The Nintendo Switch Turns 1: Where Do They Go From Here?

Nintendo Switch

Here we are in March of 2018 and thus marks the start of the Nintendo Switch’s second year on the market. Nintendo fans were promised so much with the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo managed to deliver on a lot of it in 2017. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey are not only two of the best Switch games, but in my opinion, they’re some of the best games period.

So how does Nintendo keep this ball rolling? I think that Nintendo can maintain its momentum throughout 2018 with new games, a more robust online implementation, and some form of Virtual Console this year. There’s definitely some work to do, but I think it’s fair to say Nintendo is off to a great start.

 

The Nintendo Switch is a sign that technology has come a long way since the early days of handheld systems. I remember sitting in the car with my Gameboy Color and thinking that it was an amazing piece of technology. I always thought it would be cool if I could play real home console games on the go. Sure, the Gameboy was great and the games definitely held my interest through long road trips, but I wanted the full experience anywhere, and anytime.

Here we are in the future and the Nintendo Switch has accomplished just that. Playing a game like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the go is still surreal to me. Nintendo loves to create hardware that sets itself apart from the likes of Sony and Microsoft. To focus on an idea that is new and innovative. Sometimes it doesn’t work (RIP Wii U), but when it does you can bet everyone will have one in their living room; or in this case in their backpack as well.

Year 1 Analysis

It goes without saying that Nintendo had an extremely successful first year on the market. As of January 2018, Business Insider reported 15 million Nintendo Switch units sold, surpassing the number of Wii U’s sold throughout its entire lifecycle. The library of games has shaped out to be one of the best in Nintendo’s history. All of this spells success for the Switch.

But with that success comes speculation. Can Nintendo carry on at this rate? The Switch shows no signs of slowing down as of yet, but there’s a lot of work to be done in 2018 to carry on.

Nintendo typically likes to launch a new console with one of their big flagship franchises. The Super Nintendo had Super Mario World, the N64 had Super Mario 64, the Wii had Twilight Princess, and the Wii U had New Super Mario Bros U. The Switch launched with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and it was a hit. The rest of the Switch’s launch lineup wasn’t particularly spectacular, mostly ports and small digestible proofs of concept, but that major release kept people busy with literally hundreds of hours of content.

It helped get the ball rolling, but the momentum picked up. Nintendo fans were lucky enough to get some great third party titles in Skyrim, the 2016 reboot of DOOM, NBA 2K18, FIFA ‘18 and many of the great indie titles we’ve seen have success on other platforms like Shovel Knight, Night in the Woods, and Enter the Gungeon. Nintendo also kept the pace up with a steady drip feed of releases from their larger franchises. Releases like Splatoon 2, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Pokken Tournament DX and Super Mario Odyssey. All of which happened within a month of one another. The message was clear: Nintendo had a lot of faith in the Switch.

Breath of the Wild

One of the other reasons I think the Switch had such immediate success was that the hardware really worked as advertised. It was marketed as a seamless switch between home console and handheld device and Nintendo really delivered on this promise. The closest thing to competition, the PlayStation Vita, attempted to deliver home console experiences on the go, but it was nowhere near as elegant or accessible. Seeing this in advertisements is enticing but holding the hardware in your hands and experiencing the system for yourself is what really sold people. I have several friends that played my Switch at launch and immediately went to get their hands on one themselves.

There was a lot going for the Switch in its first year. It was new, innovative and incredibly fun to play. Better yet, it was packed with varied and interesting games people wanted to play.

Nintendo is adding more in the peripherals department with Nintendo Labo launching in April, and after the most recent Nintendo Direct, I can honestly say that we have a ton to look forward to. One year is a long time though, so let’s have a look at what we could possibly have in store for year two.

Hardware Revisions

Nintendo managed to take ideas from many of their gaming consoles over the years and implement them into the Nintendo Switch. This has resulted in a truly interesting piece of gaming hardware. For some it’s used as a home console or a handheld exclusively, and for the rest, a combination of both.

So, in 2018 some people may wonder if Nintendo will consider a hardware revision. Will they release a Switch Pro? We’re not quite there yet. The President of Nintendo, Tatsumi Kimishima has discussed that they’re not necessarily focusing on new hardware just yet, stating,

“Up until now, the hardware lifecycle has trended at around five or six years, but it would be very interesting if we could prolong that life cycle, and I think you should be looking forward to that,”

Nintendo loves to release many different versions of their most successful hardware lines so I think it’s a safe bet that we will see something new in the future. As long as they remember the mistakes made during the various different flavors of Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS. In fact, the latest peripherals for the Switch, the cardboard packages of Nintendo Labo set to drop on April 20th, is a fantastic example of how much mileage this console can have with the right amount of creativity.

In terms of smaller hardware revisions, I personally wouldn’t mind some more joy cons, preferably one with a D-Pad, and possibly some different colors. I love swapping my joy cons out every now and then, but that’s all I see happening in terms of hardware changes this year. Nintendo loves peripherals so I think we could potentially see many more of them following the launch of Labo.

Unanswered Questions

The Nintendo Switch reveal trailer was great. It gave us a good look at the system and what Nintendo was trying to do with it. The trailer managed to communicate the Switch’s functionality in an efficient way and showed us how the system is intended to be used. Reggie Fils Aime showed off Breath of the Wild on Jimmy Fallon’s show leading up to launch and gave everyone a more in-depth look at what the Switch was. The marketing was great and I think that this definitely helped it sell well out of the gate, but there are a few things that Switch owners need as we approach year two.

Despite its success, the online infrastructure is a bit of a mess right now. The online chat, doubly so. The app they provided at the launch of Splatoon 2 had some great features like stat tracking, and gear shops with exclusive content, but that content was only available for the squid kid shooter.

It feels like a grand missed opportunity to not bring this to other games. If I could buy outfits in Mario Odyssey or check my stats in Breath of the Wild with this app, I would definitely use it more. I know a lot of players love tracking their stats so this would be a great addition.

The next big question is Virtual Console. I’m not alone in wanting to play old classics again on this machine. The fact that isn’t available now is maddening. It also doesn’t help that Nintendo has been quiet on this front. I expect some answers around this soon, and we will likely get those answers when the time comes.

Also, Nintendo bring back Street Pass.

Games

So, what games do we have to look forward to in 2018? So far, we haven’t had much in terms of huge first party titles. The latest Nintendo Direct has everybody on the Nintendo hype train and with good reason. Kirby Star Allies is coming March 16th and looks very promising for Kirby fans, but doesn’t exactly compare to Breath of the Wild.  It’s completely fair to wonder where the big Nintendo titles are in their development cycle. But concerning how Nintendo kept things going last year, by the end of this year we will be happy with the games we were able to play.

So now some wild speculation. Specifically, about the new Smash Bros for Switch. When this was first revealed at the Direct I thought for sure this would be a port but after digging a bit further, I am completely convinced that this is an all new installment.

First of all, Sakurai has come out and said he is working on the game . “Right now we’re just at the stage where we revealed this game, but I’ve been working on this game in silence day after day,” Sakurai tweeted. This is according to a translation from fan site SourceGaming. If this was a port then why would so much effort be put into development?

Next on my list is that when Nintendo has announced ports in the past for the Switch (Mario Kart 8, Pokken Tournament DX, Bayonetta 1 and 2, etc.), they have come right out and said that it was a port. Smash Bros Switch is labeled as a working title. This leads me to believe that it is more of a new game than a port. I’m sure we’ll get more details leading to E3.

Metroid Prime 4 was announced at E3 last year and while I think everyone is expecting more information around this one, it most likely won’t be coming out this year. As for the new installment of Pokemon, that is most likely set to drop this holiday season. It’s one of Nintendo’s beloved franchises, and an announcement at E3 is all but guaranteed to net them some additional sales.

The Nintendo Switch’s success has me hopeful for its future. There’s still a lot to come for the Switch in its second year and it’s still early. I fully expect to get some great games throughout the year and the system will truly find its footing. All to get a firm grip on the attention of players that are holding out for the big Nintendo franchise that’s right for them. I am someone who loves my Switch and I look forward to looking back and being proven right (or wrong) in the months to come.

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