Let’s-a-go! It’s that time of the year where we look at how the three biggest console brands did this year! If you read my year-in review for PlayStation, you should know how I do these. If not, no worries! I am as much of a Nintendo fan as I am a PlayStation fan, so this will be another passion-driven analysis of the company as a whole. I judge how a platform and the respective gaming business in four categories: Games, Strength, Relations, and Future. Games focus on the exclusive titles and overall library. Including exclusive content such as extra DLC and skins. Strength is the performance of the brand and the support each platform is receiving. Relations is how the company communicates with its fanbase and overall marketing of the brand. Future is how the coming years look for the platform. Got it? Good. Let’s go!
Games: Amazingly, Nintendo had as packed a lineup this year as Sony did despite Sony’s two-month head start. They released two of the highest critically acclaimed games in one year: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, which made our top five games of the year. They also released a sequel to the much-loved Splatoon which was also very well received by fans and critics. Ubisoft chipped in with the surprisingly successful Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. Arms was a fun brawler with neat concepts. It, unfortunately, didn’t catch fire like Splatoon, but it was still a good game with a decent fanbase. If you thought Nintendo was done, you’ve must’ve been hidden under a rock since September because they finished the year with two massive games, Fire Emblem Warriors and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. So, yeah! Cool, huh?
Now that’s just the Switch, the 3DS had some activity, too. Pokemon USUM, Metroid: Samus Returns, a LONG awaited return to the franchise, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, Ever Oasis, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions? (Okay, some of these names suck.), Hey! Pikmin (Okay, they really suck.), Kirby Battle Royale, Monster Hunter XX , and Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaire Conspiracy among others. Apart from some pretty ugly names, Nintendo’s been squeezing the last remaining drops out of the 3DS. If you still have a 3DS, you must try out some of these games or you’re missing out. Nintendo’s been firing on all cylinders and we love it!
Not only that, but they have strong third-party support for the Switch! Like I said before, Ubisoft made a game for the Switch and that’s a promising sign for future games on the hybrid. Sure, we won’t see AC: Origins on there, but I can totally see a South Park game releasing on the Switch. Bethesda’s making risky moves by porting Doom 2016 and Wolfenstein 2 on the dainty console. While Doom was watered down to near oblivion, it still looks and plays well enough. I have no clue how they’re gonna pull off Wolfenstein 2, though. That’s a graphically demanding title even for gaming PC’s. Rocket League landed on the Switch, too, with a great port (albeit with suboptimal controls as the Switch lacks analog triggers). Rockstar, another developer that rarely works on Nintendo platforms, ported the remaster of L.A. Noire on the system. Since the Switch is more powerful than the PS3, GTA V is certainly within the realm of possibility, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Overall, Nintendo has had an excellent year for gaming. Plenty of amazing first-party titles on both the Switch and 3DS (even Wii U got BotW) as well as a surprising threshold of third-party and indie games. No third-party exclusive-content nonsense this year either. Games get an easy 10/10.
Strength: Another welcome surprise this year is the widespread and insurmountable excitement surrounding the Switch. The only platform outperforming the juggernaut known as the PS4 is the Switch, a console from a company infamous for understocking units to store shelves. For a while, Switches were hard to come by in non-Nintendo stores, but thankfully, Nintendo found their footing and are now producing and shipping Switches like madmen. To say the Switch is successful is an understatement. Nintendo played their cards perfectly. This was not a timing anomaly like the Wii was, where everyone wanted to try out the fancy controls only to give up on it in a matter of a few months. (The Wii is probably their worst home console, in my opinion. That’s an article for another day.)
Nintendo didn’t drop the 3DS either. In fact, they expanded the platform even MORE. The New Nintendo 2DS XL Pro Ultimate Edition 2 came out in April of this year, multiple price cuts were made, and a plethora of bundles was introduced. These are clear signs that Nintendo is not giving up on the 3DS anytime soon. While it is possible that 2018 might be the geriatric system’s last year, I can certainly see the 3DS survive the Switch craze until 2019. Speaking of craze’s, let’s talk numbers! Within the first year on the market, the Switch nearly outsold its predecessor, the Wii U, passing 10 million units. While that is not much of a feat considering the abysmal sales of the Wii U, it is still quite impressive to see any console nearly break the 10 million milestone within nine months on the market. Generally, Nintendo isn’t as vocal about numbers as Sony, but they do talk enough to give us a scope of its success.
Due to the Switch’s extremely fast growth rate, it makes sense to see the 3DS slow down a little, causing Nintendo to practically put the system on clearance prices. The PS4 surpassed the 3DS lifetime sales in December 3rd, dethroning it being the 10th best selling console of all time. However, this deceleration is natural. With the record-breaking growth of the Switch and still moderate success of the aging 3DS, as well as impressive software numbers, Strength is also receiving a 10/10.
Relations: Another massive step-up for the Big N with highly appealing advertisements legitimately showcasing what the Switch does and why people should buy it. It seems like Nintendo finally hired a marketing team! Jokes aside, it is refreshing not have to see cringe-worthy commercials for the Switch. Actually, a lot of Switch commercials are quite fun to watch and actually makes you want to get a Switch. It is with great pleasure that I say that Nintendo knows how to market their home consoles again. How are they doing on communication, though? Also, quite well.
If you go on their official website, you see the Play Nintendo tab. I cannot tell how great of an idea this is not only for children but for longtime fans as well. In Play Nintendo, you can find all sorts of cute art projects you can do at home as well as short character bios from almost all of their franchises that you can read. Another cool idea is My Nintendo, where you can earn points by doing missions in games and those points can be redeemed for wallpapers on your phone or even discounts for the eShop. Yeah, Nintendo doesn’t have an achievement system, but this is a great placeholder. I would suggest Nintendo integrate this into the Switch as an achievement system and possibly have the best achievement system in gaming. Unfortunately, it’s a little clunky to have to use a separate account and go to a website to redeem those points and then spend those points for what you want. Personally, it makes things a little too complicated.
Their social media usage is interesting. Technically, they don’t communicate with their base, but they utilize their Twitter much differently than the competition. They don’t advertise the same way Xbox or PlayStation does so. Instead, they sometimes tweet trivia or little details about their games. Other times they challenge fans to do something in particular games. It’s very unique and I admire that. I apologize for being low on details, but it’s just hard to explain how Nintendo approaches Twitter.
Their YouTube channel is similar to PlayStation’s channel though. It includes mostly advertisements of upcoming games and the weekly short video podcast or let’s play series known as Nintendo Minute. I do give them props for variety, though. Nintendo Directs remain excellent in their own rights. Give the fans a ton of new game announcements before release and the fans will be left dazed and amazed. However, they show off too much of some of their most anticipated games during live streams (like a quarter of the map in Breath of the Wild) which is pretty inconvenient for some fans.
I feel like Nintendo respects their fans…but they need some work. For one, they need to stop being so strict about video sharing on YouTube and, recently, Twitch. That’s free advertising, Nintendo. Why are you trying to punish fans for sharing your games on YouTube? Even sharing images is against their archaic copyright protection policy. I fail to see how spreading gameplay footage of Super Mario Odyssey hurts the property. If anything, it significantly helps a property, but I digress. Also, I’m against their move to paid online. I pay for PS Plus, but I’m not content with paying annual fees for something that should be free. I am disappointed, but not surprised that Nintendo is doing a paid subscription service next year. They’re giving away NES/SNES games for free, which is cool I guess (NES/SNES games are really easy to emulate but whatever), and it is significantly cheaper, but it does add up if you’re already spending $120 for XBL Gold and PS Plus.
It makes sense from a business perspective, as Sony and MS are already making bank, but that’s because there’s nothing optional to it. Games like Splatoon 2 would be mostly unplayable without online as they’re mainly multiplayer games. This isn’t a double standard against Nintendo. I dislike the mandatory nature of Plus and Gold as well, especially since they’re more expensive and Plus doesn’t let you keep your “free” games if your subscription runs out. Hopefully, Nintendo won’t be idiotic enough to stoop to microtransactions in their games. But other than that, Nintendo’s doing great with public relations. With better marketing, solid consumer-friendly services, and decent social media usage, Nintendo is doing exceptionally well. However, they could improve by dropping their overly-strict video sharing policies and become the more consumer-friendly company of the three by axing paid online. Transforming My Nintendo into an integrated achievement system on the Switch would be glorious, too. Considering all of that, Relations is getting an 8/10.
Future: Remember when I said the Switch could be Nintendo’s best console? (I should have done some research regarding the Nyko dock as some of you informed me that it damages consoles. I apologize for that.) Well, here’s the “could” in that statement. We already see a strong first-party offering in 2018 and beyond, as the Bayonetta trilogy, Kirby Star Allies, Yoshi, Metroid Prime 4, the next mainline Pokemon installment, Project Octopath Traveller, Super Meat Boy Forever (a timed-exclusive), the next No More Heroes, the next Ace Attorney game (possibly), and possibly more unannounced games are coming in that time frame. Holy shit. Now, there’s a little problem and I’m gonna be a little cynical, but I’m not seeing a killer app in 2018. Before you murder me, hear me out. Metroid Prime 4 and the next Pokemon might not come out for a long time as we saw no gameplay and hardly any details other than their mere existence. I believe those might be 2019 releases.
Kirby and Yoshi are more niche titles. Same goes for No More Heroes (another unlikely 2018 game), Project Octopath Traveller, and Bayonetta. Don’t get me wrong, I think these games are going to be fantastic, especially Project Octopath Traveller. Are they system-sellers like Mario and Zelda, though? I don’t think so. There is a lot of quantity and quality here, but they’re all minor franchises. Nintendo blew their load early in the game (for good reason) and will probably have a killer 2019. Kirby and Yoshi are the most recognizable games on the 2018 slate and would move the most units. However, I can’t deny the lack of heavy-hitters. Does this mean the Switch will slow down to a halt? Hell no. 2017’s library should keep moving Switches at a healthy pace, and who knows, maybe there will be a January Direct that will blow our minds.
Let’s look at the competition, particularly Sony as Microsoft has the same problem. They have Spider-Man, God of War, Dreams, Detroit:Become Human and other massive titles. Even Sony has a bigger JRPG this year, the Secret of Mana remake. Nintendo’s biggest first-party 2018 offering (so far) is Kirby and Yoshi. Again, Pokemon and Metroid Prime 4 just began development this year and those will take a while to make. Is there going to be more in 2018? I can guarantee it. This could very well be released for the first-half of 2018. I want there to be more. I’d be stunned if this was it. Nintendo knows what they’re doing. Seriously, only one big RPG this year? Come on, this is Nintendo we’re talking about. They have to have something that competes with an open-world, Arkham-style Spider-Man game. …My expectations are a bit too high, aren’t they?
What are my predictions for 2018? Surprise January Direct will occur showing the rest of their 2018 slate. I predict we’ll see a new Donkey Kong Country game since it’s been awhile since Tropical Freeze. A brand, spanking new Smash Bros. game titled Super Smash Bros. Switch will be teased for 2019. The special new mechanic is the ability to switch fighters during battle like Marvel vs. Capcom. The game will boast a roster of over 70 characters. Arms and Splatoon characters will be featured. More details will be shown off at E3 Spotlight with a playable demo. The gameplay will feel similar to Melee, faster than Brawl but slower than 4. Controls will feel very responsive with new move mechanics to treat the eSports community. Not a Wii U port. It would have been 4 years since the Wii U version (damn, time flies, doesn’t it?), so I don’t think they’ll simply port it. They certainly can do it, but I think it’s unlikely. We will NOT see Gamecube Virtual Console this year, but N64 Virtual Console will happen. Yes, I dare make a unique opinion on the Internet. Here’s why: I feel like they just started working on an emulator that could run perfectly optimized for the Switch. If some mid-range PC’s struggle to emulate Gamecube games without problems, it might not happen on the Switch very soon. Then again, I don’t know the status of Dolphin on PC’s so I can’t really make that assumption. It will have an early 2019 release though and first games will be Sunshine, Prime duology, F-Zero GX, and Viewtiful Joe among others. Game Boy Color and Advance will also happen in 2019 . DS games are not within the realm of possibility as the Switch only has one relatively small screen that’s designed for horizontal use, unlike the DS.
Some irrational predictions I have is an Animal Crossing game will come on the Switch in fall 2018. Mother reboot announced at E3 will happen in 2019, developed by a new studio with legends at the forefront working on it. I would love to see a story-driven Paper Mario game and a gorgeous-looking F-Zero reboot. Maybe a Warioware game? Though, I doubt they’ll touch that franchise for a long time considering Game & Wario did terribly. A Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games game (redundant much?) is totally happening with a February release, shown off at the January Direct. Hooray. Wolfenstein 2 gets a March release and GTA V will get ported to the Switch in the summer. These are getting less and less likely, so let’s throw in Dishonored 2 while we’re at it. Let’s go full on insane and say Kingdom Hearts 3 and Secret of Mana remake is coming to the Switch. Retro Studios will announce a new open-world game coming in 2018 as well. Switch will come packaged with 64GB SD cards as well so some bigger third-party games can actually be bundled with it. I’m very optimistic here, but that’s the fun of predicting things.
Anything non-game related? We’ll get themes for the home menu on the Switch. The Switch will sell around 25 million at the end of 2018. No price cuts for anything ever because of Nintendo. NES/SNES VC and the totally pro-consumer paid online service will simultaneously release in July. Genesis VC will also happen in September and N64 VC will go live in November. Nintendo will keep their crappy voice chat app. Sorry, Splatoon players. Hopefully, we’ll see Nintendo listen to my desires and implement a My Nintendo-integrated achievement system.
Nintendo’s future looks pretty light on the killer apps this year, but I believe they’ll change that. Their hardware looks to succeed next year as well as their software. They have plenty of smaller games in 2018. However, with the lack of heavy-hitters so far that leaves Sony with the strongest lineup, I’m giving future a 8/10.
Final Score: 9/10 (A-)
I can’t wait for the angry hate mail I’ll receive from fanboys. I can respect your opinion if you disagree with me, but caps lock nonsense is unnecessary. Anyway, those are my thoughts on Nintendo as a whole. I hope you enjoyed it. I will work on an Xbox review in the next few days, so look forward to that!
News and feature writer for Sick Critic since 2017. Undergraduate studying English. Writes stories on: PlayStation news and analysis, general video game industry affairs, the film industry affairs, and the streaming wars.