free up space. Nintendo could then remove the railings, wireless gubbins and the separate batteries, incrementally driving down production costs and potentially permitting some of the console’s internal components to spread outwards by a few millimetres. That might not seem like much, but tiny changes can make a big difference. A unified case will provide better structural integrity meaning it’ll be able to withstand a few more bumps than the current version – a must if this is going to be aimed at gamers with smaller hands. Maybe lose the flimsy kickstand, too - we only ever interact with it to get at the micro SD card. Alternatively, replace it with something a little sturdier.
There would be other challenges to overcome. The infamous Joy-Con drift that’s plagued so many of our controllers will need eradicating if the company wants to retain its reputation for producing rock-solid hardware. The Joy-Con are nifty little devices, but they’re pricey and Nintendo has arguably stretched its reputation to breaking point with many users, first with launch model connection problems and later with recurring drifting stick issues. It’s one thing for a break-off accessory to need periodic repair, but consumers will soon get sick of sending their console for repair once a year just to get the sticks replaced.
If Nintendo is planning for a +1 Switch in every household, it probably makes sense to remove the Dock from the box, too. We’d dispute the wisdom of a Switch Mini which you can’t dock – yes, 2DS removed the nominal gimmick of its parent console, but what is a Switch if it can’t ‘switch’ to a TV? It makes more sense to simply sell the dock separately, or perhaps market a new ‘travel’ dock – also compatible with OG Switch – for people who want it. We’ve seen some third-party alternatives and with a focus on portability, a dock to match would be welcome.
Switch has already got the software – pricing is key for a new SKU, and for this to be attractive it’s going to have to hit the £200 / $220 mark. If we look to the 2DS as a comparable update that was also a cheaper, more durable 'downgrade', it's the price point that set it apart from the ‘premium’ alternative. Throw in a selection of bundles including ‘evergreen’ titles (think Smash Bros., Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Mario Odyssey), plus the inevitable Pokémon Sword and Shield and Animal Crossing: New Horizons tie-ins, and it would seem like Nintendo has a pretty good holiday season ahead.
We’re still eager for a ‘Pro’ model, but in the meantime a Mini version makes more sense considering the demographic underserved by the current console. The November launch of Pokémon would seem to be an obvious target to get consoles into stores ready for the lucrative Black Friday period, although a September or October release would arguably work just as well – that’s the beauty of an evergreen library. All it takes is a new Special Edition console to get fans excited about ‘new’ hardware. Could I interest you a Triforce encrusted Switch Mini with your copy of Link's Awakening and accompanying amiibo, sir? Why not take two! Sony and Microsoft will presumably be concentrating on bundle deals for existing consoles ahead of new hardware in 2020, so Nintendo could have the ‘shiny new device’ category to itself. The confirmation hasn’t come yet, of course, but all the signs indicate that Switch, in whatever form, will have Holiday 2019 tied up with a bow.
Would you be in the market for a potential Switch Mini? Two docks used to be the height of luxury, but two Switches? A Switch for every room (bagsy not the toilet Switch)! Let us know what a new SKU would need to tempt you below.