It’s been a relatively rough set of years for Nintendo. The company’s investment in the Wii U hasn’t particularly paid off with consumers regularly confusing it for its immediate predecessor, just to name one issue with the console, and while the Nintendo 3DS is a great device, mobile gaming continues to shift to phones and tablets. Thankfully, the company looks to be reinventing itself in 2017.
If there’s one thing to be said of Nintendo, it’s that the company is constantly shifting and moving in ways that Sony and Microsoft do not. These experiments don’t always pan out (see again: the Nintendo Wii U) but when they do, they pay off big time like the original Nintendo Wii. 2016 was a year of laying the groundwork for what could be another big year for the company.
Obviously the biggest and largest change is the Nintendo Switch. Slated for March 2017, the Switch is sort of both the next console and the next handheld from the company. Generally speaking, a “console” has meant one that’s traditionally plugged into something like a television with more space and processing power to its name whereas a “handheld” is still a console, just smaller and less powerful. The Switch straddles the line.
How well it’ll straddle that line exactly remains unclear. Part of the reason handhelds are portable is that they trade off the graphics capability for size. The Switch can be plugged into a dock that’ll let it play on a television, and then undocked to play the same game on the go. Even if there’s a definitive difference in graphics quality, or battery life, that’s still a big jump from Sony’s Remote Play feature and the like.
On top of just the hardware specs and general “play here or play there” attitude of the device, Nintendo’s focus going forward also looks to be evolving. One major aspect of the reveal trailer for the Switch actually showcases what looks like an esports tournament of all things. Of the big three, Nintendo’s by far the worst at supporting such events, but perhaps the likes of Splatoon and the continued success of competitive Super Smash Bros. and Pokémon has finally made progress in convincing the company.
And let’s for a moment ignore the fact that Nintendo’s latest console is releasing in 2017. Even then, it’s going to be a big year for the House That Mario Built. On top of the release of Super Mario Run in late 2016, there’s scheduled to be mobile titles for the popular Nintendo franchises of Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem early in 2017 if all remains the same. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Assuming the aforementioned titles are as much of a success as Super Mario Run, it’s easy to imagine Nintendo and DeNA (the mobile games company Nintendo partnered with to produce Super Mario Run et al) pumping them out as fast as Nintendo will allow. The number of franchises that would benefit from a serious mobile title is staggering, and Nintendo’s roster goes far deeper than the usual suspects of Zelda and Mario games. A Metroid, for example, that calls back to earlier handheld games would likely do gangbusters.
Any way you slice it, 2017’s going to be big for Nintendo. The Switch and the focus on mobile titles is just what we know going in, and it’s entirely possible that E3 2017 and the like completely changes what the latter half of the year looks like for the company. It’s fairly common to predict doom and gloom for Nintendo at any given junction, but given what we already know? The future is looking pretty bright.