Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Nintendo Switch: One last throw of bones

In 2016, just 10 Wii U games were released at retail. Of those, two were Lego games, one was Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and the other was downright terrible (not to mention cross platform). Of the three Nintendo-made games released, only Twilight Princess HD—a slick port of 10-year-old game—impressed. That left just Atlus' crossover RPG Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE to pick up the slack. And while it's an excellent game, it's also only of niche appeal to Atlus fans and Nintendo collectors that can spot a limited end-of-life pressing a mile off.

Nintendo Switch

Which is all to say that the Wii U didn't have a great year in 2016—and sadly, neither did Nintendo.

Losses, once unthinkable at a company that practically printed money with the colossal success of the Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii, became common in 2016, kicking off with a £37 million first-quarter loss in July. For those that took a leap of faith with the Wii U (myself included), the lack of games and Nintendo's increasingly shaky financial situation raised questions about its future. Alongside it all, of course, was the impending release of the hybrid handheld/home console Nintendo NX—now known as the Nintendo Switch—which promised to wash away the failures of the Wii U (and to a lesser extent, the slowing sales of the 3DS) with appealing hardware and a stellar lineup of new games.

Indeed, the impending release of the Switch may have staved off a larger fan revolt. While Nintendo never outright said it, there was a growing assumption amongst fans and industry pundits that the release of new Wii U games was stymied to bring the best ideas over to the Switch. Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima promised "a solid lineup of software" at the launch of the Switch, with a "need to be able to continuously release titles after launch." He even noted that the company picked March 2017 as a release date "so that the software lineup will be ready in time for the hardware launch."

The question is: where are those games now? As Ars' own Kyle Orland noted in his initial hands-on impressions with the Switch, the hardware might be the slickest Nintendo has produced, but the launch library is disturbingly slim (and investors appeared to agree). Only a handful of games will be available on launch day, including two—Skylanders Imaginators and Just Dance 2017—that launched on other systems last year. Super Bomberman R is the only new third-party game currently confirmed for launch day.

It gets even worse on the first-party side. 1-2-Switch—a collection of mildly amusing party mini-games with all the longevity of a carton of non-UHT milk—isn't being bundled with the console, but is instead being sold for an ambitious £40. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which featured prominently at the recent Switch showcase, isn't coming out until April 28, and even then, Nintendo's still charging £50 for a game (an admittedly brilliant one) that came out three years ago.

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