Has Nintendo Played Its Best Cards Too Early With The Switch?

As a child, one of my biggest nerd memories was finding Charizard in a standard pack of Pokémon cards.

Taking it to school (before literally every single school banned them), I felt unbeatable. One of my mates challenged me, and obviously I accepted because I wanted to be the very best, like no one ever was. He played his Zapdos card. ‘Not bad’, I thought, but my Charizard can beat that. Well, it could, but not if I played my best card so early that Zapdos could attack before Charizard did. Needless to say, I lost that battle, but I learned an important lesson: I needed to be strategic and play my best cards when the time is right.

Why am I going on about my Pokémon memories? Well firstly, Nintendo developed Pokemon (obviously). Secondly, it was a loss that crushed my fragile childhood innocence. But mostly, it leads me to ask: has Nintendo played its best cards too early with the Switch?

The Runaway Success of Nintendo Switch

Released in March 2017, the Nintendo Switch has been a huge success. In typical Nintendo fashion, the Switch was hard to get in the early days after its release due to the console’s popularity. The appeal of a home console that can also be played on the go – not to mention its typical Nintendo charm – made the Switch a must-have, not just for Nintendo fans, but for gamers looking for a new handheld console.

The Switch also had an ace card to play, one that made the console even more desirable than my Charizard card: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Arguably the best ever game to be released alongside a new console, and certainly one of the best games of 2017, the Switch rode on the success created by Breath of the Wild and Link’s brilliant new adventure.

Breath of the Wild dominated E3 in 2016, but Nintendo needed something new to steal the limelight once more. So they went to another of their big franchises, and showed off Super Mario Odyssey. Mario’s latest adventure meant the Switch continued to be a must-have console.

2017 also teased a third big return for a Nintendo classic: Metroid. But, since that teaser (teaser meaning just the words Metroid Prime 4) there’s been no new information about it. Of course, 2018 will be the year of Super Smash Bros Ultimate – a celebration of all Nintendo greats. But what happens when the celebrations are over?

A recent Nintendo Direct revealed that Animal Crossing will be coming to the Switch in 2019. That’s great news for Nintendo fans, but is it enough for a mainstream gamer? Animal Crossing has a very unique appeal, and it’s hard to see it selling as well as a Zelda or Mario title. We’re also getting a re-release of Super Mario Bros. U, and Yoshi’s Crafted World. But if that’s all the Switch has to offer in terms of first-party games in 2019, it’s a worry.

So where does Nintendo go from here? It has played its big cards already. Of course, there’s still Metroid Prime 4 (at some point), and a completely new Pokémon game, but it feels like Nintendo is running low on cards in the deck after that.

It’s a brilliant lineup of games for the Switch, arguably the best combination of games since the Nintendo 64 days for a Nintendo console. But after the huge success of the Switch so far, it’s hard to see anything other than a big drop right now.

Not invited to the Third-Party party

In 2017 Reggie Fils-Aime, President of Nintendo America, stated that he wants “every high-quality game to have an opportunity to be played on Nintendo Switch.” Fast forward to present day, and – to some extent – Reggie’s vision has come true. The Switch does, by a huge distance, have the best third-party support for any Nintendo home console in a long time.

But has Reggie’s wish actually come true? Some of the biggest games of this generation developed by third-party companies aren’t present on the Switch. Nobody really expected titles such as Red Dead Redemption 2 on the Switch, but would it have been such a stretch to imagine that all Assassin’s Creed games would appear on the Switch? Even the Wii U saw releases for Assassin’s Creed 3 and Black Flag. It should be a concern to Nintendo that big third-party developers are still not always willing to support the Switch.

What’s next for Switch?

There have been some rumours that Nintendo is planning a new version of the Switch. The 3DS has had several revisions in its lifespan, so it stands to reason that the company would want to do the same with its latest console, too. Personally I am very against this idea as the price difference between the Switch and 3DS is big, and fans won’t be happy if Nintendo release another high-priced version of the Switch. It could possibly include more power, and a higher chance of more third-party games – but should Nintendo start releasing games only playable on a “New Nintendo Switch”, the same way it did with the “New Nintendo 3DS”, that could spell trouble. Among other things, it complicates the market and dilutes the possible audience

Right now, Nintendo has played its Charizard card. But it has also played its Blastoise and Venusaur cards, and only have a few great cards remaining in its deck. Either it creates a whole new set of Pokémon to use, or release a new set of cards based on the same Pokémon. Splatoon is a great example that Nintendo are still able to make new first-party classics – and Majora’s Mask did release just a year after Ocarina of Time, so we know that Nintendo can create new games in a franchise quickly.

There is potential for the Switch’s success to remain, but it all depends on what Nintendo does next. Hopefully Nintendo will make the right move; one that I did not make all those years ago.