… And Nintendo. Making Sense. WHAT?!

 


It’s a bit later than my gripes about Sony and Microsoft but thankfully, after what is unquestionably a night that has defined 2019 for me already, it’s time to discuss Nintendo.

Before I get to the praise – let’s be crystal clear. Nintendo is not perfect and neither is the Nintendo Switch. I still think not having a Voice Chat built into the Switch is a dumb idea. The Switch eShop is in desperate, dire need of an overhaul already. And I’m STILL salty over not having a built-in Ethernet port in the Switch Dock. Seriously, those things are so damn cheap that it takes more effort to NOT have one. But that being said… surely nVidia knew that already. So the blame there can be shared.

Oh, and the Nintendo Classics selection needs SNES games. Like, soon. I think I get not having N64 or higher as the file sizes might start to take up too much space, but again, I think just quickly downloading desired titles and then just checking in every week or so could work out there. NES titles are so small to be insignificant in terms of space, after all.

So no. Nintendo isn’t perfect. (If they were, we’d have Eternal Darkness HD already! HINT HINT REGGIE!)

Having got that out of the way – by the end of The Game Awards 2018, I was under absolutely no illusions that 2019 is going to belong to Nintendo and the Nintendo Switch. Right now, Microsoft is too busy planning for the “Scarlett” and Sony is… actually has anyone checked to see if Sony is breathing today? I’m actually genuinely worried.

Still – I don’t think the Switch even has much competition lined up in 2019. The only game which might even come close to hurting it a bit is Resident Evil 2 Remake, and that’s coming next month – early enough in the year that the sting could be well and truly gone by the end of it.

So what the hell is going on here?

Part of the positivity is coming from Nintendo finally overhauling its public image, whilst its competitors go to great lengths to damage their own. Nintendo has dropped its Creator’s Program, a much-disliked YouTube Ad Sharing System, whilst other companies leverage for more control over who shows what. Nintendo is also going against “censorship” in mature-rated content, leading to an increasing influx of Anime/Hentai games. Also DOA Extreme Beach Volleyball 3 is coming to Switch. Uncensored.

I’m old enough to remember when Nintendo demanded the blood in the original Mortal Kombat be green to avoid being seen as “gory”. Sure, they fixed it for the sequel but the damage was done. So seeing all of this on the Switch as an adult – a big older adult – does at times give me whiplash.

Say what you will though about the quality control; everything is trying to be on the Switch right now, and with Smash Ultimate still having four DLC characters – I’m guessing there’s a scramble from many, many third parties to get their characters into the game. Smash Ultimate is going to sell truckloads (heck, it already has) and with that many people wanting the full roster, getting a cut of those profits… that’s a lot of money.

That’s business for you. Easy money? Gotta have a bit of that!

But this overhaul, coupled to the sales push of this Holiday season (I think I read reports that Nintendo’s 20 million estimate probably wasn’t that far off for this year), led to what I saw as last nights crowning glory – Switch versions of some of the most anticipated games.

Crash Team Racing? Coming to the Switch – meaning the platform will have THREE of the best kart-racing games ever made.

Mortal Kombat 11? Coming to the Switch. Explains why X wasn’t ported I guess – why bother when the sequel is already on the way?

Dauntless? Coming to the Switch, which is good. I played a little on the PC a while back. It’s got potential to hurt Monster Hunter.

Stranger Things 3? Yup, it’s got a pixel-art game coming, and it’s coming to the Switch. I… don’t watch it. But I know many are hyped.

Persona 5? Still heavily rumoured, though with Joker being in Smash Ultimate, I’m guessing that’s as good as certain now.

… and this is before we get to Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3. Not only is it coming to the Switch – it’s a Switch Exclusive, and even more than that, Nintendo is publishing the game. Nintendo is publishing a Marvel game. Never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever think I’d see the day that this would be even remotely possible. If I were Sony with the Spiderman license, I’d be super worried riiight… aboooout… well, now, actually.

All of this is lined up for 2019. Alongside Metroid Prime 4, Animal Crossing, new-gen Pokémon, Fire Emblem, Shin Megami Tensei 5, all the Final Fantasy games that matter, Bayonetta 3, Tales of Vesperia, Yokai Watch 4, a new Samurai Warriors… and so much more besides. 2019 looks like it’s going to be one of the most densely-packed release years Nintendo has ever borne witness to, even beating many of its Wii days. Oh yes, Resident Evil games are coming to Switch. If you care. Which I do.

… so what changed for the industry to start paying attention to Nintendo again?

Well, truth be told… I’ve said it before on this blog but let me reiterate more clearly; Gen-9 is going to be a minor headache for the industry. 4K Gen-9 consoles will be costly. Many believe these will be closer to $600 a machine, though I think Sony and Microsoft will have to take a hit on those costs (even if at $600 they already are). And that’s before 4K games, with a suspected RRP increase, and the cost of a 4K Television for those who don’t already have one.

Rather like Gen-7 (the “last gen” as I write this), HD wasn’t widely in use when it arrived. It took until 2010 until HDTV was the default setting in the majority of households. That gave Nintendo a staggering four years to sew up that generation with the Wii – and hell, looking back, I think the Wii wasn’t all that. Lots of wasted potential. The slow shift towards HDTV gave the old CRTV-driven Nintendo Wii a huge market that otherwise it probably wouldn’t have had.

The Switch is arguably a stronger console than the Wii ever could have hoped to be. And the industry is, essentially, about to give Nintendo the same advantage they gifted to it back with the Wii.

With so much nervousness about Gen-9, of course the Switch looks like an option. A safer, and increasingly so, option for them to fall back on. If Gen-9 takes a while, smaller or more profit-driven titles are going to be funnelled into the Switch.

And that sounds like a bad thing… and it could be, if this was the Wii and everyone just sat around pushing party games all the time. But with Panic Button setting the standard with ports of DOOM and Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus (which get better all the time as they continue to improve their work, take note wider games industry!), I think it’s clear that the Switch isn’t going to have that problem.

But it could still get tangentially tangled up in the third-party car crash if it isn’t careful. Just putting any old crap on the Switch doesn’t fly – ask 2K Games how that went with WWE 2K18.

So yeah, Nintendo is benefiting even more from the state of the market and the industry. What’s that about leaving luck to heaven, Reggie?

With Microsoft looking forward and Sony… seriously, Sony is still breathing, right? Good. Phew. With Sony looking… quite poorly, actually, with a 4K Generation and all the headache-inducing costs that will bring, with third parties having made an absolute mess of their main franchises on the PS4 in the last few years and with a degree of uncertainty about money and costs, it’s truly remarkable that right there… in the middle… is Nintendo. A shining beacon on a small patch of green land.

That’s not to say that Nintendo can’t screw all this up – hoo boy, there are a thousand ways that could happen and none of them pretty I can assure you – because every company can screw things up. And Nintendo does have a terrible habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of an absolutely savage victory…

Compared to everything else, however, the Nintendo Switch just looks like the obvious, common-sense destination. Games for kids, games for grown-ups, games coming out of every conceivable hole and orifice (eww). A handheld-hybrid machine that’s affordable, generous with its content and bursting with enough content to make your eyes water. You don’t need to upgrade your TV, there’s no VR nonsense to worry about or anything like that.

It’s just a games console. A simple, clever idea, executed well and Nintendo is doing its damnedest right now to make sure the message remains simple – “Oh dear, look, we’re dropping all of these awesome games. Won’t someone please help us?” (as it shows a bit of knicker action –  some people like that sort of thing…)

… and again, I remind you. Nintendo didn’t lift a finger to be in this position. Sure, the Switch is clever and all. But to leave the market wide open and in a place where this looks like a fantastic deal and an ideal compromise?

That’s on Sony and Microsoft. And I foresee some very, very embarrassing shareholder meetings in 2019 as a result.

Now, seriously… Reggie. Real talk. Exactly which demon did you make a pact with for all of this? I’m… asking. For a friend. Obviously.

Ahem.

No seriously, I want to know.

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