Watch: The Best and Worst-Case Scenarios for the Nintendo Switch

I wrote this for my live show (every Friday at 3pm pacific) but I think it works incredibly well here. The video above contains all the text for the best-case scenario for the Nintendo Switch.

I wanted to take a metered approach to the question, “What’s the best/worst that could happen with the Nintendo Switch?” There’s a lot of hyperbole on either side, but it’s usually candy-coated dreams or apocalyptic ramblings. So I wanted to approach as a realist and see just what we can expect from the Switch.

The dream scenario that could actually happen

first video game

This a realistic look at what the Nintendo Switch could be, not a pie in the sky hyperbole filled idea. These things could happen and have precedent with what Nintendo has done in the past, from facts and history.

With virtual console, they early on start having themed months. A Mario month with Mario 1 and 2 one week. The next week would be Super Mario World and Super Mario Land, etc. Then Mario Kart and a selection of sports games and maybe even Mario Party. This would be perfect for the month preceding Super Mario Odyssey. They can have a Kirby month and do the same thing. And repeat for Zelda, Pokemon, Metroid, etc.

Imagine each month for a year that focuses on a single mascot. Think of the year of Luigi but it’s a month filled with classic games for each and every beloved Nintendo character.

And the best part about all this: they’ve already made the vast majority of these games available on virtual console. Throughout this year of mascots, there would also be great third party virtual console games released. With a slower than many may want list of game releases in 2017, hammering hard on virtual console would more than make up for it and show they mean business. And the best part is, like I’ve said, they have these games on virtual console already. I know it isn’t as simple as dragging and dropping the game, but many if not all of these were on Wii, 3DS and Wii U. They can do it again and really blow people away with their stellar back catalog by releasing a veritable torrent of nostalgia on the gaming masses.

This doesn’t even mention the rumored GameCube virtual console support. However, since this is supposed to be a realistic look at what could happen in the best possible scenario, I must mention it but note that it is still a dream until an official announcement.

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Obviously, that’s only one piece of the puzzle. The game lineup is light but does feature Zelda at launch and 1-2-Switch, which some people actually like. They’ve also done a fantastic job of having a major release every month or so with Arms, Mario Kart 8, Splatoon 2, and then Super Mario Odyssey later out in the fall. It’s a great start but there are a few nagging questions about missing franchises we know will be found on the Nintendo Switch.

Big first party exclusives is how this device will live or die and they have one opportunity to begin to make things right: E3. They won’t outright kill the 3DS at E3 but it will make a strong downward turn — with most of the titles being for the Switch or cross platform on both. And the most important part will be that the last big Nintendo exclusive for the 3DS will release in early 2018 and we’ll know it’s coming before that. It makes sense to hedge their bets and keep the 3DS around in the short term, but in the long term, it becomes an obstacle to making the most games on a single platform.

2017 releases will be light but E3 will start to show that 2018 and beyond will become a Nintendo fan’s dream. This is all speculation but it’s not without thought. The following games are all but sure things, for the most part, with a few looking forward with maximum positivity, because this is the dream scenario after all.

Kirby: Planet Robobot

Let’s start with a new Kirby game for early 2018 on 3DS and Switch, then Retro Studio’s new game in summer 2018 (and it isn’t Metroid Prime), and a virtual console version of the Metroid Prime Trilogy in summer for the fall new Metroid game. Couple this with a early spring Super Smash Bros. on Switch with new content, stages, characters, and everything from both Wii U and 3DS versions of the game. Super Mario Maker Switch will come out will new items to use and the ability to play all previously created stages, as well as new themes to create with. Additionally, the new Pikmin game, which has been done for years, will release sometime in 2018. The year will also feature a Fire Emblem and a new Animal Crossing, although the later might just be the final 3DS/Switch cross platform game.

That’s a strong line up and it isn’t crazy. Most of it is already known and expected with some of the series having taken a large break from the previous release, particularly Animal Crossing. I also didn’t even mention Pokemon Stars which could even be this year.

Going into 2019, Star Fox is back, a new New Super Mario, F-Zero, etc. and let’s not forget the 3DS is over so the new Monster Hunter hits the Switch and addicts a whole new group of people. By this time Dragon Quest on Switch will have come out as well as Shin Megami Tensei in, likely, 2019.

There’s no point in going any further into the future for this road map, but it is incredible and, like I’ve been saying, not out of the realm of possibility. They have it in their power to do all of this. It’s the same amount of games they released during the 3DS/Wii U time frame.

Nintendo Switch

The portability and the realization of virtual console’s potential will enrapture the hardcore and the press and seep into the mainstream pretty quickly– especially with titles like Arms, and Splatoon 2. Nintendo’s toe dip into the waters of mobile with Mario, Fire Emblem, and Animal Crossing will also help bring more people to the Switch. The online service won’t become a Netflix for Nintendo where you can pay a single monthly price and get everything, but there will be discounts; especially for previous owners of the games, on Wii U and 3DS only though.

With the popularity of the Nintendo Switch will come more third party support but the games won’t be the same as their Xbox One and PlayStation 4 counterparts, but most people won’t care because they can play these games anywhere.

This success opens Nintendo up to a future console/handheld hybrid or perhaps a scenario where the consumer could buy only the home portion or only the portable portion. But I see them keeping it as one unit for as long as possible. After all, they will have successfully combined their two gaming spaces to create something for old fans, new fans, and even dissenters. Because at the end of the day, people don’t care if Skyrim is 6 years old or looks better on PS4 Pro, they can play it on the bus, on an airplane, literally anywhere. And the promise of console games on the go has never truly be met by the 3DS or the Vita but with the Switch, it will be.

The future could look very bright for Nintendo and the Switch, so long as they nail E3 and, within a year, respectfully kill the 3DS. Otherwise, a storm could be on the horizon…

The failure scenario that actually could happen

With a light launch lineup, a bizarre reveal, and a well paced but questionable list of exclusives for the rest of  2017, the Nintendo Switch could be headed for a lot of trouble. And don’t forget about third parties which are currently not showing much love for the device.

Say what you will about Zombiu but at least it was an exclusive from a third party and a AA type of experience. Looking at the launch, the Switch doesn’t have anything like that. The next possible thing would be Octopath Traveller and Shin Megami Tensei, both of which are super niche and clearly aren’t aiming to be what Zombiu wanted to be. They also aren’t launch titles. And no, Bomberman R isn’t in the same league as Zombiu.

There is clearly little faith in what Nintendo is doing, or developers weren’t given much time to get to work, otherwise there would have been a lot more to talk about.

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I think it’s obvious the Switch will sell out initially, but I don’t see it staying that way for long. The $300 price tag and lack of exclusives, unless you’re a Zelda fan, will allow many people to wait. But people who bought the device will have a cool new game every month to check out, whether it’s Zelda, or Splatoon 2, or Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. These titles are also the same that didn’t move units for the Wii U, so it stands to reason they could have little influence on the Switch as well.

Very little is known about the fall games for Nintendo Switch and almost nothing is known for 2018. Nintendo is playing the future really close to the chest while also explicitly stating the 3DS isn’t over. They are hedging their bets. This can be seen in a new Fire Emblem game for 3DS and in Fire Emblem Warriors coming to Switch and new 3DS.

And why should they abandon a successful handheld? Well, because too much support for it will create the same ‘splitting of efforts’ that made a lot of people feel the Wii U didn’t have many games. The expectation of a portable/console hybrid was to unify all of Nintendo’s development so they can just focus on one device. Over supporting, continuing to support or, even worse, releasing a 3DS successor will kill the Switch. There’s absolutely no reason to keep both running together towards the goal line. They don’t want people to think they can keep their 3DS and not miss anything from the Switch. And here starts the doomsday.

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With a sparse but good list of games in 2017 for the Switch, Nintendo continues to release several 3DS games, such as the spin-off Pikmin. We’ll know which route they’ve chosen at E3 when the number of games for each device is revealed and discussed. A lot of people have 3DS’s and continuing to show too much support, while nice, will lead people to not want to switch to Switch. If E3 doesn’t reveal that many Switch games, even if they are actually in development, consumer confidence with the taste-making hardcore will drop lower. Even with Mario in the fall, a dark outlook could already be cast on the device. 4 big titles a year isn’t enough when the gaming public expects more. This dim outlook affects 3rd parties as well.

There’s also the awkward and strange aspects of the online functionality but that won’t sink the ship. Virtual console will though.

With the Wii U and 3DS, Nintendo has shown they don’t quite understand what they have on their hands. They have dozens and dozens of some of the best games ever made but between buying them all again and again or flat out not releasing them on all devices or in a timely manner, they’re clueless at best. Seriously, if the Nintendo Switch doesn’t launch with or have upcoming release dates for most if not all of these: Super Metroid, Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda, LoZ: A Link to the Past, LoZ: Ocarina of Time, Super Mario 64, etc., we’ll know they’re dropping the ball again. And I expect them to do just that. I understand overwhelming gamers with 300 games on launch day is a bad idea, but giving nostalgic gamers a roadmap of what to expect and when would go a long ways. It would also help ease the gap between new exclusive games.

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Between Splatoon 2 and Super Mario Odyssey, what is there? Well there could be a weekly release of virtual console games people would love to have with them at home or on the go. But they won’t do that. In the doomsday scenario, we’ll have to buy everything all over again, and releases will be random, sporadic, and arbitrary, just as they’ve always been. Seriously, Pokemon Snap just came out on Wii U. Why now? Why at all at this point?

Also, their online service, regardless of the price, could do some incredible things besides 2 free games a month, disappearing or not. But it won’t.

For years, people have wanted Nintendo to make the Netflix of games by opening up the Nintendo vault for a nominal monthly fee and letting people go nuts. The amount of money to be made with that is large, but they won’t do that either, not even close. They’ll do what they’ve always done.

And maybe release a SNES classic.

By early 2018, we’ll already see the decline, with 3DS unfathomably getting more games, and Switch having 4 big ones planned out for the year, just like 2017. But Nintendo isn’t stupid, they’ll see this and begin to do what they should have done all along, unite the two fronts, but it will be too late.

nintendo switch promotional photos

Cross platform new 3DS/Switch games will be the norm and people will like them but not see enough reason to switch to Switch. By the time of the 3DS’s swan song in late 2018, the Switch will have been out for over a year and have seen only one or two major exclusive releases in 2018 up to that point. The union will work though and create a stronger device, but the damage will already have been done. The Xbox One is still recovering from its disastrous “tv tv tv” reveal, and the Switch is likely to suffer a similar fate.

Even in this dark timeline, the Nintendo Switch will have a successor, one that is also a hybrid device and maybe that time they’ll have virtual console, online, and a solid games lineup in a row, because once you change to a single pillar that does both, you can’t really change back. Or can you? Nintendo is nothing if not unpredictable. If this is the worst it realistically could get for the Switch, this will be just like the Wii U, albeit with a better ending and a brighter look towards the future. Hopefully we don’t have to go down this path though.

Well that’s it, let me know how wrong I am in the comments below!

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