2017 has been a renaissance year for Nintendo. Gaming’s oldest purveyor of joy came back from a despair-ridden several years with an innovative and irresistible new console, a consistent set of game releases, and two of the most refreshing games in years. Nintendo has loads of momentum going into the Switch’s second calendar year, but the big question right now is can Nintendo translate that inertia into another stellar twelve months? Here are some things they can do to keep the ball rolling.
The most obvious and possibly the biggest announcement Nintendo could make would be the return of the Virtual Console platform. Available on both the Wii and Wii U, the Virtual Console allowed gamers to purchase classic games from the original NES all the way through the Nintendo 64. Nintendo has a massive back catalog of fantastic retro games that many Switch owners will never have played. Having access to games like Super Metroid or Super Mario 64 anywhere at any time via the Switch would make it possible for new generations to discover classic parts of gaming history while softening the blow from any dry release seasons.
The absence of the Virtual Console marketplace was one of the biggest surprises and disappointments of the Switch’s launch. For this reason, rumblings about it have never truly stopped. There are rumors that a new version could support GameCube titles and there is the tempting suggestion that it should switch to a subscription-service model rather than be a marketplace for games. However it makes its way to the new console, just please Nintendo, let me play Ocarina of Time and Chrono Trigger on my Switch.
Nintendo has announced that a paid online service will hit the Switch in due time, likely in the Fall of 2018. Robust online services are practically a necessity in the modern console space, yet the Switch launched with bare functionality and no media services until Hulu became the console’s first streaming app this past November. Furthermore, Nintendo’s track record with anything internet related is spotty at best. Poor matchmaking net code, unintuitive friends lists, lack of voice chat support, these are just some of the difficulties Nintendo must demonstrate they’ve moved beyond while providing ubiquitous streaming channels.
It’s still unclear what gamers will be paying for with this paid service. We know online multiplayer will be one of the paid-for features, but hopefully, this extra paywall comes with something more than features that we currently have free access to. Nintendo needs to show gamers why we should be excited about this new system and the sooner they do that the better.
Keep up the Games
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the Switch’s first year on the market was packed with fantastic games. While there are many questions to ask regarding Nintendo’s plans in 2018, there is perhaps none more pressing than what games will be coming out. We already know about first-party titles like Yoshi and Kirby Star Allies and third-party ports like Wolfenstein II: the New Colossus, but very few have firm release dates and even fewer have the potential to mount excitement like Zelda or Mario. Granted, we know that Pokemon Switch and Metroid Prime 4 are in development, but those are likely to be released in 2019. Fire Emblem Switch should be a big game in 2018 (if you aren’t excited about it already then you should be!), but other than that we don’t know what games will be bearing the torch to keep gamers engaged until the potentially earth-shattering events of a new Metroid Prime and the first true console Pokemon. This leaves space for surprise hits and deep cuts to emerge as the forerunners this year which is both nerve-wracking and exciting.
Every time Nintendo releases a new console there are some games that are guaranteed to crop up. Four of the biggest are Mario, Zelda, Mario Kart, and Smash. We’ve already seen entries from the first three, but where’s everyone’s favorite party-fighting game and, most importantly, what shape will it take? Will the next Smash Bros. take the route of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and repackage the Wii U entry with all DLC characters and stages, or will it be a completely new game? I believe that if the next title is a revisit of Smash 4, then we won’t see a fresh Smash Bros. developed for the Switch (I’m not expecting a ninth Mario Kart game to hit the console either).
It still feels a little early to hear about a brand new Smash game. The gaps between previous releases have been six or seven years and the most recent entry still feels like a recent release. Given the timing, we’re most likely to see Smash 4. Deluxe hit the Switch soon. It would make a lot of sense to put out a re-release that shouldn’t require much focused development time this coming year. Smash will always generate tons of excitement and if 2018 is on the lighter side of new releases then a repackaged Smash 4 could be a significant presence this coming year. Either way, Smash is a basic necessity on any Nintendo console and it shouldn’ be too much longer until we learn more from this sleeping giant.
These are the details we’re most anxious to learn more about from Nintendo in the coming months. It’s unlikely that we’ll see all of these addressed or that they’ll be presented in exactly the ways we think they will be. Nintendo likes to be an unpredictable company after all and that unpredictability is exactly what put them in this position: poised to dominate the gaming landscape once again.