It's hard to say that Nintendo had a down year in 2018. Compared to the company's stellar 2017, there may be room for debate. Considering the strong launch of their extremely successful home console hybrid, the Nintendo Switch, that March along with two of the highest rated games of all time in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, the company had big shoes to fill coming into the year. While the Japanese gaming giant finished 2018 in strong fashion, by seeing new entries in two of their most popular first party IPs (Super Smash Bros. and Pokémon), it still felt like something was missing through the year. Due to delays or pushed dates with certain titles, Nintendo’s trend of ‘one larger titled released every month’ for the Switch ended this year, leaving some fans disappointed.
With that said, 2019 could be a special year for Nintendo and its 'little hybrid that could'. Here are some headlines we could see throughout the upcoming year regarding one of gaming's most recognizable companies:
Nintendo Switch Misses 20 Million Sales Goal
While the company is still projected to finish their fiscal year at a very strong pace and number, inevitably they will miss their updated goal of moving 20 million units within the year. Finishing somewhere between 16-17 million units sold looks to be the trajectory the console is on currently. While that puts the system just short of Nintendo’s goal, the current trend aligns similarly with Sony’s average sales per year of the PlayStation 4, which clock in approximately at 18.4 units per year. On top of that, with Nintendo’s fiscal year wrapping in March, it gives the company the opportunity for a late push in sales with a rumored first party release in Animal Crossing that month. While shareholders view missed sales goals as a detriment to the company, if the Switch continues to average around 15 million units sold yearly, it's hard to be disappointed in that.
Steady First Party Releases Fuel Switch
As mentioned previously, 2018 was no slouch in regards to first party releases on the Switch. Titles like Kirby: Star Allies, Mario Tennis Aces, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu/Eevee! still provided fans with experiences to cover all aspects of gaming. At the same time, many titles originally scheduled for or insinuated for a 2018 release did see delays and pushes into the following year (i.e. Yoshi's Crafted World). Nintendo has followed Shigeru Miyamoto's approach to game creation for decades, approaching development by saying "A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad." With that mindset, delaying games like Yoshi's Crafted World in the past have paid off, not only giving the development side of the project more time for polish, but for the publishing and marketing end to properly promote the game instead of shoehorning in a late 2018 release.
On top of the company starting the year with best-selling series in New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe in January, look at the myriad of first party titles that have been given soft '2019' release windows so far. Animal Crossing, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Luigi's Mansion 3, a new core Pokémon RPG experience (all but confirmed to be the introduction of the series's eighth generation of creatures), and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 are just a few that come to mind. Not to mention looming megaton projects such Metroid Prime 4 and Bayonetta 3 could still see a holiday 2019 release. While I do imagine Bayonetta 3 releasing before the newest entry in the Metroid Prime series, the long rumored Metroid Prime Trilogy port could potentially tie fans over until sequel's release.
Nintendo Sees Robust Third Party Support for First Time In Years
Comparative to past Nintendo consoles, the Switch has already received its fair share of support from third party developers and publishers. Yet, when put next to its competitors, the Switch's library is still lacking many big-budget experiences from mainstay publishers like EA and Ubisoft. It's hard to blame third parties who held tight on developing for Nintendo's hybrid console when it was first announced, given the poor sales and reception of Nintendo’s previous home console, the Wii U. Since then though, vocal support from those same third party entities have began popping up, and 2019 looks to be the year we begin to see the fruits of their labor. We've already began to see the start of this inevitable domino effect with the announcement of Mortal Kombat 11 coming to Switch alongside all other iterations of the title. With a multitude of Final Fantasy and Resident Evil releases planned to hit the system in 2019, major industry players like Square Enix and Capcom are fueling the growth of third party selections in the coming months. PC gaming juggernaut Blizzard has also began to show a commitment to the system, releasing a new iteration of their award winning Diablo 3 experience. It's crazy to think that a series like Overwatch can possibly find a home on Nintendo hardware, when compared to where the company was in both the minds of industry members and consumer only a few years ago.
Nintendo Switch Revision Set for Holiday 2019 Release
For months, rumors have been spreading of Nintendo's plans for a supposed revision of the Switch's hardware. While nothing is concrete, it's by no means out of the question. With the company releasing several promotional pieces surrounding how to sell the system to someone or a third party store, it seems that a light breadcrumb trail is beginning to become visible as we near the new year. In comparison to Nintendo's ever popular line of 3DS models, revisions of the systems seem to pop up every two years of so. Whether it be in the form of simple design changes, like the 2DS, or adding a kick of extra power, as found in the 'New' 3DS line, new iterations of the system look to run on almost a bi-annual release schedule. Now, who knows if this will ring true with the company's latest piece of technology, but a holiday 2019 release isn't out of the question. Certain sects within Nintendo's fanbase have been asking for a bump in power for the pseudo handheld system, while others have been looking for a possible handheld-only reimagining of the system. Not only would a revision open up an incentive to 'upgrade' your system, it would also push original models at an inevitable lower price point (or vice versa if a handheld-only redesign is the direction the company heads).
While Nintendo's current year may not have lived up to its previous in the eyes of certain fans, the company's future looks bright in the upcoming year. In past years, the company has address their consumers and fan base with a January edition of their popular Nintendo Direct, which helps direct fans on what to expect in the upcoming months. With a strong end to 2018, things are looking quite positive for Nintendo Switch owners in the year to come.