It’s not shocking that Nintendo has introduced a redesign of the Swap, however it’s a little shocking that the Swap Lite has misplaced the system’s signature potential to… swap. The brand new revision is solely designed for handheld play, that means it doesn’t have removable controllers, a kickstand, or the power to be performed on a TV.

That’s simply the way in which it goes with online game consoles, although. Whereas new generations of {hardware} introduce far higher energy and performance, usually revisions throughout the identical era take sure steps backward. Whether or not the trade-offs are made to scale back prices or as a result of sure components had been deemed unimportant, over their historical past, all three present console makers have launched a number of machines that killed varied options.

The query, as ever, is how a lot these lacking options imply to you.


The NES-101.

Nintendo has been doing this ever since its first dwelling console, the NES. Launched in 1993, the NES-101 was a complete redesign of the 1985 NES with a brand new controller, a top-loading cartridge slot, and a sticker worth of simply $49.99. The {hardware} was principally the identical, however the composite video and audio outputs had been eliminated, that means that you just needed to hook it as much as your TV with an RF connection.

Nintendo adopted an analogous components for the discharge of the New-Fashion Tremendous NES in 1997. This redesigned SNES eliminated the facility LED and eject button, whereas additionally chopping again on video output choices. S-Video and RGB had been jettisoned for a composite-only port. The New-Fashion Tremendous NES additionally lacked the enlargement port that was solely ever used for the Japan-exclusive Satellaview peripheral, which let customers entry video games and different content material over satellite tv for pc broadcasts.

The Nintendo 64 got here and went with out alterations, and the GameCube by no means obtained a redesign both (except you rely the Panasonic Q, which was a Japan-only DVD participant that appeared like a toaster and had a GameCube inside). The GameCube did, nevertheless, obtain a silent revision that but once more eliminated video output capabilities. Fashions produced from 2004 onward eliminated the Digital AV part cable port, that means the system might now not use the 480p progressive scan mode in video games that supported it.


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The Wii Mini.

The Wii succeeded the GameCube and had a lot in frequent with its predecessor, together with full backwards compatibility and ports for reminiscence playing cards and controllers. That performance was deserted 5 years after launch, nevertheless, with a 2011 {hardware} revision that eliminated backwards compatibility and now not got here with the Wii’s iconic vertical stand. As a substitute, this mannequin was meant to take a seat horizontally below a TV. Nintendo went so far as to reorient the Wii brand 90 levels to drive the purpose dwelling.

The Wii Mini was a much more drastic discount. It appeared completely nothing like the unique Wii, with a red-and-black physique and a top-loading disc drive. Extra importantly, it excised all web performance in addition to backwards compatibility, that means that it actually did nothing however play bodily Wii discs. Even for $99.99, that was a tough promote in 2013.

Nintendo’s early transportable revisions, in the meantime, tended to be straight enhancements that outdated their predecessors in each means. Until, for instance, you missed the unique Sport Boy’s inexperienced display on the much-improved Sport Boy Pocket for no matter cause or the Pocket’s distinction swap on the way more highly effective Sport Boy Colour. (I truly did sort of miss that.) Even the leap to a brand new era in 2001 with the Sport Boy Advance preserved the entire Sport Boy Colour’s performance.


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The Sport Boy Advance SP.

From right here on out, although, issues get sophisticated. The Sport Boy Advance’s first revision, the SP, adopted in 2003 and was usually well-received for its clamshell design that lastly included a front-lit display. But it surely was additionally a harbinger of doom, as Nintendo determined that it wouldn’t be a giant deal to ditch the headphone jack. Should you needed to take heed to, say, the Aria of Sorrow soundtrack in affordable constancy, you’d have to purchase a dongle.

This was even much less handy again then than it’s right this moment — it’s not like Sport Boy AirPods had been ever a factor — and Nintendo reverted course with the 2005 Sport Boy Micro, a smooth redesign with a tiny, high-quality display and, sure, a headphone jack. However the Micro had a fairly large disadvantage of its personal in that it broke compatibility with your entire library of unique Sport Boy and Sport Boy Colour video games.


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The Sport Boy Advance SP’s headphone dongle.

The Nintendo DS, launched the identical 12 months, had the identical diploma of Advance-only Sport Boy compatibility. 2006’s DS Lite was a particularly simple enchancment, with a lot brighter screens and tighter design round similar internals. However the DSi in 2009 was a extra sophisticated improve proposition.

On one hand, the DSi was by far probably the most important mid-generation improve Nintendo had ever launched. It had bigger screens, a quicker processor, and extra RAM than the DS Lite, whereas including two (very dangerous) cameras, 256MB of inner storage, and the power to obtain DSiWare video games from a web-based retailer. The design was even sleeker than the DS Lite’s, and the onboard OS was way more full-featured.

Alternatively, the DSi additionally utterly severed Nintendo’s hyperlink to the Sport Boy by eliminating the secondary cartridge slot altogether. This didn’t simply have an effect on backwards compatibility. (A good variety of contemporaneous DS video games used the Sport Boy slot for equipment, just like the Rumble Pak and the Guitar Hero sequence’ uncommon Guitar Grip.) The DSi and its bigger variant, the DSi XL, had been vastly extra succesful methods, however this disadvantage meant they weren’t essentially straight replacements for the DS Lite.


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The Nintendo 2DS.

The 3DS was a completely new platform with a whole lot of new options, and it didn’t lose many over its lifespan. The 3DS XL was kind of only a bigger model, whereas the New 3DS was a mid-generation revision that improved technical capabilities and added extra controls with out taking something away. When the time did come to take one thing away, although, it was a bombshell.

The 2DS not solely appeared bizarre, nevertheless it had a reputation that gave the impression of an April Fools’ prank. A 2D model of a console that used 3D as its major promoting level? The jokes wrote themselves. However in the end, Nintendo was confirmed proper. Many high-profile titles stopped supporting 3D, and the ultimate 3DS revision — the 2DS XL — was the perfect but for anybody who didn’t care concerning the characteristic.

Sony has additionally fudged with its console’s capabilities from the earliest days of the PlayStation. Varied variations of the unique PlayStations had been issued with altered inner mechanisms and AV outputs. Essentially the most consequential was most likely the removing of the primary mannequin’s RCA jacks, which later gave it a cult following in audiophile circles. The smaller PSOne redesign in 2000 eliminated the serial port, which was used for the PlayStation’s hyperlink cable, however in any other case, it didn’t miss out on something; the little-used parallel port had already been eliminated in an earlier revision.


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Revisions of the unique Sony PlayStation.

The PlayStation 2 additionally went by way of a bunch of minor tweaks — do you know it had a FireWire port at launch? — earlier than touchdown on a extra substantial redesign. This time, nevertheless, the change was way more drastic. The 2004 “PS2 Slim,” because it got here to be known as, was an unimaginable discount in dimension, which meant that there was no room for the unique mannequin’s cumbersome 3.5-inch drive bay that housed the community adapter.

That wasn’t an issue for on-line play itself, because the PS2 Slim had an Ethernet port constructed proper into it. But it surely did imply that the console dropped assist for the PS2 Arduous Disk Drive, a 40GB drive that might velocity up load occasions in some video games and was was required for a number of — most notably Remaining Fantasy XI. The dearth of HDD compatibility additionally meant that the PS2 Slim was unable to run the PS2 model of Linux, which proved significantly much less controversial than when Sony patched it out of the PS3.

Actually, just about the whole lot concerning the preliminary PS3 mannequin was controversial. Sony famously launched the formidable system at $599, and rapidly discovered itself within the place of needing to do the whole lot it might to chop prices. Even the console launched in Europe 4 months after the US launch was much less succesful than the unique mannequin.


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The unique PlayStation 3.

At first, the PS3 achieved full hardware-based backwards compatibility with the PS2 by integrating that system’s Emotion Engine CPU and Graphics Synthesizer GPU onto the motherboard. For the European launch, the Emotion Engine was eliminated, with software program emulation choosing up some — however not all — of the slack. In consequence, the European PS3 was solely in a position to mess around 72 % of the PS2 library, and the identical was true of an 80GB mannequin launched within the US.

Issues bought worse later within the 12 months with the worldwide launch of the 40GB PS3. This mannequin offered for $399, a big worth discount that Sony was partly in a position to obtain by shrinking the Cell processor right down to a extra power-efficient and cost-efficient 60nm. However the machine was reduce in some critical methods: it misplaced two USB slots, the entire flash card readers, Tremendous Audio CD assist, and PS2 backwards compatibility in its entirety. The 40GB PS3 now not included the Graphics Synthesizer, and due to this fact utterly misplaced the power to play PS2 discs. All subsequent PS3 items, together with the 2 main slim redesigns, had been based mostly across the 40GB’s characteristic set.

Across the identical time, Sony was cranking out varied iterations of its first actual handheld console, the PlayStation Transportable. 2008’s PSP-2000 was a minor “slim” replace with a number of welcome tweaks, whereas the next 12 months’s PSP-3000 introduced a a lot better display. Neither mannequin actually eliminated something of observe from PSPs prior, nevertheless — that might are available in 2009.


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The PSP Go.

The PSP Go was probably the most radical console redesigns of all time. It was a lot smaller than different PSP fashions, with buttons hidden behind a sliding mechanism, and most controversially of all didn’t characteristic a UMD disc drive. That meant no bodily video games and no UMD films: the whole lot needed to come from the digital PlayStation Retailer. Regardless of this, Sony truly charged a considerably increased worth for the PSP Go than different PSP fashions. It didn’t catch on, unsurprisingly, and Sony began bundling it with a number of free video games. It was an experimental system that was forward of its time in some methods: it marked the primary time a console maker had tried to promote full retail video games digitally.

The ultimate PSP mannequin, nevertheless, went in utterly the wrong way. The PSP-E1000 was solely launched in Europe in 2011, and it was a less expensive price range mannequin with a mono speaker and no Wi-Fi assist. You might nonetheless obtain and switch digital video games from a PS3 for those who actually needed to, however in observe, this was a PSP centered on bodily discs.

Sony’s follow-up to the PSP, the PS Vita, solely lasted lengthy sufficient to get a single redesign, and it was an attention-grabbing proposition on the time. Virtually the whole lot about it was an enchancment: the dimensions, the load, the battery life. However the swap to a superbly good however boring LCD from the unique mannequin’s vivid OLED display meant that it felt a bit of cheaper, though the construct high quality was higher. It wasn’t actually a case of dropping a characteristic, it was extra like a subjective change that made you wistful for the times of searing psychedelic Lumines phases into your retinas.


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The revised PS Vita.

Microsoft additionally has a historical past of controversial console revisions, though it took its time to get going. The primary Xbox solely ever bought inner tweaks meant to enhance reliability and defend towards modding, though Microsoft did rapidly backtrack on its unwieldy unique controller by switching to the smaller S mannequin.

The Xbox 360 bought a smaller S mannequin in 2010, including a devoted proprietary port for the newly launched Kinect sensor together with built-in Wi-Fi and a few additional USB ports. The 360 S didn’t take away any main options, nevertheless it did make massive adjustments to the storage scenario by removing reminiscence items and Microsoft’s costly clip-on onerous drives in favor of an everyday SATA bay.

A later redesign, the 2013 Xbox 360 E, eliminated a single USB port in addition to part and S-video outputs, and was principally notable for its visible similarity to the soon-to-be-released Xbox One. General, Microsoft bought by way of the 360 era with out a lot controversy over {hardware} revisions. Its largest drawback, by far, was the malfunctioning unique mannequin.


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The Xbox 360 E.

However everyone knows what occurred with the Xbox One. Launched in 2013 with Kinect on the forefront of its UI and video games lineup, the platform flopped subsequent to the smaller, quicker, cheaper PS4.

Microsoft labored rapidly to proper the ship, tweaking the UI’s reliance on Kinect after which, in 2014, promoting variations of the Xbox One with out the sensor within the field. When it got here time to launch a redesigned model of the console, the Xbox One S didn’t even embody a Kinect port, and final 12 months, Microsoft discontinued the hard-to-find Kinect USB adapter altogether.

The Xbox One S would have been utterly unthinkable for anybody within the viewers watching Microsoft’s unique Xbox One presentation. In that mild, it’s probably the most important console revisions of all time. However by the point the S was launched, it wasn’t controversial within the slightest.

That’s partly as a result of it was in any other case an excellent replace, placing a 4K Blu-ray drive and HDR assist in a much smaller and extra enticing field. (Across the identical time, Sony launched a barely slimmer PlayStation four that eliminated the optical audio port.) But it surely’s principally as a result of few individuals, whether or not customers or builders, ever actually preferred Kinect within the first place. Microsoft’s infatuation with the know-how almost sank the platform earlier than the corporate realized it was on the improper course.


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The Xbox One S.

That’s the factor to bear in mind when evaluating merchandise just like the Nintendo Swap Lite. Important performance has been misplaced, sure, however are there many individuals who would reasonably not have had it within the first place?

Within the case of the Swap, I feel the reply is definitely sure. It’s a way more spectacular handheld than it’s a dwelling system, and its transportable nature is the explanation Nintendo has been in a position to cost $299 for such modest {hardware} by fashionable console requirements. For individuals who would solely use it in handheld mode anyway, the possibility to get a extra portable-focused system with higher battery life and save $100 will likely be very interesting.

For anybody else, nicely, they don’t have to purchase the Swap Lite. Rumor has it that Nintendo can also be engaged on a extra highly effective mannequin. Look ahead to that as a substitute.

So long as it doesn’t have something helpful eliminated.

Pictures by Evan Amos, whose public area work on online game {hardware} is an unimaginable present to the world.

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