It’s an exciting time to be a Nintendo fan. First-year Switch sales have completely exceeded expectations, and at its continued rate may even outsell the PS4 or the Wii in its lifetime. And if Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey weren’t already the two best games of 2017, the recent Nintendo Direct has got Smash Bros Switch on everybody’s mind, which will likely remain a huge talking point all the way to E3 through to its release this year.
Of course, the lack of any new information other than that teaser means a lot of speculation, namely whether it’s a new game or an enhanced port of the Wii U game, or perhaps in-between. I realise there’s a lot of fun in speculations, but the more I see posts about how it’s going to have the entire Wii U roster, as well as completely new characters from the latest Nintendo IPs, and re-designs, and new stages, and all new modes I get the sense that there are people building it up to be everything rolled into one, very much gamers wanting to have their cake and eat it. But it’s something of a recurring pattern that Nintendo seems to face more than anyone else from both fans and critics.
Take the Switch’s launch price of $299, which somehow got routinely criticised for being too much — despite being exactly the same as the Wii U base unit at launch, and still significantly less than the PS4 or Xbox One launch prices — except critics were comparing a brand new console’s price to hardware that’s already been out for over three years.
Then what about the ignominy of there being no game packed in on top of the console’s ‘high’ price? Look, I know we’ve been used to Nintendo packing in games with their famous hardware, from Tetris to Wii Sports, but they’re not obligated to give away software.
Then there were grumblings about the weak launch lineup, even though that included the best game of the year, if not all time. Hell, there were people who were genuinely angry that Mario Odyssey and Splatoon 2 weren’t part of the launch lineup because how dare first-party titles spread themselves out over the year instead of being handed to us right here, right now when we barely have the time, attention and wallet size for it.
Even after the year was over and the Nintendo bosses can happily laugh back at all this and prove that they knew what they were doing all along, it still wasn’t enough when the feverishly rumoured January Direct turned out to be a Mini Direct, and suddenly I’m reading takes on how the Switch has lost momentum — January, when you didn’t even hear a peep from anyone else.
In reality, the Switch is continuing to do amazingly well without any price cuts and people are enjoying a whole variety of games in just the ways it’s been advertised, which proves that sometimes, for your own health, you really are better off not getting pulled into online discussions and Twitter feeds.
Which then brings us to the reveal of Smash Bros Switch, which judging by some reactions you’d think was the Second Coming.
As someone who’s only moderately interested in Smash Bros Switch as a fun fanservice party game, I’m almost certain that if you’re of the high expectation that this is going to be delivering all of the content from the past game — just like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Pokken Tournament DX and Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition — on top of lots of brand new content, all delivered from day one, then I should burst that Smashball-shaped bubble.
Firstly, if it was a port, you’d wonder why it wasn’t announced as such, similar to the above titles. If we’re going on the basis that it’s a brand new entry, then you have to consider that most fighting games do have a tendency to change up their roster, so why again must we hold up a Nintendo property as the exception? While I doubt there’s any reason to dramatically reduce the lineup, the idea that Smash Bros Switch will keep everything from before but also bring past characters back and still introduce Inklings, ARMS fighters and a whole swath of number of third-party guests, as well as whole new modes, a campaign and content — all of which takes considerable development time — is just absurd.
Given that Smash Bros Switch looks set to coincide with the launch of the Switch’s paid online service (another thing that both Sony and Microsoft already do but which gets grumbles when Nintendo does it), it wouldn’t be a surprise if it follows a similar idea of rolling out DLC content revolving around games such as Splatoon 2. If Nintendo is looking to keep its players engaged for the long term, then there’s a strong chance Smash Bros could take on a ‘games-as-a-service’ model, expanding its roster, introducing new modes, events and perhaps rewards over time instead of a one-and-done Smash-and-grab package.
There’s no doubt the Smash Bros Switch hype will continue for the rest of the year until its release, but before everyone gets swept up in the hype only to get yourselves disappointed if Nintendo doesn’t deliver the Power Moon on a stick, it’s about time those expectations were reined in and frankly, let’s cut Nintendo some slack. They’re on the best roll in ages — surely that’s enough?