Nintendo's cheaper, smaller new Switch Lite is designed for portability — and seems to target the same audience as the 3DS, the company's dedicated handheld system.
The announcement comes as Nintendo's 3DS business has been shrinking and as it focuses its attention on the Switch.
The 3DS isn't officially dead: Nintendo has said that it plans to continue supporting the platform.
But the launch of a dedicated handheld Switch suggests the company's portable game efforts could be focused on the Switch, not the 3DS, moving forward.
For as long as Nintendo has existed, its portable and home consoles have always remained two separate entities. Then the Switch's launch in 2017 changed everything — blending, for the first time, the company's handheld and TV-based platforms.
That called into question what the Switch's rise would mean for the future of the 3DS, the handheld gaming line of devices Nintendo launched in 2011. The relevance of the 3DS line is even more uncertain now that Nintendo has released a less expensive new Switch, designed specifically for portability, called the Switch Lite, which it plans to release in September.
Unlike the original Switch, the $200 Switch Lite only operates in handheld mode. It doesn't work with Nintendo's dock for connecting games to your television, and also doesn't include a kickstand for propping up the tablet and playing games in tabletop mode. The controllers don't disconnect from the screen either, as is the case with the standard Switch, and it's also smaller than its more expensive sibling — making it easier to stow on the go.
In other words, it's seemingly designed for exactly the same purpose as the 3DS, potentially marking a larger shift 3DS towards Nintendo's newer Switch platform.
The Switch Lite's launch also comes as the company's 3DS business has been dwindling. According to its most recent earnings report, Nintendo's 3DS family of devices generated 63 billion yen, a decrease of 67% from the period before as Bloomberg noted. Now that Nintendo is releasing a cheaper, smaller new Switch that will likely target some of its 3DS fan base, it seems unlikely that 3DS revenue will rebound anytime soon.
The 3Ds was also absent from Nintendo's presence at the E3 video game conference in June, and it doesn't sound like any new first-party games are in development for the platform.
It makes sense that Nintendo would dedicate more resources to the Switch family, especially now that it's moving key franchises like Pokémon, that have long made their first home on its portable consoles, over to the Switch exclusively.
Doing so simplifies Nintendo's offerings, bringing both portable and big-screened games under the same umbrella. It could be a compelling option for those thinking about upgrading the aging 3DS device they may have purchased back in 2014.
But despite slowing sales and an increased focus on the Switch, Nintendo doesn't have any plans to stop selling the 3DS anytime soon.
"The Nintendo 3Ds family of systems will continue to be sold as long as there's a demand," a Nintendo spokesperson told Business Insider. "We've seen that consumers enjoy having a range of options, depending on the age of the player and the budget of the buyer."
Although Nintendo appears to be prioritizing new games and hardware for the Switch, there are still several benefits that come with the 3DS family. For one, they're typically cheaper than the Switch, even the new $200 Switch Lite. The Nintendo 2DS, for example, costs $80, giving parents a cheap handheld option to purchase for their kids that's less than half of the price of the new Switch.
And since the 3DS has been around for nearly a decade, there are still plenty of games available for the system even if Nintendo doesn't launch any new ones. The firm also launched a new 2DS XL as recently as 2017, which is cheaper than the Switch Lite at $150, proving that it intends to remain invested in the DS line at some capacity.
The 3DS may not be officially dead. But with a new Switch console launching soon that's even more portable and supports high-profile games like "Super Mario Odyssey," "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild," and upcoming titles like "Pokémon Sword" and Pokémon Shield," it's unclear for how much longer that will remain true.