Ah, Nintendo. There’s little doubt that Nintendo hasn’t had an amazing year. With the Switch going full tilt, it looks like Nintendo’s woes with both the Wii and Wii U have been left in the past. But how good was 2018 compared to 2017 that rocked the world? Well, the Nintendo Entertainment Podcast Team banded together to share their thoughts on the highs, the lows, and the surprises.
Highs – Todd Black
The Games That Hit…Hit
For the first nine or so months, you might think that the Big N didn’t have much to be grateful for. Yet, that’s not exactly true. Despite a VERY slow start and a bunch of ports covering for Nintendo in the early parts of the year, they still had some big sales. Kirby Star Allies and Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze both sold over 1 million, and it’s said that Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition did close to that. Mario Tennis Aces scored huge with over 2 million in sales. Which is incredible for a sport series featuring Mario (which hasn’t done well in recent console and handheld generations).
Moving on, Super Mario Party was another big hit, selling well over 1 million in just the United States alone, making it the fastest-selling Mario Party game ever. Then, once Nintendo dropped Pokemon Let’s Go (one of its killer apps for the year), the response was immediate, it got 3 million in sales in just the first three days. Then, it was the best-selling game on Black Friday. So despite it being a more casual Pokemon title, it was indeed a mega-hit.
Then, of course, there was the arrival of Super Smash Bros. Nintendo killed it with the hype build-up throughout the months since its announcement. The debate about who would be in was incredible, and the results were pretty surprising (more on that later from Will). But for it to sell 5 million in the first 3 days? That was insane! And proof that the Nintendo can release a killer app in any month and get it to sell huge. And the game in many ways is only getting started.
Oh, and let’s not forget the 3rd party titles, many were big hits for the system in one way or another. Starlink: Battle For Atlas was widely considered the best on Switch because of the Star Fox content. But the biggest one of all was Octopath Traveler, the highly anticipated RPG delivered in every way, and sold over a million units in just 3 weeks.
Still Selling Consoles
Nintendo had a big year for the fiscal year that was 2018, they wanted to sell 20 million units within the year. A very tall order. And while it’s still unclear whether they’ll actually make that goal, there’s no doubt that the Switch is still selling like hotcakes. 2018 continued the incredible sales trend for the system. Including having the biggest Black Friday sales of a Nintendo console ever with 1.3 million in sales, and those incredible sales extended throughout Cyber Monday, making the Switch the #1 video game item sold over that period, ever. At best estimates, the Switch is well over 25 million units sold. So even if the next three months of sales don’t get the system to its goal, it’s still had an impressive year. And 2019 is setting up to be even higher in goals for the Big N.
The Lows – Tyler Kelbaugh
After 2017, expecting anything but a slow start to 2018 was a bit unreasonable. That said, the Switch experienced a major first-party title drought for the majority of the year – unacceptable for a console looking to sell over 20 million units in the fiscal year.
Kirby Star Allies was the first big title to drop, coming in mid-March. Outside of Star Allies, Nintendo relied heavily on Wii U ports to keep games flowing. Bayonetta 1+2 launched in February, Hyrule Warriors in April, and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze in May. All of those games should be part of your Switch collection if you have never played them previously, but re-releases can only excite so much.
So many elements of Nintendo’s year were just a bit off. Sticking with games,promised to revive the once popular franchise by adding fighting game meter management into the arcade tennis fun. The promising concept fell flat, however, due to terrible online servers and unfathomable game balance. Brawl Meta Knight has nothing on MTA’s Day 1 Bowser Jr. I’ll never know how Camelot thought this game was set for launch.
October’s Super Mario Party brought that same promise of rebirth. It was a return to form of sorts, but uninspired game boards prevented it from totally hitting the mark. The same could be said for. Although gamers’ third trip back to Gen 1 Kanto featured plenty of high points, over-simplification of gameplay stopped the title from being everything it could be.
It wasn’t until December’sthat Nintendo got back to hitting its mark on gameplay. While none of the previous titles were “bad”, they just didn’t quite feel right.
Nintendo Switch Online
Nintendo’s greatest 2018 failure without a doubt was the release of Nintendo Switch Online. Until two weeks from release, Nintendo remained vague on the actual launch date of the service. We had no idea what it offered until a September Nintendo Direct outlined its minimal features. Nintendo still can’t get online right, its games suffering from often terrible lag in addition to awful user experience.
Ultimate’s online woes have been well documented, but it’s unthinkable that players still can’t play 1 v 1 with no items every time they want. Mario Tennis Aces had the same problem, with doubles being a local-only option. Updates alleviated both issues, but Nintendo’s online offerings remain leagues below the competition.
The Surprises – William Kok
Persona is In Smash Bros.
Nobody saw this coming.
We all knew that there would be DLC characters would be coming to Smash Bros. When Nintendo announced that they have chosen the set five characters to appear, many wondered what the characters would be. Many bets were placed from Sora of Kingdom Hearts, Banjo from Banjo Kazooie, the list goes on.
No one could’ve thought that Joker of Persona 5 would be making its appearance.
Mere moments from the release of Super Smash Bros Ultimate, the Video Game Awards has a surprise. Literally, the last surprise before release. We all saw it and we thought it would be the rumored Persona 5 for Switch port. But nope, it was an invitation to Smash Bros.
The general consensus lost their minds, myself included.
This is 3 SEGA published characters now in Smash. Sonic, Bayonetta, now Joker. The fans had theories of who was going to make it. Almost no one expected Persona. This now makes the way to the possibility that literally anyone can show. Mortal Kombat? Travis Touchdown? (Been debunked before but still hope) , Kiryu Kazuma of Yakuza? All we know is that Reggie said that all the DLC characters planned ahead will be in the same surprise factor as Joker. If this was the reaction to Joker, what other characters will set us in a frenzy? Sora of Kingdom Hearts fits this. Regardless, this is a very exciting time.
Confidence From 3rd Parties
Do you remember a time of the Wii U? To think that a time that Nintendo was so hurt and severely lacking in 3rd party support that it was one of the reasons for the failure of the Wii U.
Now, 3rd parties love the Switch and want to put their games on it.
The numbers speak for themselves and the industry took notice. We got announced at the VGA that Mortal Komabat 11 will be coming to the Nintendo Switch. The last time I remember Mortal Kombat on a Nintendo Console was back during the SNES days with the arcade port of Mortal Kombat 2. We also saw the release of great 3rd party titles like Dragon Ball Figtherz, Blazblue Cross Tag Battle and Octopath Traveler. This also comes with exclusive indies like Celeste and The Messenger. Sure time titles would take a graphical downgrade to able to put on the Switch, but the fact to take quality titles with you is, I believe, a good trade-off.
Overall, it is quite a surprise to see the sudden change. Knowing that the Switch has done so well and to see companies having the confidence to support this system is assuring. Here is hoping to another year in supporting the system.