Comment & Opinion

Switch Lite is already shaping up to be 3DS' worthy successor

Console and handheld strategy

Switch Lite is already shaping up to be 3DS' worthy successor

Two and a half years ago, Nintendo took the gamble to combined its handheld and console devices into one

After the lacklustre sales of the Wii U - shipping just over 13 million units - many were understandably hesitant about the company putting all of its eggs in one basket.

But, as per the latest financial figures, total Nintendo Switch sales have now crossed the 41 million mark and it's tracking on par with sales of Sony’s 100 million-plus PlayStation 4.

Software is also strong at 246 million, with titles like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe near to passing 20 million copies, showing the company to be in great shape.

On September 20th, Nintendo released its next iteration of Switch - Switch Lite - a handheld-only version of the system.

11 days after launch, the Switch Lite managed to shift 1.95 million units with a huge portion coming from one particular country.

Historically different

Japan’s history as a handheld culture points to it being the likely early adopter of the new Switch Lite but to the surprise of many, it was the US that claimed the largest amount of sales.

800,000 Switch Lites were sold in the country, more than double of the 390,000 units sold in Japan. 

This matters because while the Wii U suffered from poor numbers, the Nintendo 3DS family (2DS, New Nintendo 3DS, etcetera.) picked up the slack bringing in 75.5 million sales.

And back in Nintendo's golden age, the DS sold more than 154 million units.  

The Nintendo 3DS family of systems have sold 75.45 million units

However, now with the 3DS all but finished, it's very important that sales of Switch Lite - priced at $200 - don't cannabalise Switch sales, priced at $300. 

According to Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa that's not happening. 

“Looking at the state of this initial response, I would say Nintendo Switch Lite generating its own demand without negatively impacting sales trends for Nintendo Switch,” Furukawa told analysts.

It's very important Switch Lite sales don't cannabalise Switch sales

“In fact, sales of [the[ Nintendo Switch grew noticeably in the week following the launch of Nintendo Switch Lite”, he continued.

“That was the same week as the release of Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition and the launch of a special Dragon Quest-edition Nintendo Switch in the Japanese market.”

Pokemon looming

In the same briefing, Furukawa spoke about bringing existing 3DS franchises to Switch, all be confirming the firm’s complete focus on the system.

The biggest of these on the horizon is Pokemon Sword and Shield; 23 years on and Pokemon is as popular as ever.

You only have to look at the reported queues outside the London pop-up Pokemon Centre to see the fandom is rife. Then you have the crazy numbers behind Pokemon Go and the fact that Sword and Shield are the first mainline entries on a console in the franchise's history.

Everything is set up for Sword and Shield to win big.

The last mainline entry was Pokemon Sun and Moon in November 2016, a few months before the Switch launched. Pokemon Let’s Go Pickachu/Eevee was an interesting experiment for the franchise (still going on to sell 11 million copies).

But Sword and Shield will be the real test, not only whether the US is all in on handhelds but for Switch as a whole.

Nintendo will launch a special edition Zacian and Zamazenta Switch Lite to coincide with the release of Pokemon Sword and Shield on November 15th, 2019

Nintendo is aware of this and is already poised to release an exclusive Sword and Shield Switch Lite to capitalise from the momentum.

41 million units Switches sold to-date is impressive, but given its decision to combine console and handheld gaming into one, Nintendo needs more, a lot more. 

But, you know what, it might just make it work. 

Deputy Editor

Matthew Forde is the deputy editor at and also a member of the Pocket Gamer Podcast. You can find him on Twitter @MattForde64 talking about stats, data and everything pop culture related - particularly superheroes.