The E3 2019 Nintendo Direct was full of surprises and delightful gameplay videos. We got our first look at a new Panzer Dragoon, saw what to expect from Luigi’s Mansion 3, and people came to tears after Banjo and Kazooie were finally confirmed to be coming to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. However, not every announcement was a positive one as Nintendo revealed that the company needs more development time for Animal Crossing New Horizons and that it would not release until 2020. This Animal Crossing delay is a bigger problem than it would normally be since the peaceful adventure game was set to anchor Nintendo’s holiday line-up.
This isn’t to say that Nintendo has nothing for the back half of the year, as both Pokemon Sword and Shield are set to release November 15, 2019, and will undoubtedly be two of the best selling games of the year given the popularity of the franchise. If you’re going to hedge your bets on just one major release during the holiday season then a new mainline Pokemon RPG is one heck of an ace to have up your sleeve.
However, Nintendo is entering a time period that should be rich with titles for its new console, as it’s no longer supporting the Nintendo 3DS with new games. Instead, we’re getting a sparse internal line-up that has few major new releases.
Nintendo has previously discussed how the company doesn’t want to have any long lulls in the Switch software line-up. This impacted both the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U negatively early on as they both went several months without a significant first-party release.
This is a bigger deal on these systems than on the PS4 or Xbox One because people buy Nintendo systems to play the company’s first-party games. No matter how many third-party titles release on the system, many players are only interested in Nintendo’s exclusives since the multiplatform titles will perform and play better elsewhere.
Animal Crossing delay shows a weak back half of 2019 for first-party titles
Nintendo did a great job of adhering to a steady release schedule last year. February saw Bayonetta and its excellent sequel come out to the system, March featured Kirby Star Allies, May saw Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition release, April had two Labo releases, May had Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, June had Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido and Mario Tennis Aces, July had Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, September saw yet another Labo release and Xenoblade Chronicles 2‘s expansion, October had Super Mario Party, November had Pokemon Let’s Go, and the year ended with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. That’s a huge line-up that spans the entire year without any sort of lull.
2019 hasn’t been as packed in comparison. New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe started the year off strong in January, but there was nothing new in February. March and April had Yoshi’s Crafted World and Labo VR, respectively, but May featured zero releases. June and July look to be very strong with Super Mario Maker 2, Fire Emblem Three Houses, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order releasing. However, the back half of the year isn’t loaded with any huge titles except for Pokemon.
The current schedule is pretty sparse with Astral Chain launching in August and Link’s Awakening in September. The only 2019 first-party title without a specific date is Luigi’s Mansion 3, which you would think Nintendo would try to tie into October and Halloween.
That leaves nothing for December and puts a lot of pressure on Pokemon to deliver commercially. It’s almost certain it will, but it’s a weak line-up for a system that should be peaking in terms of commercial releases. Last year had Pokemon plus another system seller in Smash Bros Ultimate while 2019 doesn’t have anything else that will convince those on the edge to pick up Nintendo’s portable console.
There is an upside to the Animal Crossing delay
Despite the disappointment over the Animal Crossing delay to March 20, 2020, it isn’t without some upside. First off, Nintendo has rushed several releases on Switch and that meant that games like Mario Tennis Aces and ARMS weren’t as good as they could have been at launch. Future updates made them into much better titles, but you only get one chance at a first impression.
By delaying Animal Crossing New Horizons, Nintendo will make sure that the next title in the series is worthy of being a mainline entry. Judging by the trailer, it looks to be on the right path as crafting will add a new dynamic to its gameplay and will provide some much-needed depth. At the end of the day, getting a better Animal Crossing is good news and it’s difficult to complain about.
There is also the chance that Nintendo has some additional announcements for later this year. Wii U ports like The Wonderful 101 and Super Mario 3D World wouldn’t need a ton of build-up and could help fill out slots in the empty schedule, and a Metroid Prime Trilogy re-release would help hype up the incoming fourth entry.
There’s also a shot that Platinum Games’ Bayonetta 3, which was announced in 2017, is further along than we currently think and could release before the end of the year. That’s a potential game of the year contender judging by how great the previous character action game was. Plus, smaller digital-only releases will also help fill the void and with their vast library, Nintendo can put out a number of compilations if they want to.
While certainly not a dire 2019 line-up, and it’s great to see Nintendo not revealing too many games before they are nearing completion, there’s not a ton for Nintendo fans to be excited about going forward. However, these releases should help tide Nintendo fans over for the rest of the year, and by the time 2020 hits, the company will be ready to announce more titles in addition to The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild 2 and Animal Crossing New Horizons. The delay is certainly a bummer, but if we wind up getting the best Animal Crossing game ever made then it will be well worth the temporary disappointment of it not releasing this year.