Can the Switch’s Second Year Measure Up?

The Nintendo Switch has had an eventful first year. It launched with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which many already consider to be one of the greatest video games ever made. Nintendo kept releasing hit after hit, pacing them perfectly, with almost no single month going by without a major Switch title. Super Mario Odyssey hit the scene in October to major praise with many gamers lauding it as even better than Breath of the Wild. In between, there were great games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2 and Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. Since Odyssey, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Bayonetta 1+2 have hit the scene as well, keeping the ship steady for Nintendo. All of this is categorically fantastic and has allowed the Switch to sell over 15 million units in its first year on the market, becoming the fastest selling console in history. The question remains: can Nintendo keep up their incredible momentum? Is there any way the Switch’s second year can surpass what they accomplished in the last twelve months?

We’ve talked about what Nintendo has left up their sleeves for the Switch at length, and with the exceptions of games that have come out since then, these predictions hold up nicely. There are some smaller games confirmed that probably won’t make a splash like Zelda or Mario can. For instance, there’s Yoshi, a port of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Kirby Star Allies coming out in just a couple of weeks. These games are sure to be great and will absolutely continue to justify anyone’s purchase of a Switch, but they probably won’t push systems off shelves like other games might.

A big dark horse on the Switch’s horizon is Nintendo Labo. Though many hardcore gamers have bemoaned this cardboard-centric set of games and buildable accessories, it might be a slam dunk for Nintendo. They have, after all, always been a toy company, and this is aimed towards a young market. It’s this consumer market that might just boost sales, even beyond what we’ve already seen. Yes, Nintendo has the hardcore market in the bag with Zelda, Mario and more upcoming major titles, but this could have Wii-level mass appeal and it’s not hard to imagine parents around the world buying a Switch just to let their kid’s imaginations run free with Labo.

Then there’s Metroid. This is one of Nintendo’s big three franchises for hardcore gamers, though it historically sells far below the numbers Mario and Zelda hit. It’s a shame, too, because these lower sales are perhaps to blame for the franchise going dark for long periods of time. Luckily, it looks like a resurgence for Samus Aran is on its way, with Metroid: Samus Returns for the 3DS already acting as a wonderful swan song for the system and Metroid Prime 4 confirmed to be in development. There’s no guarantee Metroid Prime 4 will hit the Switch within the next year (in fact, you can probably bet it will drop mid to late 2019), but it’s absolutely a possibility for it to come out earlier than that. Sure, releasing a Metroid Prime 4 instead of creating a different sub-series for Metroid might not make total sense, but if the talented new team behind it (which is rumored to be from Bandai Namco) knocks it out of the park, it’s possible for all of these things to change. And even if it doesn’t sell ten million copies, a major hardcore-centric game like Metroid would do wonders to keep the momentum of both the franchise and the Switch going.

The biggest game on the Switch’s horizon is, undeniably, Pokémon Switch. It could bring a lot of changes with it or it could be the same Pokémon game we’ve been used to for the past twenty years with better graphics, but there’s no denying that this will be a monumental moment for the franchise. There have been console Pokémon games before, but they were either battle or mini-game centric (like the Pokémon Stadium games), completely tangential (like Pokémon Snap) or were halfhearted attempts at the real thing (like Pokémon Coliseum and Gale of Darkness). Pokémon has always been a system seller for Nintendo’s handhelds and the same will be true for the first proper console Pokémon. The Switch being both Nintendo’s handheld and console is a godsend, if only because it finally forces Pokémon into the big leagues. It’s not guaranteed to come out within the next year, but a b-team was working on the most recent Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon games, so with a bit of time already, it’s not out of the question to see it in 2018. Unfortunately, GameFreak isn’t accustomed to designing HD games, and that might set them back quite a bit. If we do see Pokémon Switch, expect Switch sales to spike dramatically.

There are other major franchises that the Switch could potentially receive in its second year that would keep this momentum going as well. Animal Crossing has consistently gained popularity since its debut on the GameCube and the Switch’s portable nature could potentially foster a major boon for this series. Fire Emblem has similarly gotten more and more popular over time and is almost guaranteed to come out in 2018 – marking the first proper Fire Emblem game to hit a console since the Wii’s Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. The series has always done better on handhelds, but this is Intelligent Systems’ chance to show the world just what Fire Emblem is made of. Bayonetta 3 isn’t likely to sell quite as much as those last two games, but it is likely to receive critical acclaim and be yet another feather in the Switch’s ever-growing cap — if it comes out this year, of course. Don’t expect the next full-blown Zelda or Mario game to hit within the next year, but it’s clear the Switch can do just fine without those releases.

Who knows what else Nintendo has cooking for their little hybrid that could. There are games that Nintendo plans on releasing this year that they haven’t even hinted at yet – they’ve developed a nice habit of announcing and releasing games within the same year lately. The Switch itself could even see a revision, similar to the DS Lite or GameBoy Advance SP, both of which came out about two years after the initial versions of those handhelds did. Nintendo isn’t nearly as keen on doing these sorts of revisions with home consoles, but it’s easy to see them making modifications to the Switch. It’s a bare-bones, games-centric platform (no complaints from us), but there are many simple features it could add without alienating early adopters. They could add cameras (front and rear facing), enlarge the screen, make it capable of running and displaying games in 1080p while undocked, give it Bluetooth capabilities to allow wireless headset use, make it slimmer, give it a longer-lasting battery and much more. A slimmer, sleeker and maybe even faster Switch could very well be on the horizon.

Even if Nintendo doesn’t do a hardware revision (or even drop its price) in the next year, it’s clear the Switch will be just fine. Nintendo has recovered gracefully from their Wii U stumbles, and with dozens of developers under their belt, even more third-parties are clamoring to get a piece of the pie. With an already impressive stable of exclusive games, and much more on the way, the future is bright for Nintendo Switch.