It is time to look forward to the future of Nintendo Switch and what it has to offer. Can they maintain the momentum that they’ve gathered throughout 2017? If so, what do they need to do moving forward in order to make sure the Switch remains the media darling it currently is?
There is no arguing that Nintendo Switch is a massive success, by basically any measure of success that Nintendo set forth. It is the fastest selling console in US history and has already surpassed the Wii U sales in just one year. Every site I read, every podcast I listen to, regardless of what console it is focused on, inevitably seems to talk about the Switch. It has broken through the barrier that typically surrounds fanboy nonsense, and pretty much everyone agrees it is fantastic hardware. It also doesn’t hurt that Nintendo had a year of amazing games in 2017, with two top Game of the Year contenders on the system. So the question is, where do they go from here?
I’m worried that there isn’t a way that Nintendo can maintain the momentum that they started last year. Though there certainly is no shame in not maintaining a meteoric rise, the problem comes with brand new and returning fans to the Nintendo brand. Fans that maybe weren’t around for the Wii, Wii U, and 3DS life cycles and don’t know how they operate. I however, follow them very closely, and I’m worried that they are going to lose fans quickly when they can’t keep up the insane pace they have maintained thus far. Realistic expectations vs. established history of the Switch isn’t going to go in their favor, with the beginning of this year being a clear example. People are already becoming dissatisfied now that they haven’t had a smash hit exclusive filling every month, and people are grumbling about ports.
So what does the Switch need to do to continue its success?
Find a Way to Manage Expectations
Nintendo had to have the year they did in 2017, because they were making up for a terrible reputation they had garnered from Wii and Wii U when it comes to hardcore gamers. This might blowback on them this year though, as they had so many games ready to go for last year that it kept us busy on our Switch consoles, but I believe that is because they dropped the Wii U early to focus on these games. Video games take quite a while to develop, with most triple A titles taking three to four years minimum to make it to release. I think you are seeing clear repercussions from that early in 2018, with the only real release of note thus far being ports of Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2. For fans of Nintendo we understand what to expect release wise, but for the new converts they won’t have been exposed to this. As far as they are concerned this is Nintendo’s norm.
What Nintendo needs to do is get out in front of this and lay out their year now, similar to what they did last year. I don’t think they can avoid disappointing some people as fast as the Switch has risen to a fever pitch, but perhaps they can manage expectations.
Keep a Balance Between Old and New Fans
As a hardcore Nintendo fan I’m currently feeling a little left in the cold. I get that they need to port some of the Wii U games over, because they worked hard on them and can’t have them languishing on the under performing Wii U. While I do understand that business wise, for those of us who have played every exclusive the Wii U has to offer, this leaves their lineup of new games light this year. Unfortunately, I think this what we are going to see for the most part throughout 2018. Nintendo has to take time to develop new games, but since they’ve released everything they’ve had in the tank, now they have to buy some time by releasing ports.
I think where it becomes further muddied is how overpriced some of these ports are. You can go out now and buy Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze for twenty dollars in the US for the Wii U. However, just including one character that is essentially an easy mode, they are charging the full sixty of a new game for the port to Switch. While this might be fine for someone who doesn’t want to buy a Wii U, and hasn’t experienced this magnificent game, but for someone like me I see no reason to double dip. Not everything needs to be made for me, and I accept that, but it also leaves huge gaps in their release calendar for people who’ve already experienced those games.
Nintendo needs to do a better job of adding additional content to the ports that makes it worth the price, like they did for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, or they need to lower the price of these ports so that hardcore fans are more likely to double dip. While we might have some surprises coming this year, I would strongly doubt playing the new Metroid Prime or Pokemon on your Switch this year. The only other new exclusives we know about are a Fire Emblem game we haven’t seen hide nor hair of, and Yoshi and Kirby games that, while fun, aren’t going to light the gaming world on fire. Sure, we have Mario Tennis to look forward to, but none of these are blockbuster exclusives.
Luckily Nintendo took a huge step in the right direction with their Direct last night. While it did have a bunch of ports it also announced a single player campaign addition to Splatoon 2, and the megaton drop of a Smash brothers game. At this time it isn’t clear if it is an enhanced deluxe edition or a brand new game, but for Smash alone I don’t think it matters one way or the other. This is the huge exclusive they needed this year, and undoubtedly what their E3 will rotate around this year.
Fix Glaring Problems With the System
Some of these are just embarrassing considering it is 2018. The fact that you can’t back up your saves or move them from system to system, especially when all Nintendo’s competitors allow online save backups, is just terrible. Recently even Brian Altano, a prominent voice in gaming journalism, was affected when he sent in his system for repair for a non-related issue and ended up losing all his saves. This needs to be fixed, and it needs to be fixed immediately.
Nintendo has always been terrible at online, but I think even those of us who expected poorly done online weren’t prepared for the awful integration we’ve seen. I was worried for it the instant they said that it wasn’t through the system itself, and the mobile app release didn’t do anything to assuage fears. Playing together in Splatoon 2 is an absolute disaster currently, and far behind what either Sony or Microsoft are doing. The fact that they’ve gotten it so wrong when they have such clear examples is baffling, but they need to fix it before they ask us to start paying for it later this year.
Keep Up Relationships with Nindies and Third Parties
I think the most surprising success of the Switch has been that third parties have started showing up. Even though for the most part they are bringing older experiences to the console, many of these might not have been played by Nintendo fans, or were lost in the shuffle of a million games releasing. Giving the Switch gamers more to play while also revitalizing an old IP is a fantastic idea, as long as they keep prices in check. It is an ongoing problem that we’ve seen across the board, these are simply more expensive on the Switch. Yes, they are portable, but Doom coming out for a full sixty when it is available everywhere else for twenty is a bit ridiculous.
More importantly than ports we need collaborations on the Switch that are designed from the ground up new for the system, like the highest selling third-party game: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. These experiences are what the Switch really needs, and seeing Nintendo’s new attitude on working with developers and lending their IP, I think the future is bright.
Nintendo has made a lot of smart moves with the Switch, but the smartest by far is embracing the indie developers the way they have. The company started this with the Wii U and had begun making inroads, but here in 2018 we’ve seen a fully realized version. Since most of these games aren’t reliant on graphics, there is not a reason to buy them on anything but Switch when considering portability. This gives them a huge edge on their competitors when it comes to these games, and provides indie developers with real impetus to develop for the system. If they can maintain this pace then the Switch will continue its reputation as the place to play indies across all platforms.
Ultimately some of this may seem negative, but I think it is important to point out where Nintendo is taking missteps. I love my Switch and play it on a constant basis, it goes with me to work every day. I hadn’t played Bayonetta before, so I’m loving the combo I purchased recently, and it was well priced: you can get both games for sixty or buy them individually for the same price you can buy the Wii U versions new. I’m looking forward to playing Kirby with my kids, and can’t wait to see what E3 holds. After the newest direct I’m extremely excited to play Smash on my Switch, and to revisit the oft overlooked campaign of Splatoon 2.
If Nintendo can repair some of the bigger technical issues the Switch faces, manage expectations of the new comers to the brand, keep improving relationships with other developers, and provide hardcore fans new experiences (or at least ports at reasonable prices); then I can see the system repeating its stellar year from 2017.
Are you happy with the Switch? What do you think they need to do in order to remain successful going forward? Let us know in the comments below.
Thanks for following us through our week of Switch coverage in celebration of the one year anniversary of the system. You can read about my experience at launch here, all the wonderful retail games I’ve played here, and all the eShop games I’ve enjoyed on it here.