With a lot of talk still focused on the Nintendo Switch, there’s an argument – and perhaps a valid one – that Nintendo is playing it safe with the first-party line up announced thus far.
Zelda, Mario and Splatoon are of course going to be huge deals, and ARMS is the kind of new IP that Nintendo has a habit of doing each hardware iteration. But the thing that bothers me most about the Switch line up so far isn’t by what was announced – but what was conspicuous by its absence. One of the most solid arguments about Nintendo in recent years has been its reluctance to push forward with new entries into franchises which would significantly increase interest in the hardware and attract back lapsed fans as well as cultivate a more solid gaming environment for the system.
Personally, I can think of five games which Nintendo should absolutely be pitching for the Switch before the end of the first year of the Nintendo Switch. These are brands which would bolster the Switch and drive sales, which is what a company like Nintendo should want. More than that, they would give the Switch a broader appeal that would be impossible to fight against. With that said, here are the five games I’d suggest the Switch needs to push and soon.
With the recent detailing of Nintendo’s quarterly fiscal report hinting that Sun and Moon together have already shifted close to 15 million units (and that X and Y also shifted an additional million units), that Pokémon wasn’t part of the initial push for the Nintendo Switch is frankly baffling to me.
Pokémon is currently one of Nintendo’s strongest franchises and a proven system seller, driving additional millions of 3DS sales to boot. Whilst some might argue that it’s a bit early to be talking about a new Pokémon game so soon after the release of the last couplet of Sun and Moon, signs already indicate that Pokémon is indeed in the pipeline for the Switch – currently, the rumours (and leaks, thanks Gamestop!) point to a label of Pokémon Stars, which would make sense and tie into the Black/White angle of an addendum game following on from the previous titles.
It’s also fair to suggest that the increased hardware potential of the Switch would be a huge boost for the series. Sun and Moon were, in my view, pushing the 3DS to its limits and that’s arguably a good thing, but what could be possible on the Switch would be great for the series and indeed, the Switch itself. With its proven staying power and high volume of sales, Pokémon is perhaps one of the companies most deadly weapons in pushing the hardware and it might be that Nintendo is waiting for the holiday season 2017, when the early adopter market has begun to thin out a little and they need a really heavy-hitter to drive more mass adoption.
Whatever they are planning, Pokémon Switch is going to be a very big deal for a lot of people.
Another 3DS game, and it’s impossible to understate how much of a craze this was back in 2013.
One part Life Sim, one part Animal Crossing, all parts Japanese lunacy, it became a meme-worthy addition to the Nintendo stables and had very strong sales to go with it. Whilst this may not be the most “gamey” title in the Nintendo bag, the Switch is more than primed to be the kind of hardware that would build on Tomodachi Life – and its little spin-off Miitomo – with a screen-capture/video capture button built into the JoyCon allowing people to snap the most ridiculous and funny instances and doubtlessly allowing them to share them on social media and/or YouTube without much effort.
As we saw with Miitomo, the power of the Meme on the Internet is a powerful tool. Sharing screenshots, pictures and even video feed (the Tomodachi Life stage performances gave us some pretty hilarious things like a Valve E3 performance by “Gabe” which was a brilliantly well-timed joke!) gets others interested, and therefore it goes viral and attracts more people in. Tomodachi Life was a very good bit of software, but more than that it was a brilliant bit of marketing, letting those who bought the game do all the work for them and bringing in an additional audience who wanted to see what all the fuss was about. That is exactly the sort of game that Nintendo could do with; who better to market the Switch than people who are already invested into their purchase? Add in more things to do and more interesting minigames and even more outrageous jokes, Tomodachi Life could be a significant winner for Nintendo and provide some much-needed reach into a market that doesn’t typically buy games for the gameplay, but more for the fun and the experience.
That’s still an important market, and one Nintendo cannot neglect with the Switch.
One can argue the most under-utilised brand in the Nintendo stable, F-Zero has like many Nintendo brands of the past (Eternal Darkness and Wave Race to name but two) developed a cult following, to the point every time people see a futuristic racer on a Nintendo system they immediately start asking themselves if it is F-Zero, and if not, why not? It’s become a horribly predictable vicious circle for Nintendo that only continues to make things difficult for the company, and in my view there’s only one recourse left to them to tackle this; a proper new F-Zero game.
It’s not as if there isn’t good evidence that this sort of thing sells – Fast Racing Neo, on the Wii U, was a solid racing game (with flaws), and one which already is getting a new version on the Nintendo Switch. WipeOut is making a comeback on the PlayStation as well, and with Mario Kart 8 dominant (and an F-Zero track driving DLC sales) the arguments against pushing for a new F-Zero are starting to become hard to make. The genre is staging a comeback, and at the root of the genre sits a huge slice of nostalgic power squarely within the walls of Nintendo.
It’s impossible to understate how big a deal a new F-Zero would be for the company; after so long, and so much water under the bridge, seeing it rise from the ashes would be a huge signal to lapsed Nintendo gamers that the company was serious about doing things with its much-loved older IP as much as looking towards the kind of new IP we’re seeing in ARMS and Splatoon. That would be a big PR coup for the company; just as interested in reviving and celebrating its past as much as driving towards a brighter future, and it would soften up many who believe Nintendo has left them behind. It’s a pretty significant chunk of the market which Nintendo should be gently nudging back to their own shores.
All of that and, well, F-Zero was always awesome. The Big Blue track in Mario Kart 8 only serves to highlight how spectacular a full-blown F-Zero on modern hardware could be. For most, this game is a total no-brainer and it is sad we’re still waiting so patiently for this franchise. But hey, we’re still waiting for Half Life 3 so y’know… we’re patient…
ETERNAL DARKNESS: SANITY’S REQUIEM
A personal choice, granted, but I don’t make this suggestion out of my obvious love for the game but rather what it symbolises for Nintendo.
Eternal Darkness was a huge break for Nintendo back in the days of the Gamecube; a dark, gritty and contemporary horror game inspired by the literary works of H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe, it was a grown-up and adult affair quite unlike anything we’d seen from Nintendo. A game as much about challenging you mentally as it was about challenging your fingers, with a ridiculous Sanity System which whilst a bit rudimentary looking back was incredibly forward-looking, teasing and poking the player in order to get a reaction. Now considered a bit of a cult classic, Eternal Darkness was granted a trademark extension recently and my view is that this is absolutely the kind of thing Nintendo has to be serious about reviving.
Bright, bold, cutesy games like ARMS, Splatoon, Mario Odyssey and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe all showcase how vivid the new Switch screen is, and are all easily marketable, but many of us like Nintendo as much for its darker undertones as its charming fluff. Co-owning Project Zero, and funding Bayonetta 2 when no-one else would, signal that Nintendo knows that it needs to cultivate a more grown-up audience as much as a broad younger audience. Of course, Nintendo doesn’t wholly own these franchises – whereas it seems with Eternal Darkness, they do. This makes it the most ripe for a revival; signalling a genuine attempt to reach out to the gaming market and suggest it is as committed to more adult-oriented content as it is to games with a more broadly marketable demographic. That would be a strong statement for the company to make; sure, your kids can play this console. But we’re not leaving you out either, grown-ups! We can deliver you some top-notch games as well!
That’s the kind of message Nintendo needs to be cementing itself, not just hoping third-parties will make on its behalf, and I know I’d buy even an HD Remaster of the Gamecube original without a moments hesitation. An intelligent, narratively-rich horror game is going to be sorely needed on the Switch and so far I haven’t spotted any proper horror games in the updated line-up. It’s time to do something about that!
WII SWITCH SPORTS
This may be the more controversial suggestion, granted, but I’m going to stand my ground here largely due to the fact that Wii Sports was a significant and important part of what drove many to purchase a Nintendo Wii in the first place.
Wii Sports was itself quite a craze back in the day – the Wii Remotes allowed for more understandable sports-like actions, which most could logically process. Above and beyond the motion control aspect, however, Wii Sports wasn’t shallow or quite as cash-grabby at all like NintendoLand, or like 1-2-Switch! appears to be. There was a lot of depth, challenge and replayability alongside multiplayer aspects of the game. We see it now as a problem, when in truth it was a pretty significant part of the Wii’s marketing launch. It wasn’t just about shifting hardware, or the Wii Remote, but bringing it altogether and ultimately making sense in context.
The JoyCon, with enhanced technology and tracking, should be even more at home with a Switch Sports. And whilst I agree it probably shouldn’t be a launch game (for a lot of reasons), neither should we be disregarding its position as an important game for the Nintendo Switch. A lot of people like sports games and sports sims, and an enhanced line-up from the Wii U version (which was launched to little fanfare digitally) would certainly start to intrigue those who, again, simply ignored the Wii U for not appealing to them. Which was always a bad idea from the outset, alongside a number of other problems the Wii U had.
Why is this important? Well, as I said, it’s about broadening the market. Pokémon is a hugely popular series. Eternal Darkness will pull in a horror audience which it is currently lacking. F-Zero will pull in a retro, nostalgic slice of the market and Tomodachi Life would pull in a modern, Internet-wise and meme-addicted young adult market. But all pale in contrast to the sales volume of the Nintendo Wii; where many took their first tentative steps into video games, by playing Wii Sports. With 100 million unit sales, the Wii was a huge market and unlike most, I don’t think that should be ignored. Ignoring a past success is ludicrous, as it offers as poignant a series of lessons as failure does.
Switch Sports would be a signal to that old, lapsed Wii market that the company still has their back. That they’ve not been forgotten in the drive to make more Gamer-y games. That video games can still be for everyone. And here it is, on a device that you can take anywhere and everywhere you want! The Switch also ties into the Wii stylistically. The Wii was sharp, clean and modern-looking, as is the Switch. That, to me, makes it doubly important that they work on bringing back that more casual, bit-time gamer. This is far more up their street, and the technology in-the-box makes it a far more scintillating prospect for more part-time gamey people.
Nintendo needs to broaden its remit. Hence these choices – broader remit should equate to a broader, larger share of the market. The Wii was a huge success. The Switch looks like the sequel the Wii U should always have been. So now it is time to go get that old Wii market back, and Switch Sports would be a great start on that front.