I’m seeing something a bit weird, leading into the second year of the Switch. The Nintendo rumor mill is out of control right now, with all kinds of nonsense coming out of the woodwork, but of course you never know what will end up being true until the announcements come. What I’ve been seeing that has grabbed my attention is a lot of talk about a redesign for the Switch’s hardware. The GBA SP, DS Lite, and so on and so forth. It doesn’t seem unreasonable on paper of course, as Nintendo handhelds have been subject to redesigns for generations. But for the Switch, already? Let’s pump the breaks.
It’s hard to tell where the rumors are coming from. But the chatter is out there. Content creators (Tim Gettys of Kinda Funny for example) are talking about it too, giving the discussion more fuel. Some rumblings suggest a new dev kit model has been making rounds. Nobody has said anything about what this rumored redesign actually is, but there sure is plenty of speculation and wishful thinking.
What would a Switch redesign even be? The thing is so deliberate. The Joy-Cons snap on just so, and most of the rest of the unit is the screen. There’s very little real estate otherwise; the thing is super thin and light, and the SD card slot is even tucked away under the little kickstand. The Switch is already a conservative piece of hardware, making a sleeker version hard to imagine. This is especially true due to the very nature of the Switch.
Usually, a redesign is a response to an issue with the hardware. The original DS was too chunky and the backlight sucked, hence the DS Lite. The DSi was an attempt to add more Internet capability. With the 3DS, the major complaint was the handheld was just too small, especially the screen. Then it was too big and fragile for kids, plus the 3D wasn’t kid-friendly either, hence the 2DS. Finally, the New 3DS addressed power issues and the whole circle pad thing. All of these redesigns had a core purpose, or at least pretty vital gimmicks.
What’s really there to do with the Switch? The screen is a good size, and if you want a bigger screen, you plug it into the dock. It has a full controller with the normal range of buttons, and the USB C port is as current as you can get. From a design standpoint, I can’t think of a hole in dire need of filling. It has a quality screen, a standard controller, a storage solution, and the dock. Some have suggested a portable-only Switch with the controls as part of the body, but that’s super antithetical to what the Switch does. There’s little, nitpicky issues, such as the flimsiness of the stand, the awkward position of the USB C port, how awkward the little wrist band gimmicks can be.
It's certainly possible; Nintendo is known to do weird, unpredictable stuff. Just look at Labo. But also, look at Labo. That thing’s going to be a big deal, and it built for the Switch’s current form factor. And the Switch is selling super well, and I shouldn’t need to remind everyone how bad the parts shortage for consumer electronics has been and will likely continue to be. There just isn’t a need for a redesign at this point. The components will cheapen over time, and certainly a sturdier, less expensive SKU will happen further down the line, but I doubt we’ll be seeing a Switch XL or Switch Lite in 2018.