Happy Birthday Nintendo Switch
Two years ago today Nintendo launched their latest console. One that would see the merging of their home console and handheld divisions, the Nintendo Switch. Since its launch the Switch has gone on to be a run away success. Selling more than 32 million units worldwide and giving access to countless beloved games both commercially and critically.
The Switch’s goal was clear from the start, allow players to take console quality games on the go with a seemless transition. In its initial launch trailer we got our first look at The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2. All of these have gone on to sell incredibly well and in the case of Breath of the Wild, be a generational defining game not only for the Switch but for open world games as a whole.
This debut trailer also demonstrated to everyone the versatility the Nintendo Switch has. Not only can the Switch be used as a traditional console it can removed from its dock to be used as a handheld and even positioned on its own as a portable unit and played in tabletop mode.
Many people questioned just how practical this versatility would be in real world settings however it was immediately obvious once the Switch released that these weren’t empty marketing promises, these were play styles that would be naturally adopted when using the system.
Hardware alone can only carry a console so far though. In order to be considered a success it needs high quality games and this might be the Switch’s biggest strength.
Launching alongside The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the Nintendo Switch possibly had the greatest launch title of all time. Breath of the Wild not only breathed new life into the open world genre but it is one of the highest rated games of all time and picked up 2017’s Game of the Year Award as proof of its quality. Throughout its opening months we also had releases of several other high-profile Nintendo titles. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was a port of the Wii U game and is arguably one of the best Mario Kart games ever. Arms was a brand new fighting game IP for Nintendo which saw you take control of excentric fighters with extendable and customisable arms. Splatoon 2 was the follow-up to the hit Wii U title and still has a huge and lively community active today, providing Nintendo with their own ‘game as a service’. These all led up to Nintendo’s second big hitter of the Switch’s launch year, Super Mario Odyssey. Odyssey was the latest 3D Mario to release and was so well received it sits alongside Breath of the Wild as the Switch’s highest rated game on Metacritic at 97.
These fantastic first party titles alongside great third-party titles such as Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, Doom, Rocket League, Minecraft and Skyrim helped push the Switch and Nintendo back into the mainstream spotlight and drove incredible year one sales.
Moving into its second year Nintendo had the great problem of trying to push on and continue the momentum of the Switch without their tent pole titles of Mario and Zelda. The first half of the Switch’s second year definitely struggled to wow people in the same way that the previous year did however it did a solid job of providing fans with first party games of various quality and design.
Wii U ports of Captain Toad Treasure Tracker, Hyrule Warriors and the criminally underrated Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze all saw a rerelease on Switch and were supported well by the community. We got a new Kirby game in Star Allies and a new entry of Mario sports games with Mario Tennis Aces. Nintendo also showed their quirky side with the announcement and release of Nintendo Labo. These DIY cardboard constructions combined arts and crafts with the brilliant technology found in the Switch’s Joy Con controllers to create a playable piano, a fishing experience and a backpack robot experience.
This kind of ingenuity is something that has long helped Nintendo stand out from PlayStation and Xbox in the console market however now it’s not what they have to rely on. This creative thinking is complimented brilliantly by more traditional games of the highest quality.
It was the second half on the Switch’s second year where the big hitters were released though.
In October we got Super Mario Party, a new take on the classic party game. It’s packed full of fantastic mini games and is the ‘go to game’ to play with a group of friends. November saw the release of Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu! and Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee! These modern takes on Pokémon Yellow, one of the first Pokémon games, see’s you return to Kanto beautifully reimagined and with new catching mechanics. December was arguably the biggest month for Nintendo Switch with the release of Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Ultimate saw every fighter from the series return in one game for over 70 characters. Rocketing to huge sales and a Metacritic score of 93, Super Smash Bros Ultimate was undoubtably the highlight game for the Switch’s second year. January saw yet another Wii U port, this time it was the brilliant New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe. This modern take on the classic 2D Mario formula has fun, well crafted worlds and up to four player multiplayer included too. February gave us a new Nintendo Direct which outlined some game that we could expect in the coming year as well as the announcement and release of Tetris 99. The best-selling game of all game got the battle royale treatment in an exclusive for Nintendo Switch Online subscribers and it has delighted and challenged players since its launch.
The second year of Nintendo Switch also had significant support from third-party developers. Starlink Battle for Atlas, Diablo III Eternal Collection, Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Wolfenstein 2 The New Colossus and Fortnite all came to the Switch. Fortnite also brought cross-platform play with it allowing Switch players to play against players on other platforms to see who gets theat coveted victory royale.
Outside of Nintendo’s main franchises the Switch’s biggest strength has been its ever growing indie game library. In its two-year life span the Switch has become the go to place for indie games with countless incredible games having releases including Celeste, Dead Cells, Overcooked, Hollow Knight, Undertale, Stardew Valley, Shovel Knight, The Messenger and Into the Breach. It has been these high quality indie games as well as many others that have helped bulk up the Switch’s release schedule especially due to the system not being able to support some more of the more intensive third-party games that have had releases on other consoles.
Speaking of third-party games this unfortunately still remains one of the biggest draw backs for the Switch. Many major third-party games have come to the Switch however due to the limited processing power compared to the PS4 and Xbox One many games just aren’t possible on the tablet like Switch. Games such as Red Dead Redemption 2, Destiny 2, Assassins Creed Odyssey, Anthem, Monster Hunter World and Call of Duty are all yet to make an appearance on Nintendo’s system. While I think that third-party support for the Switch will continue to grown over the coming years, as of now it is lacking parity with PS4 and Xbox in the AAA market. Part of the reason many of these games haven’t made the jump to the Switch is due to the online connectivity. Although not unusable it is nowhere near as capable as other consoles and in many ways doesn’t meet expectations in 2019. Online features has been a weak point for Nintendo for many years now and although I do think that they will commit more resources to developing it further, it just isn’t a core focus for them when their biggest titles are selling incredibly well with limited to no online features.
With the Switch now entering its third year it is now a question of what’s next? Having sold 32.27 million units (as of December 31 2018) the Switch is on track to be a powerhouse in terms of sales especially if it continues in the same vein, something I would expect given the titles yet to release on the Switch. Nintendo has already confirmed several high-profile games for the Switch’s third year. Yoshi’s Crafted World releases in a few weeks and Super Mario Maker 2 is set for a June release. Fire Emblem Three Houses will release in July, Astral Chain is set for August and Marvel Ultimate Alliance which is a Nintendo Switch exclusive has a summer release window. Beyond these Nintendo still has Animal Crossing, Luigi’s Mansion 3 and the remake of Link’s Awakening all set for 2019 as well as arguably their biggest titles, the newly announced Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield. These will be the next generations of Pokémon games and the first new core titles on a home console. With the Let’s Go games selling upwards of 10 million units in less than two months these are set to be huge success for Nintendo and likely amongst some of the highest selling games this year. Keep in mind too that all of these games have been announced already and we haven’t reached E3 yet which is where traditionally many more games, both first and third-party, get revealed.
With the Switch entering its third year the question of if this hybrid console can be a success has been well and truly answered. The question now is just how far can Nintendo push the Switch and compete against the more powerful PlayStation and Xbox, especially with both those companies expected to reveal their next generation hardware by the end of 2020. There have been rumours circulating of a revised Switch console too and it isn’t uncommon for Nintendo to iterate on their hardware, the 3DS line saw several new models providing technical improvements as well as different form factors.
After two years it is clear though that Nintendo has created a fantastic console and now has the world at their feet with how they move forward. All that is left to say for now is thank you Nintendo and happy birthday Nintendo Switch.