Nintendo’s odyssey part 2- the Switch launch and beyond.

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It has been something of a roller coaster ride for Nintendo in the first half of 2017. With the awkward and formal reveal presentation in Tokyo held on January 23rd (you can read more detailed impressions here) , accompanied by a two day public event showcasing a number of launch and upcoming titles, their new console, named the Switch has steadily become the object of desire in the console space. With (cynics would call typical) scarcity on store shelves, first party (and system selling) games periodically spaced between launch and the end of 2017, and a seismic shift in corporate philosophy regarding indies and third party relationships, Nintendo are really stepping up their game, learning from their mistakes and showing the public and the industry that their legacy and relevance are as strong as ever.
While the quality of the games have never really been in question, looking back a few years reveals that the recent rise of Nintendo has come off the back of a tough time, both commercially and emotionally. The muddled and tepid reveal and subsequent launch of the Wii u in 2013 kept the big N on the ropes for the best part of three years, while the 3ds had a similarly rough first few months (before a significant price drop and ‘ambassador program’ before gaining traction. The ‘3ds family’, with the imminent release of the ‘new 2DS XL’ has gone on to sell over 65 million units worldwide but the Wii U was left, for the most part, to defend for itself. In the Autumn and winter of its life, a disappointingly dexterous and disorienting star fox coupled with the age old promise of the next home console Zelda game for sustenance, it was to be upstaged by the (uncharacteristically early) mentions of the new kid on the block, codenamed NX. Sleeker, (almost detrimentally) smaller and seemingly righting the wrongs, Nintendo announced the long speculated Nintendo Switch in October 2016. After January, Nintendo steered clear of stage shows and continued with the ‘direct’ approach, limiting or even outright snubbing the grandour of big events such as tokyo game show (for at least a decade) in favour of more bite sized news releases. With an announcement to release window of less than six months, Nintendo launched the Switch and The Legend of Zelda, Breath of the Wild (review here) on March 3rd 2017. Despite the fact that it had been promised on Wii U for around four years, the exploration in BOTW and the portability of the Switch complimented each other perfectly. More than a 100% attach rate at launch and all time high aggregate scores got the Switch off to a phenomenal start. Concerns about battery life, virtual console and AAA party support continue on in their own echo chambers, but Nintendo has been exceptional at playing to its consoles strengths, releasing co op puzzle game and indie exclusive Snipperclips (review here) and a deluxe version edition of the crown jewel in the Wii Us library Mario Kart 8 (review here) by the end of its second month on the market.
While Nintendo have been unpredictable with their public demos in the past, since January they have gone all out at events and in more random locations to promote the switch and get it in people’s hands. They arrived at this years bitsummit, an indie game event held in its native Kyoto, not with a point to prove, but more a ode to the statement of intent to embrace smaller developers that could really bolster the depth and variety of titles for the new system early in its life. Not only were the titles on display for the Switch a sign that Nintendo are indeed making the console attractive to more and more within the industry, but games like ‘World of Goo’ and Overcooked’ are great examples of how easy and fun local multiplayer is, while Korean based Drool’s rhythm violence game ‘Thumper’ demonstrates that games previously on VR can also work well on Switch.
Fast forward mere weeks to arguably the years most significant event in terms of mainstream exposure. While the industry never really sleeps in these internet and social media obsessed days, E3 is the one event that attracts more media (and this year, consumer) attention. With early adopters becoming concerned over the lack of titles past 2017, and due to the periodic (and ever imminent) Nintendo directs, pressure was not off the system or the company per se, some would argue to the contrary, but there is always a sense of excitement when E3 starts. With the recent announcement of Death squared’s release date (July) and mega hit Rocket league due to release this holiday, Nintendo itself used E3 to at least declare that two iconic franchises (that couldn’t be more different, or more differently treated over the last 20 years) were indeed coming to Switch (hopefully) in 2018, and would be the fully fledged AAA titles fans were so desperately yearning for.
Hyperbole aside, the reveal of the fourth instalment in the ‘Metroid Prime’ series (if only by name and logo at this point) will bring the more mature, first person iteration of Metroid to the die hard Nintendo fans pining for since Corruption (and trilogy rerelease) on the Wii (which, truth be told, didn’t have any core games to maintain interest after Super Mario Galaxy 2). The other being touted as the first core RPG Pokemon game on a home console, if only by a technicality. Pokemon games have found their home and audience on Nintendo’s handheld systems, and they continue to sell by the millions.
The 3DS family seems to be getting one final push before either its successor is revealed, or Nintendo follow the way of their software infrastructure and double down on the Nintendo Switch’s (comparatively) higher horse power and portability. If Nintendo either make a cheaper ‘switch mini’ (conceptualised here) for younger players, or indeed succeed the 3DS in some way, Pokemon (and monster hunter, at least in Japan), will be front and centre.
So, now the summer is upon us for both the Nintendo Switch and 3DS. The recently released new IP ARMS will hope to adopt the fan base from the last new franchise (and fellow summer title) Splatoon 2 in July, In August, Japan gets Monster Hunter, while the west gets an intriguing collaboration with UBISOFT in the shape of turn based strategy title ‘Mario and Rabbids Kingdom Battle’, and closing out the year will be a ‘handheld focused’ versions of FIFA 18, NBA 2K18, last gen mega RPG ‘Skyrim’, vehicular sports phenomenon ‘Rocket League’, Monolith Softs follow up to the Wii Us Xenoblade Chronicles X, and E3s crown jewel in an otherwise ‘incremental update’ of an event- the wonderful ‘Super Mario Odyssey’. Right now, I’m reluctant to find out any more about the title, for fear of spoiling the many many surprises the game will have come it’s surprisingly earlier than expected release date of October 27th.
Already, Nintendo is pulling out a lot of stops to get their new system into pole position after a few false starts and emergency repairs over the last few years. The absence of the long rumoured and expected port of smash brothers notwithstanding (and in my opinion, is not even required at the moment, given that a new Nintendo fighting IP AND a release of Pokken tournament, coupled with street fighter are already in the catalogue), the Switch will have a top quality trio of the company’s very best properties within its first nine months on the market. As long as the supply can meet demand, beyond 2017 will be bright, bold and spectacular. 

1 comments on “ Nintendo’s odyssey part 2- the Switch launch and beyond.”

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