Though we had previously gotten a "mini" Nintendo Direct in January, the one we had yesterday was effectively the first real substantial Nintendo Direct of the year. And what a Direct it was!
I won’t cover every announcement here as there are plenty of other places to go for a detailed recap, including watching the actual video itself.
Instead, I'll be analyzing what we saw and what it means, all starting with the video's biggest reveal.
Super Smash Bros. is finally coming to Switch, and it’s likely not a port
Let's be real here: Of everything Nintendo could have announced, Super Smash Bros. was one of the least suspected games. In fact, it was almost a given that it wouldn't be shown.
Why? Because every past iteration of the game has been announced at E3, arguably the most important video game industry event of the year.
The fact that they chose to reveal the game now instead of E3 is very interesting; perhaps Nintendo wants to it to have a greater mindshare among fans now rather than simply revealing it four months before launch. The strategy behind it makes sense; generate a ton of hype and let fans spread the word, then get even more info in June.
You think people were excited for E3 before? They’re going to be ecstatic now that it’s guaranteed Smash will be the main showcase. And, oh yeah – the game is coming out this year as well.
It was a well-played, strategic move on Nintendo’s part, and the reveal was pulled off excellently (the reflection of the Smash logo in the Inkling’s eye was a great touch). Those short few seconds will help sustain the hype for Nintendo and the Switch over the next few months as we wait to see what else they’ll reveal.
Third parties are crushing it on Switch (or should I say "Crashing" it?)
The Switch already pulled off some impressive third-party surprises in 2017. From Bethesda’s Skyrim, Doom, and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus to Rockstar’s L.A. Noire and more, the Switch is getting the most third-party support it’s seen since the Gamecube’s heyday.
But yesterday’s Direct was a clear affirmation that third-parties are continuing to take notice of the Switch’s success and that they’re largely here to stay this time around. Nowhere was this more evident than with the announcement of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy – previously a PS4-exclusive – coming to Switch this year. Not only that but other powerhouse AAA titles like South Park: The Fractured But Whole, Okami HD, Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, and even indie hits like Undertale are making their way over as well.
Unless Nintendo does something to really botch up the 2018 release schedule, momentum will likely only keep building from here as more and more third parties square up to release their games and nab their own piece of the Switch pie.
The Port, Remaster, and Collection Plan – How 3DS will be sustained
Microsoft and Sony would probably be booed into oblivion if they announced as many ports, remasters, and collection/remixes as Nintendo announced, but there’s at least one good reason why the latter can get away with it for now.
The Wii U was an unmitigated sales disaster and only the most hardcore Nintendo fans played whatever games came out on it. So, for most people, when it comes to these ports? This is all new material, baby, and that includes games like the much-lauded Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition, and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze – all of which we’ll see before the end of this year.
On a similar note, we finally have a good idea of Nintendo’s plan for the 3DS going forward. We saw some of this last year, but the recent Direct outlines the fact that 3DS will be sustained with ports, enhanced remasters/remakes, and collections/remixes. And why not?
It’s clear that Nintendo will be focusing 90-95% of its creative efforts on Switch now, and releasing ports and remakes of older games will be the cheapest, fastest, and most effective way to ensure that 3DS players will still be thrown a bone every now and then.
Not only that, but Nintendo has chosen some interesting games that even longtime fans will have a hard time ignoring. Luigi’s Mansion is something we haven’t seen since the game’s original release on Gamecube in 2001, so its arrival on 3DS – especially after its sequel, Dark Moon, released on the handheld in 2013 – is a much-welcomed addition to the library.
WarioWare Gold is getting the same treatment that Nintendo gave to Mario Party: The Top 100 and Rhythm Heaven Megamix, where it’s essentially a compilation of the series’ best mini-games masquerading as a new game. Yet, it’s been years since we’ve gotten a new WarioWare title, so many fans are excited and willing to overlook that particular tidbit.
Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey is a bit of a headscratcher. Developer Alpha Dream released Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions – an enhanced remake of the very first game in the series with a new, added side story – just last year, and now they’re doing another remake? Let’s not forget that they skipped over the second game, Partners in Time, either. Personally, I would think that many fans are getting fatigued from this series with all of the releases in recent years, but apparently they must be selling.
That said, there are still new 3DS games on the horizon with the likes of Dillon’s Dead-Heat Breakers, Detective Pikachu, and Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido. Also, I suspect Nintendo is holding back one or two other new 3DS titles for an E3 reveal – possibly a new 2D Zelda as one last hurrah for the series on the system.
Aside from that, expect to see this trend of ports and remakes on the 3DS as the handheld (presumably) continues to die down in 2019.
The future for Splatoon 2 is bright; it’s the closest thing Nintendo has to a Games-as-a-Service title now
Splatoon 2 is, without a doubt, one of the biggest successes on Switch outside of Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey.
Plenty of players dismissed it as a 1.5 version when it was initially announced, but the amount of new content Nintendo continues to pour into it is staggering. Oh, and did I mention that the DLC has been 100% free? It’s no wonder that the game manages to maintain a steady playerbase to this day.
And now with yesterday’s Direct, they’ve confirmed the 3.0 update will bring dozens of new items, three new courses, and a brand new rank (Rank X) among other things. But even more importantly, Splatoon 2 is getting its first paid DLC, which smartly introduces a new single-player campaign called 'Octo Expansion' instead of splintering the player-base with multiplayer content that’s locked behind paywalls. The new campaign is quite hefty to boot, with 80 missions in addition to new stories that shed light on the series’ different characters. Oh, and you’ll unlock access to Octoling characters in multiplayer after beating it.
With the continuing DLC and Octo Expansion, Nintendo appears to have a pretty clear roadmap for Splatoon 2 and values it as one of their biggest properties to keep supporting.
I’m willing to bet Octo Expansion may not be the last paid DLC either; if new free DLC continues past this year, they’ll likely use the paid expansions to help fund the free updates for multiplayer while keeping the paid stuff to non-essential, optional features.
Nintendo’s roadmap into 2019 and beyond
Yesterday’s Direct obviously didn’t reveal everything this year has to offer, but we did get a look at a good chunk of it. Here are the most important things we now know about where the company is heading with its strategy.
Nintendo is rallying around Super Smash Bros. as its big title for 2018
There will, of course, be other games coming this Fall, but these other titles will likely act as supporting games. This will probably include the still-unnamed Yoshi title that was revealed last year in addition to the new Fire Emblem. Beyond that, perhaps we'll get a Mario Party or other tertiary title?
If anything, the biggest question mark is now Animal Crossing. Will we finally see it a new one for Switch at E3? Or will Nintendo save it for 2019? If Metroid Prime 4 is positioned as next year's major game, it stands to reason that it probably won't matter whether Animal Crossing releases this year or next. We’ll find out for sure in three months whether we’ll see it in 2018 or not.
Switch’s lineup will likely continue to be padded with ports for the next year or two
Nintendo has done an impressive job releasing at least one big game a month for Switch since its launch. But if it wants to maintain that schedule, it’ll need to rely on ports to do it, simply because new games take time to develop and it likely can't sustain that kind of momentum with them.
Case in point, this spring we’re getting four ports; Bayonetta 1 and 2 have already released, and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition are coming in May. That leaves April as the only month without a first-party title for now (January also had nothing).
As for the second half of the year, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is the only confirmed port so far; it’ll be releasing in July. Don't be surprised if we get at least one or two more before the end of 2018.
Nintendo will, for the first time in a while, be able to rely on third parties to help fill the gap between first-party releases
For the last five years (at the very least), Nintendo has turned to indie games to help fill in gaps while their own first-party titles were being polished for release. This was largely out of necessity since most of the third-party support for the Wii U trickled off fast in 2013.
But with the advent of Switch, third-parties are back in a big way and are releasing some of their popular titles on the platform, making the wait between big first-party titles like Smash Bros. a little easier. Also, let’s not forget the onslaught of indie games that have been coming consistently every Thursday since the end of last Summer or so.
3DS is being wound down with smaller games and ports
This was expected, but what’s surprising is how Nintendo is actually keeping the 3DS alive longer than most expected. With this in mind, we'll likely see the platform being kept alive with ports and smaller games until 2020 when it’s either retired or succeeded by something else.
That said, the future is looking pretty good for Nintendo. While it's hard to say whether the Switch will hit its goal of selling 20 million units for the year of fiscal 2018 (it will easily pass that number in total sales to date) it definitely looks a lot more plausible with the impending arrival of Super Smash Bros. and the gauntlet of other great games coming our way soon.
What are your thoughts on the recent Direct? Has it changed your outlook on Switch this year?
Edited by Jason Clement