Nintendo’s Switch presentation two weeks ago revealed information on the new system, but the most important part was the announcement of launch and first-year software. The recurring conclusion I’ve been seeing is that many think that the Switch’s 2017 line-up is a pretty mixed bag. If you happen to be thinking along those lines, perhaps this piece will change your mind. The Switch’s 2017 line-up isn’t the best console launch/launch-window selection we have ever seen, but it’s not really that bad when you look at it rationally.
Before we get into the Switch’s launch selection, let’s take a look back at its predecessor, the Wii U. The Switch has about six confirmed retail titles for its launch day, whereas the Wii U had 23 (in North America). That’s quite the contrast! Among the Wii U’s selection, there were a number of major third-party titles like: Assassin’s Creed 3, Batman: Arkham City, CoD: Black Ops 2, FIFA 13, Madden 13 and Mass Effect 3. The same cannot be said for the Switch, which has the majority of its confirmed major third-party titles coming much later this year. It’s also fair to note that there are not yet many major third-party franchises announced to be coming to the Switch this year, unlike the Wii U and its aforementioned launch selection. Does this paint a truly bad picture for the new system? Not really.
While it is true that early Wii U adopters had a plethora of games to choose from, one must take into account that not all of these games were a high level of quality. Many ports, such as Madden and FIFA, were watered-down compared to versions found on the older PS3/360. Games like Batman, CoD and Mass Effect were enhanced to make use of the Wii U’s higher power and unique Gamepad features, but players weren’t swayed to buy them on Nintendo’s system when they already bought them on PS3, 360 or PC months before. As a result, many of these early third-party games sold pretty badly on Wii U. We all know what happened next.
Once third-party developers and publishers saw the weak sales of their games on the Wii U, combined with low hardware sales, many of them decided to pull the plug within the system’s first year. Meanwhile, Nintendo itself struggled to communicate the message behind the Wii U to the masses and also struggled to provide heavy-hitters from its first-party studios in a timely manner that would help sell hardware units. Really, one of the biggest blunders Nintendo made with the Wii U from the beginning was that the momentum from launch eventually crashed and didn’t return until much later into the console’s life. Specifically, the majority of the system’s first year was bone-dry due to unexpected delays of major titles (remember the Rayman Legends fiasco?). That won’t be the case with the Switch.
Unlike the Wii U, the Switch’s first-year is filled with true system-sellers.
In the absence of a number of big third-party games, Nintendo is obviously working very hard to have its first-party sellers ready for the Switch’s launch and beyond. The Wii U’s strongest launch game was New Super Mario Bros. U, but the Switch will be relying on Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This sheer contrast in quality and the levels of hype between the two games is quite obvious. Without a doubt, the Switch will be launching on a high note. The only other system to launch with a totally new Zelda game was the Wii, which got Twilight Princess. Considering the fact that there was more demand for the hardware than Nintendo could keep up with for roughly two years, let’s hope the Switch also sells like hotcakes.
Breath of the Wild is Nintendo’s biggest, and most ambitious game to date, not to mention that it’s been a little over five years since the last main console Zelda game, Skyward Sword, was released. With that said, it’s no wonder why BoTW has attracted so much attention, and also why it’s the poster child for the Switch. Nintendo is pretty much leaving it up to Zelda to carry the system through its launch month. The Wii U’s momentum pretty much died down after the first two months, which ended up leading to a very long drought period due to the lack of major games until Fall of 2013. On top of that, the Wii U didn’t fully hit its stride until two years after launch, with the release of Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. While both those games sold well, they only dramatically increased hardware sales for a few short weeks. This is why the Switch’s launch line-up is actually really promising.
Unlike the Wii U, Nintendo has big games coming to the system all within just a few months after it launches. BoTW will carry the system on its own for a while, but it won’t be alone. Just a few weeks after the Switch launches, we’ll be getting another heavy-hitter in the form of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Considering that it originally sold over 8 million units on Wii U, it should come as no surprise that Nintendo is re-releasing it so early on the Switch. Next up we have Splatoon 2, which is coming to the Switch sometime in the summer. The original sold over 4 million copies on Wii U, so this sequel is bound to have a lot of attention. Finally, we have Super Mario Odyssey wrapping up the Switch’s first year with a holiday release. Do you see the pattern here? Nintendo is making sure the Switch’s initial momentum only continues to grow.
The Switch’s first-year line-up is remarkably strong. Nintendo has really thought this through.
While it’s true that the Switch’s launch-day isn’t anything to brag about in terms of quantity, it does have quality on its side. The Switch is launching with Nintendo’s biggest title to date, and then there are major games sprinkled throughout the remaining months, which will then help keep the momentum going. Nintendo could have gone ahead and released Zelda and Super Mario Odyssey at launch, but I can see what the company is doing.
Ultimately, the Wii U’s first-year doesn’t even hold a tiny candle to that of the Switch. This system won’t have to wait for its major games, since it’s launching with a system seller, and getting more as the weeks go on. You may remember what Nintendo did back in 2013, where it released a special Nintendo Direct in January of that year. There, a lot of major games were announced like Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Yoshi’s Woolly World, Breath of the Wild and Wind Waker HD. This was great news, but little did we know that the majority of these titles would be coming out years later. Nintendo has learned its lesson.
The positioning of the Switch’s major launch/launch-window titles will no doubt keep sales rolling throughout the year. Nintendo has a strong game at launch, a strong game coming right after, a strong game for the summer, and a strong game for the holiday season. And remember, these are just the first-party offerings. While not a lot of AAA third-party titles have been shown off yet, we do know that there over 80 third-party titles in development for the system. Seeing that we still have E3 to look forward to, perhaps there are a number of good surprises in store.
So really, don’t fret over the Switch’s seemingly “empty” release calendar. There are truly major titles on the horizon, but even more exciting than that is that the list keeps growing. It’s been two weeks since the presentation, and yet announcements are still being made—like the recent confirmation of LEGO Worlds. Perhaps a lot of studios are simply holding their cards to their chest until we get closer to the system’s launch in a few weeks. Nevertheless, the Switch is poised to sell well throughout the year with its line-up of hit games. Time will ultimately tell how well the system performs, but the factors are in place for it to be successful.