The Nintendo Switch’s first year lineup is truly incomparable.
The Nintendo Switch has turned one year old; it was just a year ago, on March 3 2017, that Nintendo launched their hybrid console. The Switch launched after years of intense speculation and anticipation, and while its initial reveal had been well received in all quarters, subsequent showings, including the January press event where Nintendo revealed the launch date, lineup, and price, ended up greatly eroding any confidence in the system’s ability to do well.
Of course, what happened afterwards is history- the Switch launched with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, arguably the greatest game ever made, and, buoyed by a relentless onslaught of first party games by Nintendo (one game a month, every month), as well as the odd third party game, and an ever increasing number of games by independent game developers, it went on to break every record in the book. The Switch is right now the fastest selling console of all time in USA, Canada, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and Japan, having sold faster than the Wii and PS4. It has been the highest selling console most weeks and months since its launch in most of the world. Games on the Switch have managed to shift units in unprecedented amounts. The console outsold the Wii U’s lifetime sales in less than ten months.
All of that is well known- but what the success of the Switch does is, it makes it easy for people to forget just how easily it could all have gone wrong. In many ways, the Switch – an underpowered home console (which Nintendo insists on branding it as), lacking parity of third party support with the competition, and pushing a unique ‘gimmick’ over hardware power, could have backfired. But it did not- it took Nintendo’s smart marketing, as well as their identification of an excellent hook that appeals to the masses (gaming on the go) for the Switch to become what it did. But more than that, more than anything else, the Switch is a success because of just how excellent its first year lineup was- the greatest first year lineup, in fact, that any console has ever had in history.
"The Switch launched with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, one of the highest rated games of all time (and certainly one of the best games ever made). Launching with a game of that caliber was what put Switch on the map and kept its sales going for a while- people wanted to buy a Switch so they could play Zelda."
This really shouldn’t be a controversial statement- the Switch launched with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, one of the highest rated games of all time (and certainly one of the best games ever made). Launching with a game of that caliber was what put Switch on the map and kept its sales going for a while- people wanted to buy a Switch so they could play Zelda (it is very important to remember the Wii U was discontinued before the Switch even launched). Other consoles rarely manage to even have an offering of decent games on release- the Switch launched with a Game of the Year contender.
It didn’t stop there, either- a month later, Nintendo had Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Technically, this was a Wii U port- but to many Switch owners, who never owned a Wii U, this was an all new game, and the very first time they got exposed to the modern multiplayer classic that Mario Kart 8 is. Even for returning veterans, Nintendo made the package compelling, by adding a full fledged battle mode, new characters, and new karts. A little over a month after that, Nintendo launched ARMS, the brand new IP from the makers of Mario Kart, and a 3D fighting game unlike any other. A month after that, they launched Splatoon 2, the sequel to the Wii U exclusive third person shooter, and one that has continued to get better thanks to Nintendo’s incredible, free, post launch support for it. A month after that? The surprising, and utterly amazing, Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle was available.
The next month, Nintendo had Pokken DX– again, this was technically a Wii U port, but again, the pot was sweetened, with new content and new modes, as well as Fire Emblem Warriors, a hack and slash action game for Fire Emblem fans. The next month, Nintendo had Super Mario Odyssey– and, much like Zelda, Odyssey represented the most ambitious Mario game to date, returning to Mario 64 style platforming sandboxes and exploration, including the first urban environment in series history. Super Mario Odyssey would go on to match Breath of the Wild in critical acclaim, giving the Switch two 97 Metascore games in its first year on the market (over on OpenCritic, the top two games of all time are both Nintendo Switch games- Mario and Zelda respectively)- most consoles don’t get there for years, if ever.
"Super Mario Odyssey would go on to match Breath of the Wild in critical acclaim, giving the Switch two 97 Metascore games in its first year on the market (over on OpenCritic, the top two games of all time are both Nintendo Switch games- Mario and Zelda respectively)- most consoles don’t get there for years, if ever."
Nintendo rounded off the year with Xenoblade 2, a flawed, but fantastic, JRPG that is probably Monolith Soft’s most heartfelt, and most successful, title yet. Xenoblade 2 ended up selling over a million units worldwide, finally breaking the series into mainstream, and leading to people who might not ordinarily be interested in traditional Nintendo games to look into getting a Switch too.
In and of itself, this cadence of incredible exclusive content would have been more than enough to cement the Switch’s first year as legendary- but incredibly, this wasn’t even the end of it. Third parties managed to chip in too, and on its first year on the market, Switch got games from Ubisoft, Bethesda, EA, Sega, and even Rockstar- from FIFA 18, NBA 2K18, WWE 2K18 to LA Noire, Sonic Mania, Minecraft, Dragon Quest Builders, Puyo Puyo Tetris, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, Disgaea 5 Complete, DOOM, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim– it was a sweet mix of games (even if it wasn’t as good as the third party offerings on other consoles), and it definitely kept a cadence of titles flowing even when the game Nintendo was releasing that month might not have appealed to you.
But even that doesn’t cover all of it- you see, the true stars of Nintendo’s first year lineup on the Switch, apart from Nintendo themselves, were indie game developers (whom Nintendo has affectionately branded ‘nindies’). Thanks to some incredible outreach on Nintendo’s part, we got some fantastic indie games on the Switch over the last year- Celeste, Stardew Valley, Golf Story, SteamWorld Dig, Night in the Woods, Overcooked, Subsurface Circular, Gorogoa, Shovel Knight, Yono and the Celestial Elephants, The Flame in the Flood, Snipperclips, Thimbleweed Park, Thumper… honestly, this section can keep going on and on, and I would still have only scratched the surface, if that, of the embarrassment of riches that the indie games on the Switch eShop poses.
"All told, there are over 400 games available on the Switch as of right now- one year from launch. Just the Nintendo exclusives alone make the Switch’s first year lineup upper tier- but when you throw in everything else, it isn’t even a contest."
All told, there are over 400 games available on the Switch as of right now- one year from launch. Just the Nintendo exclusives alone make the Switch’s first year lineup upper tier- but when you throw in everything else, it isn’t even a contest. Never before has a console burst out of the gates with a showing this strong, and with so many games to play, in the first year alone. Most of the times, the first year of a console’s life represent a transition period, and are slower than the years that follow- for instance, the PS4 didn’t begin to come into its own until a few months into 2015, which was almost a year and a half after it launched. The Switch hit the ground running from day one.
Nintendo needed the Switch to be a slam dunk if they were to come back from the failure of the Wii U and be relevant in the console market again- their smart lineup of games in year one ensured that would happen. The Switch’s first year lineup is unmatched, and no other console has had a comparable first year showing. Now, we can only hope Nintendo keeps the flow of games coming into the second year. So far, things look good on that front- and by now, I would hope we all know never to count Nintendo out.
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