The Nintendo Switch generation has an issue that is slowly becoming more apparent. Some of Nintendo’s first-party games are launching without enough content to justify their asking price. Mario Golf: Super Rush is the latest example, but there are plenty more to choose from. Games like Super Mario Party, Arms, Mario Tennis Aces, and Kirby Star Allies have all been put under the microscope by fans for the same reasons. While all these titles nail their fundamental gameplay, there is a notable lack of modes, length, and reasons to want to come back. When compared to previous entries in these franchises, it becomes even clearer. So why are some Nintendo games launching as “content-incomplete” on Switch, especially when games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate show that it can be done right?
Looking at the pattern
When comparing the games of past Nintendo systems to those of the Switch, it’s hard not to feel a little short-changed at times. The most recent offender, Mario Golf: Super Rush, can be directly compared to the previous entry on Nintendo 3DS, Mario Golf: World Tour. Suffice to say, the 3DS game has blatantly more content. Mario Tennis Aces and Kirby Star Allies also come up short when placed alongside past iterations in their respective series.
As the standout example, Super Mario Party launched with a meager four boards and a limited selection of modes compared to previous outings. Fans were disappointed but hoped that Nintendo would supplement the game through additional updates to add new boards and modes. However, aside from the long overdue addition of online multiplayer functionality, nothing came. Instead, a brand new entry is on the way in the form of Mario Party Superstars. In an era where games can evolve and improve with a consistent roadmap of updates, it seems like a bizarre choice for Nintendo to almost immediately abandon a Mario Party title after release in favor of releasing another iteration only a few short years later.
This pattern doesn’t stop with established franchises either. New IPs such as Arms were also scrutinized for a lack of content at launch, and it received an unfavorable comparison to the feature-packed Splatoon 2 in the same year. There seems to be little rhyme or reason as to which games Nintendo will release in a “content-incomplete” state, but it should also be noted that this is the exception rather than the norm.
The exceptions show that this can be done better
Most of this sounds like doom and gloom, but thankfully, it’s far from the entire story. Splatoon 2 not only launched with a plethora of single-player and multiplayer offerings, but also provided a consistent string of events and a story expansion to boot. Titles like Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate were jam-packed with replayability from the start. Multiple full-length stories turned Fire Emblem: Three Houses into a game for players to sink hundreds of hours into, while the absolutely absurd roster of fighters, stages, modes, and music in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is unrivaled. Few would argue against the value for the money these Switch games offer.
Nintendo has even demonstrated the ability to update its games with new content over time. Splatoon 2 received a regular cadence of new weapons, maps, and cosmetics. Super Mario Maker 2 had fantastic additions such as a playable Link and world creator mode, while Animal Crossing: New Horizons has hosted numerous seasonal events that brought tons of new customization options to players. When contrasting some of Nintendo’s more content-incomplete games with examples like these, it seems unfathomable that they came from the same platform holder and adds to the frustration. Sure, updates for Mario Golf: Super Rush have been promised, but this wouldn’t have felt as important if the game were feature-rich to begin with. So, why is this happening?
It’s impossible to know for sure why certain Nintendo games are launching in a content-lacking state, but we have a few ideas. There’s a chance that the COVID-19 pandemic could have influenced the development of games like Mario Golf: Super Rush, but knowing Nintendo’s stance on delaying games until they are ready, this seems unlikely. Nintendo could also be letting its teams operate with greater flexibility or varying budgets that might affect the scope of what they want to create. However, for better or worse, this also remains speculation.
Could the difference in content between Nintendo games come down to priority? It’s a cynical take that I hope isn’t true, but Nintendo could be releasing games like Camelot’s Mario Golf: Super Rush in a content-light state because they’ll be profitable regardless. Games like this would also be scrutinized less than tent pole releases like a new mainline Legend of Zelda game. Likewise, despite its lack of content, Super Mario Party sold over 14 million copies, and now Nintendo and NDcube are set to release Mario Party Superstars to hopefully do it again. Nintendo knows that a new entry would be a more profitable use of development time than DLC would be, and it would explain the relatively short time between the two releases.
Aside from financial considerations, I would speculate that creativity is another explanation. We know that Nintendo was bursting with DLC ideas for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild that it diverted directly into development for the sequel. Perhaps there is a chance that the same process has been happening behind the scenes for other big-hitting Nintendo games. But of course, Breath of the Wild came feature-rich in the first place; these other aforementioned games have not.
Why do you think some of Nintendo’s games have launched lacking content?