To say Nintendo had a pretty good 2017 would be an understatement. The company’s newest console, the Nintendo Switch, launched this past March to unprecedented success, currently sitting at just under eight million sold. They were so confident they even increased their sales projections for the console, from 10 million to 14 million. For those not in the know, this is more than the lifetime sales of the Wii U (which is around 13 million). And with games like Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey added to their library, 2017 is definitely one for the history books. But what will Nintendo’s 2018 look like? That’s where things get interesting.
A Landmark Year for Nintendo
After the (relative) failure of the Wii U, Nintendo needed to come back strong in 2017 with the Switch. As a hybrid home console/handheld, it was a gamble. The Switch, however, was a gamble that paid off, as you can see from the sales data shown above.
And that’s to say nothing of the software released by the gaming legend. Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild were both smash hits, scoring 10’s all around. They’re also some of the best-selling games of the year, with Zelda selling 4.7 million units and Odyssey quickly becoming the fastest-selling game in the series.
Outside of these two, Splatoon 2 has cemented the series as one of Nintendo’s most popular. ARMS received positive reviews and has potentially set off a new IP for the company. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, despite being a re-release of a Wii U game, has received critical acclaim and is one of the system’s best-selling titles. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle was seen as an unexpected surprise. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 gave the Switch a meaty, open-world RPG. The Switch also has some big third-party support, with heeavy-hitters Ubisoft, Rockstar, and Bethesda releasing high-profile games for the system.
The Nintendo 3DS was no slouch, either, despite the release of the Switch. For many, Metroid: Samus Returns was a return to form for the series. While Ever Oasis wasn’t exactly a smash, it still reviewed positively and was considered a worthwhile addition to the 3DS library. And there’s still Pokemon: Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, and not more needs to be said there. And one can’t forget the Super NES Classic Edition, also released in 2017. After the NES Classic fiasco, the SNES was seemingly much easier to obtain. It’s been said before, but 2017 has been a great year to be a Nintendo fan. But what comes after?
The Nintendo 3DS had a fulfilling and worthwhile life, that’s for sure. After an uneasy start (remember the Ambassador’s Program?), the system rebounded, becoming the dominant handheld of this generation. A great library of games from both first-party and third-party developers has cemented this system’s legacy. But after almost seven years on the market, is the 3DS about to go off into the sun?
Sure, there are still games scheduled to release on the system in 2018. Atlus is showing strong support for the system, with Radiant Historia and Shin Megami Tensei are both getting enhanced ports of games originally on the Nintendo DS. In addition, they will also be releasing The Alliance Alive, a new RPG for the system. Dragon Quest will also be getting a new entry next year. And even Kirby will be making an appearance. But outside of that, there’s no big first-party Nintendo title (that we know of) on the horizon after Pokemon.
Since the Switch also acts as a handheld, seeing the 3DS being phased out isn’t exactly a surprise. Games like Samus Returns and Hey! Pikmin released on the 3DS this year. Many had lamented that they would rather see these titles released on the Switch instead (or as well at the very least). The stream of titles released on the 3DS has steadily declined over the years, but the system finally seems to be in its twilight age. Plus, there’s the Pokemon situation.
The newest Pokemon entry has been confirmed to be a Switch release. This is both a huge win for the Switch and a huge loss for the 3DS. Now, Pokemon on the Switch was a foregone conclusion, with Ultra Sun and Moon, Pokemon was one of the last signs of life for the 3DS. With the announcement of a Switch version, it truly seems like the end is near for the 3DS. The eventual (and slow) retirement of the 3DS creates a giant question mark in the perception of Nintendo’s future.
High Standards to Live Up To
The Switch has a lot to live up to in 2018. Now, the future of the console isn’t entirely unknown, but there is the question of whether it can live up to the console’s first year. With no Mario or Zelda games on the horizon (that we know of), the spotlight is now on the other games Nintendo has up its sleeves.
On the first party front, new Kirby and Yoshi games are confirmed for 2018. While we don’t know a ton about either, both will be platformers. The two games will most likely be, at the very least, solid games. However, neither franchise is top-tier for Nintendo. A new Fire Emblem game is also confirmed for 2018, but very little is known beyond that. Fire Emblem has become one of Nintendo’s most popular franchises, so this entry will most likely be another hit.
Nintendo does have some tricks up its sleeves, however. Two of Nintendo’s most popular franchises will show up on the Switch in the coming years. After years of speculation and wishing, Metroid Prime 4 has finally been confirmed to be in development. However, it has been made very clear that 4 is very early in development. A 2018 release seems very unlikely, and a late 2019 seems to be the earliest we would be seeing it. Pokemon on Switch will also be huge on Switch. But it’s still a while away. While it’s possible we could be seeing it in 2018, its not unlikely to have to wait until 2019. Since Game Freak took a year off in between Generation VI and VII, it’s very possible we could be seeing the same for VIII.
A Company That Likes to Surprise
It may seem like I’m leaning towards the negative. However, I what I want is for Nintendo to succeed even more in 2018. I’m just curious as to what they have cooking. Nintendo came on so strong for the Switch’s first year, that it seems almost like a foregone conclusion that Year 2 won’t live up to it. But don’t count Nintendo out yet. As we’ve seen throughout the years, Nintendo is the most unpredictable of the big three console developers. They definitely have some tricks that they’re holding for a later point. Many of Nintendo’s top most popular franchises have not had a Switch entry announced yet.
Animal Crossing made its mobile debut this year, and a Switch version is an inevitability. Will we be seeing a new entry in the series in 2018 to coincide with the mobile release? Franchises like F-Zero and Star Fox could always come as an unexpected announcement. As unlikely as it is, could we be seeing a new entry in the Earthbound series for Switch? Or at least finally getting the localized Mother 3? And despite getting Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, it’s entirely possible we could be getting a proper Mario Kart for Switch in the coming years. Plus, we haven’t even heard of a Super Smash Bros. entry yet. Rumors of a Switch port of the Wii U entry are constantly being thrown about. Port or not, Smash Bros. on the Switch would be a huge win.
No Need to Worry
It seems inevitable at this point that 2018 will not be the ultimate high for Nintendo that 2017 was. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to worry. There’s still a lot to look forward to in the next year.
Despite lamenting over the (seeming) decline of the 3DS, Nintendo is still supporting the system. The New Nintendo 2DS XL launched in July, combining the power of the New 3DS with the affordability (and lack of 3D) of the 2DS Even the original 2DS is getting some love, with a Legend of Zelda variant that was released on Black Friday. Like I said, Nintendo likes to surprise its audience. While it may seem strange to release new variations of a system that’s almost seven years old, this is a perfect time to join the 3DS family. With a fantastic backlog of both (including original DS games), you’ll certainly get your money’s worth.
And while it may seem that the Switch has already shown all of its card, don’t count the system out. Third party support seems (at least for now) as strong as ever. Despite the large number of ports, the portability factor is very attractive for many gamers. And if these third party titles are successful (which they appear to be), we could be seeing original third-party games. Bethesda seems to be all-in on the Switch, but imagine if it created a game made for the system. Ubisoft has already shown a large amount of support, and it will be exciting to see what else they have up their sleeves. Let’s just not talk about EA for now. Nintendo fans may be curious about what 2018 will hold, but there is no need to worry yet.
It’s probably inevitable that 2018 for Nintendo will not be as splashy as 2017. Nintendo showed all their big guns for the Switch’s freshman year, and in all honestly, they needed to. After the Wii U Nintendo needed the Switch to be a reboot of sorts for the company. Launching the system with Zelda, and ending Year One with Mario brought Nintendo back in a big way. Both games have become immediate smash hits, and are both frontrunners for Game of the Year. Add to that games like Splatoon , among others, and you’ve already got an amazing library of Switch games.
When you have confirmed games like Pokemon and Metroid, and games that are likely, like Animal Crossing, the future is exciting. While there’s a good chance it will be a good while before we get a proper new Zelda or Mario game, we will almost certainly be seeing new entries in these series on the Switch.
Despite the uncertainty, the future is still bright for the Switch. Nitnendo’s online infrastructure is another big question mark. With it launching in 2018, that question will have to be answered. For many Nintendo fans, the way they have handled post-release updates to Splatoon and Arms has been great. Once gamers will have to pay to play Switch games online, being able to update these online-heavy games for free will be a huge plus for many. Imagine Nintendo doing this to Smash Bros. once that finally comes to Switch.
Many have wondered what Switch Year Two will be like. Many wondered if it can live up to the (impossibly high?) standards that Year One set. Looking ahead, things look like it won’t be the absolute high of 2017. But don’t count the Switch out yet. After some bumps in the road, Nintendo came roaring back in 2017, and doesn’t seem likely to stop anytime soon. A lot of things about Nintendo are uncertain, but one thing is not. It is certainly an exciting time to be a Nintendo fan.