The Nintendo Switch has roared out of the gate and has quickly made Nintendo a relevant player in the console side of the video game business again. This was accomplished through a combination of offering interesting hardware that features a unique selling point and pairing it with games that typically only come out once every few years like the smash hit titles The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. But one of the most important reasons as to why the Switch is finding the success the Wii U didn’t is how Nintendo has managed to plug the holes in its release calendar, delivering a major release almost every 30 days in the Switch’s first year. But has the system built too much of its catalogue on old games?
During the Switch’s reveal presentation in January of 2017 we got to see a whole bunch of games coming to the system. Titles like 1-2-Switch, Arms, Splatoon 2 and Project Octopath Traveler would all be brand new experiences for the system and the showpiece game, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild would be launching on the same day for the Wii U and Switch. But the Switch also got a ton of other announcements on that day. In fact 14 other games were shown off that constituted ‘ of ports for the new system. Of course this is usually par for the course when a new, unproven system is due for release, especially coming off the lackluster performance of the Wii U, but now that the Switch is an established success, shouldn’t it be getting a lot more original and simultaneous releases rather than more ports?
So far Nintendo has been fair and away the worst culprit when it comes to bringing their older games to the Switch. With Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Pokkén Tournament DX hitting the system before the end of the summer. And this trend seems to be continuing into 2018 with Bayonetta 1+2 and Hyrule Warriors both confirmed for the early part of the year and other marquee Wii U games like Super Mario Maker and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U both heavily rumored for release on the Switch at some point. These ports, while of games that are in some cases already pushing 3-4 years in age are finding new life on the Switch and its motivated fanbase but leaving some Wii U owners that moved to Switch wondering if they will just be left with old games to hold them over until the next new Switch game lands.
But there is a bit of a precedent for this type of thinking from Nintendo. Going from the GameCube and its 21 million units sold to the Wii and that system’s runaway success they needed to fill out the release calendar with titles to satisfy an install base hungry for games to play. This led to the New Play Control series of games that includes GameCube hits ported over the Wii with new control options that took advantage of the Wii Remote and Nunchuck combination. This lineup included Pikmin, Pikmin 2, Mario Tennis: Power Tour, Metroid Prime Trilogy and Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat and helped fill in gaps in the release schedule. However unlike the Switch ‘Deluxe’ games, most of these re-releases weren’t full price offerings and did not include any new content outside of being able to play the games in widescreen and with motion controls, so directly comparing these two generations of ports isn’t a perfect science but it does show that Nintendo is willing to pad its lineup with older games during a lull.
In addition to Nintendo re-releasing its older titles for the Switch, third-party developers have also jumped onto this trend, supporting the Switch with games that honestly, never had a shot of landing on the Wii U, even in that system’s heyday. Already the Switch has gotten games like the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Doom (2016), Disgaea 5: Complete, L.A. Noire and Dark Souls: Remastered all making their way to the system, albeit years after their release in other formats. But unlike the ports that did hit the Wii U (Mass Effect 3, Batman: Arkham City) these games are actually selling well and keeping the Switch momentum going strong into 2018.
And that’s a big difference maker for the Switch – people are actually buying its ports, proving once and for all that the problem with Wii U wasn’t its software lineup but its unappealing hardware. But that doesn’t change the fact that those of us out there who invested heavily into Nintendo’s previous system should feel a but burned being asked to pay full price again for (arguably) better versions of games they already played back when they were known. I have a particular issue with the upcoming release of Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition, which is the third release of the game that seems to get more and more content every time it comes out but never goes down in price.
But maybe that’s just part of the Switch’s recipe for success. The Wii U was a failure in almost every measurable quantity and this new system is not so it only makes sense for Nintendo to put as many games on the shelf as possible for the Switch. Though this does come at a bit of a price as so much of the Switch’s lineup consists of ports of older games., especially if you happened to own a Wii U. I’ve already gone on record stating that I wasn’t going to buy ports for the Switch and to be fully honest I broke that promise already having picked up Mario Kart 8 Deluxe but I want to see what’s new for the Switch and not what’s old.