The State of Nintendo in 2017
Looking back over the past year, it's clear that Nintendo did a bang-up job with the release of the Switch. Not only does the new system embody a concept many of us never knew we always wanted, but its impressive marketing and already vast game library show a newfangled side of Nintendo that's wholly dissimilar to what we're used to with the Wii U.
That being said, nobody has a flawless year. The faults in their stars may be few and far between, but it leaves us wondering how Nintendo will fare heading into 2018.
Can they keep up their momentum heading into the new year? Let's jump in!
Nintendo Hit a Home Run with the Switch
No matter how you slice it, the Nintendo Switch has had an incredible first year, though it probably wouldn't have done as well if everything wasn't so masterfully executed. They kicked it off with strong, comprehensive marketing, even if the showcase in January failed to meet fan expectations. Alongside the system, they launched the critically acclaimed The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and even trickled strong first-party titles into the expanding library nearly every month after that. The launch in March actually turned out so successful that stock shortages became an issue right out of the gate, though to their credit, they did manage to remedy the problem later in the year.
The Design is Clearly and Concisely Marketed
The Wii U's marketing was muddled, and it shows. Just like the 3DS before it, people thought it was a similar console to the Wii. Some even thought that the GamePad was simply an add-on. A few of those who got excited about the system mistakenly believed the GamePad could be taken with you outside of the house, only to be rudely awakened to its limitations when they finally got one in their hands. (I would know -- I was one of those suckers.)
So to see Nintendo pull a 180 and reveal the Switch in such a straightforward and comprehensive manner is both baffling and delightful. From the reveal late last year, there was no mistaking the concept. It shouted to the world, "I'm a sleek hybrid home console, and you can take me anywhere!" They even cleverly showed off the functionality of the Joy-Cons without directly mentioning them.
And people are clearly impressed, even after nine months. I walk into GameStop, and what is the TV talking about? The Switch. I peruse the comments of a popular new game announcement, and what console are people already begging for it to be ported to? The Switch. And for good reason.
The console may not be as powerful as others in the current generation, but I don't think anybody expected it to be. That's not really the appeal. What catches people hook, line, and sinker is that you can take this console out with you and enjoy it while you ride the subway, or play a game or two with some friends before going home and docking it to enjoy the same library of games on the big screen. Literally nothing else on the market offers that right now, and with its design so clearly conveyed, it's no wonder everyone is clamoring for it.
A Stunning Line-Up of First-party Titles
The Nintendo Switch would be nothing more than a novelty, however, if it didn't have the games to support it. It may not have launched with as many games as the Wii U, but the games it did get were great, and the library quickly expanded from there, with several strong indies and many big-ticket first-party titles releasing over the course of the year.
They kicked it off with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which earned dozens of perfect scores across the board (with our very own David Fisher singing high praise for it as well). While, yes, this game is also available on the Wii U, it's a multi-faceted gem that gave the Switch's library the polish it needed to get off its feet.
Over a month later, in late April, the Switch saw the release of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which was basically a remake of the Wii U version with a proper Battle Mode thrown in. Again, nothing entirely new, but it certainly added value to the system, and fans of the series were satisfied with the tweaks and changes made since the last entry.
Then June rolled around, and we saw the release of a brand new first-party IP called ARMS. While at a glance it almost seemed like a tech demo for the Joy-Con's motion controls, it turned out to be a really exciting and competent fighting game for the system, fleshing out the library all the more. Splatoon 2 then released in July, bringing the critically acclaimed and colorful shooter to the modern system with a number of improvements and balance tweaks.
When September hit, we got Pokken Tournament DX, which was a remake of the Wii U Pokemon fighting game with extra fighters and game modes (and was something that I coincidentally enjoyed quite a lot). While it may not be as unique as ARMS, it's still got Pokemon and is a welcome addition to the library.
In October, we got two major game releases, one arguably more groundbreaking than the other. First, we saw Fire Emblem Warriors hit the system, filling in the gap of an action-packed hack-and-slash strategy game. Then the world was graced with Super Mario Odyssey, the first proper 3D Mario game since Galaxy 2 released over seven years ago. The critics went absolutely wild for this one, too, giving it just about as many perfect scores as Breath of the Wild, praising it for good level design and the creative new Cappy mechanic (and I agreed).
Finally, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 launched at the beginning of December, and it finally fills the void of a vast and engrossing RPG that Switch owners can pour hundreds of hours into. Every single first-party release for the Switch this year has been phenomenal, but that's not even all that's pushing it off store shelves.
The Switch has some incredible third-party and indie support compared to the Wii U, and the console's home and portable hybrid nature seems to breathe brand new life into a lot of old titles. We got solid indie releases like Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition, SteamWorld Dig 2, and the widely adored Stardew Valley. Later in the year, we even got ports of great AAA games like Doom and Skyrim.
On top of all that, some indies and third party developers took the time to work closely with Nintendo and release some incredible exclusive titles for the new platform. Ubisoft's Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle wound up with a solid 85 on OpenCritic, while indie releases like Golf Story quickly became cult favorites among Switch owners.
It's clear that Nintendo put a lot of effort into not only clearly presenting the Switch's hybrid concept but also fleshing out its library of games with strong first-party, third-party, and indie titles. This all led to another particularly nasty problem, however.
The Switch Stock Shortage
When the Nintendo Switch went up for pre-order at the beginning of the year, it sold out in a flash. If you missed your opportunity, your only chance of getting one was to arrive at the store early the day before launch and stake it out until midnight in hopes of getting one of the few they left aside for walk-ins. (This is actually how I came to acquire my Switch.)
Whenever more became available, those also sold out in the blink of an eye. All over the internet, stories popped up about the crazy antics different people had to go through to actually track down a Switch. People would chase the news of more Switches in stock like it was the Gold Rush.
Nintendo quickly took notice, however, and bumped up their production, despite the shortage of supplies used to actually make the system. While the console continued to sell out in some locations, others were eventually able to build up a decent stock in preparation for the holidays.
Don't be fooled into thinking these shortages are because Nintendo didn't make enough, either. They sold over 2 million units in the system's launch week, and at the end of September, they had already sold 7.6 million Switches around the globe. Additionally, the console was the best-selling overall product purchased online over Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday -- according to Adobe Analytics -- without even being on sale!
The Switch, in particular, has got a bright future. However, Nintendo wasn't perfect this year; there are still a few things that grind my gears.
What Nintendo Could Improve On
Let's be real, Nintendo has made some questionable decisions this year. They're making the entire situation with YouTube worse, they haven't found a good use for motion controls beyond gyroscopic aiming, and they had the gall to charge $50 for a glorified tech demo instead of shipping it with the system.
Say Goodbye to Streaming Nintendo Games on YouTube
The Nintendo Creator's Program on YouTube has been a joke from the very beginning. It restricts monetization of game footage to a curated list of games and tells aspiring content creators that they have to sign up for their Program in order to benefit from ad revenue off of footage from any of Nintendo's vast library of games. Footage of any game not on the list simply leads to demonetization, screwing over many people who made a living making Nintendo content.
While this isn't new to 2017, they did recently amend the program to mention that those content creators who are part of the Nintendo Creator's Program can no longer stream their games whatsoever. Now, if they want to stream a Nintendo game at all on YouTube, they have to use a different account entirely, one that's not affiliated with the Creator's Program. Nonetheless, Nintendo would benefit from the removal of this program altogether, because as it stands, it's keeping many content creators from covering their games.
Switch Motion Controls Are Just Kind of ... There
Gyroscopic aiming is brilliant, and a part of me wishes it were a part of every controller for any game where you have to shoot things through a reticle. However, I haven't seen any other solid uses for the Switch's motion controls just yet.
Super Mario Odyssey had "optional" motion controls for extra ways to throw Cappy. While I got by just fine without fussing with them, some of those moves were really useful, and I would have loved the chance to benefit from them without shaking my Pro Controller around.
Then there's ARMS, which admittedly has unique and rather fun motion controls. However, they are ultimately unreliable, and you are gimping yourself by using them over a traditional controller. Even the AI is hard to fight with motion controls, leaving the feature feeling more like the gimmick that I sorely wished it wasn't.
Then There's 1-2-Switch
Everybody's said it already, but why the heck did Nintendo charge $50 for a glorified tech demo? This is something that should have been packaged with the Switch and resold at $20 or $30 at most. I mean, I'm sure some Switch owners have had a lot of fun with 1-2-Switch, but you don't charge near the full price of a AAA title for what might as well be a tech demo. It doesn't matter who you are or how good you are at retaining value in your products.
Oh, and the 3DS is ... Well, It's Still Kicking
And how could we forget about the 3DS? While Nintendo has gone on record stating that they plan to support the portable system into the new year, the lack of good game releases is telling. I mean, we're finishing the year off with Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions and Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon with not a lot of exciting prospects left on the horizon.
Many of the big 3DS series are jumping ship, after all, so we're probably going to see a decline of the system in the spotlight next year, though it likely won't burn out completely. The main concern for the system is that we're seeing Pokemon make the move to the Switch, while other popular series like Monster Hunter seek new frontiers.
We'll see if Nintendo continues to support the system with first-party titles, but at this point, I have my doubts.
What's Next for Nintendo in 2018?
So going into the next year, what can we expect from Nintendo and the Switch? Well, considering they still have Breath of the Wild DLC to talk about this month, we're definitely going to hear from them before the year's out. I personally think they'll just talk about Zelda at The Game Awards or something and probably leave it at that.
A new Nintendo Direct slot did recently open up on their website, and rumors have been floating around about a Direct in January thanks to a supposedly leaked email from an EA employee. Assuming this rumor is true, they'll probably reveal a lot of next year's releases during the January Direct.
We know a Yoshi game is coming, and we know a Kirby game is coming. Aside from that, nothing else is set in stone yet. Metroid Prime 4 and Pokemon for the Switch are just slotted for sometime in the future, but nothing else has been announced yet.
So while Nintendo has certainly had an exciting year, they definitely have a lot to live up to if they hope to keep the momentum going. Be sure to let us know your thoughts on the company's successful launch of the Switch and what you're expecting to see going into 2018!