As had been rumored for a while now, Nintendo held a Nintendo Direct broadcast earlier this week. And as you may have expected, following the long silence from the company, the relatively barren lineup for the Switch last year, as well as the fact that the Switch’s release slate beyond March was simply not defined, they had a lot to say. Too much to say, one could argue. The Nintendo Direct broadcast on Tuesday will go down as presumably one of the best ones yet, and that’s because it was jam packed with announcements of new games and old, expected and unexpected.
But the Direct itself isn’t what we’re here to talk about. Rather, it’s the takeaway from the Direct that’s worth discussing. Where concerns about the Switch lineup for 2019 could rightly be raised until just a few days ago, at this point, the release slate is looking ridiculously packed, full to the bursting. There are so many games coming out to for the Switch this year, large scale and smaller ones, first and third party ones, exclusives and multiplat, and across all genres, that it’s hard not to see the Switch emerging at the top of the pile by the time the dust settles on this year.
After this Nintendo Direct, we know that we are due to get Yoshi’s Crafted World, Super Mario Maker 2, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, TOWN, Daemon X Machina, Astral Chain, Box Boy + Box Girl, and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, in addition to already announced games such as Pokemon 8, Animal Crossing, and Luigi’s Mansion 3. That’s a fantastic mix of games, of sequels and existing IPs, and this is all exclusive to the Switch. Once we start including multiplatform titles, we get Oninaki, Crash Team Racing, DOOM Eternal, Mortal Kombat 11, Team Sonic Racing, plus ports of older stuff like Deltarune, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, the Final Fantasy games, the Resident Evil games, Unravel 2, and GRID Autosport. This is without considering the additionally rumored (but not yet confirmed) Switch games for the year, such as Star Fox Grand Prix, Metroid Prime Trilogy, and Persona 5.
It’s an absolutely crazy lineup. The exclusives alone could help the Switch keep pace for the rest of the year—just Animal Crossing and Pokemon would be enough, to be honest. But when you add everything else on top, you’re left with such a staggering amount of games, it’s hard to see how anyone or anything is even supposed to keep pace with all of it. How are players to meaningfully purchase so many games? How are the Xbox One or the PS4, which have relatively emptier slates planned for the year, to compete?
To be fair, the Xbox One and PS4 are also older systems at this point. While the Switch is preparing to enter its prime, the PS4 and Xbox One are now exiting theirs, and are officially in year-on-year sales decline. With their successors rumored to be on the horizon, internal development for both consoles has assuredly switched towards their follow ups.
At this point, it’s not a controversial assumption that Days Gone, Dreams, Ghost of Tsushima, Death Stranding, and The Last of Us Part 2 is all the PS4 has left in terms of exclusives until the PS5 launches. Sony themselves have made it clear they have nothing new to show, and that’s why they are skipping E3. Whatever major new exclusives Sony is working on (and I am sure they have many they are working on), they’re going to come for the PS5 beyond these games.
Similarly, the Xbox One just launched Crackdown 3, and has Ori and the Will of the Wisps and Gears 5 and Halo Infinite lined up. But beyond that, it’s not controversial to assume that any major games being developed by Xbox’s newly engorged first party network of studios is hard at work on games to ensure that the Scarlett gets off to a better start than the Xbox One did.
So the PS4 and Xbox One’s release slates being emptier than the Switch’s makes sense—but even if both were in their respective primes, it’s hard to see how they would ever have managed to counter a lineup of thirteen exclusives releasing in a single year.
So the Switch has the benefit of being a high selling console that will get bolstered by a packed lineup, which includes at least three mass market monster hits in Mario Maker, Pokemon, and Animal Crossing, while the other two consoles do not have the lineup to keep up. But the Switch also benefits from the simple fact that, as consoles entering their respective twilights, the PS4 and Xbox One are very close to achieving market saturation. While there’s no doubt they’re still going to sell some more—at least 15-20 million more, in the PS4’s case—on the whole, both consoles will now see declining sales, while Switch will see accelerating sales.
Those factors contribute to further assuring the Switch’s status at the top of the heap for this year (and maybe beyond), but there’s more. For instance, a Switch revision is rumored for this year, as is a Switch price drop (which makes sense, it’s soon going to be over two years old, and not have seen a single permanent price cut). Those two things are sure to push its commercial viability even further.
All of this is to say, Nintendo is pretty much assured to take home the gold as far as console sales go this year. A fortuitous combination of an incredible lineup, the natural course of its trajectory versus its competition’s, plus price drops and hardware revisions, all but ensure it at this point.
In 2018, Nintendo made the forecast that they would sell 20 million units of the Nintendo Switch, a target I was leery of from the get go, and which I never expected them to meet for the year (which they themselves have now admitted that they won’t). But in 2019, I can well see Nintendo not only selling that many consoles for the year, but going far beyond that number. Yes, 2018 had the benefit of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but 2019 has far more—so much more, that the Switch’s appeal is bound to expand by definition. As I’ve said before, the Switch’s reign at the top of the charts has now begun.
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