Put simply, it’s because of the realities of software development.
Last year, Nintendo released a major Switch game every month the whole time the Switch was on the market. The end result was that the console got off to a flying start, and gathered a library of exclusive titles that already began to encroach on the catalogs of its far more entrenched and established rivals.
This year has been different. While Nintendo has released a fair few games on the Switch, they’ve been far smaller scale, and a lot of them have in fact been re-releases of older Wii U games. In terms of major new releases for the Switch, Nintendo has basically saved them for the Holiday season, with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Pokemon Let’s Go.
Speaking to investors in a Q&A session about this discrepancy in how Nintendo approached release schedules for the Switch across 2017 and 2018, President Shuntaro Furukawa noted that while Nintendo had been obligated to release games at the pace that it did last year, it was also similarly obligated to not put out as many major titles this year, because of the realities of software development, and games taking more time now to be made.
“The previous fiscal year was the first one after the launch of Nintendo Switch, and during that time, we released a succession of major first-party titles that helped sustain the momentum building behind Nintendo Switch,” Furukawa said. “If you compare this year to last year, we are still releasing new titles, but each title’s sales volume is at a smaller scale than last year. That is true. Software development takes a long time, so there will inevitably be periods during the hardware lifecycle when we are unable to release major new titles. During those times, what we must do is make use of a variety of different methods to fill any gaps between the times we have major title releases. We do that by continuing to promote the sale of titles released in the previous year, release add-on content, highlight the appeal of hardware itself, and use services like Nintendo Switch Online to keep the utilization ratio of the hardware up.”
I appreciate that there will in the end always be periods where the company cannot put out as many games as it did before, because that’s just how software development works, and Nintendo, in the end, is still just one company. With that said, I sincerely hope that 2019 turns out to be far better for the Switch from a software perspective than 2018 was.