Three Big Questions After The February 2019 Nintendo Direct

Illustration for article titled Three Big Questions After The February 2019 Nintendo Directem/em

Nintendo crammed a lot of news into yesterday’s Nintendo Direct, but with that came some questions, ones that might not have concrete answers right now but are still worth some discussion.

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Do we now know about all of Nintendo’s big 2019 Switch games?

It’s only February, but consider what we now know is announced for the Nintendo Switch in 2019, coupled with Nintendo’s propensity to publish about one or two notable games for one of their platforms each month.

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  • March - Yoshi’s Crafted World
  • April - No major releases (but there will be the download-only Box Boy + Box Girl and Smash Bros. spring update)
  • May - None announced
  • June - Super Mario Maker 2
  • July - Fire Emblem: The Three Houses, Dragon Quest Builders 2
  • August - Astral Chain
  • Summer: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, Daemon X Machina

Also announced for this year, likely for the big fall release season:

  • Animal Crossing
  • Luigi’s Mansion 3
  • Pokémon
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Remake
  • Update - 1:23pm: And Dragon Quest XI, since Nintendo is publishing the Switch port

Throw in some sort of new release or two related to the company’s cardboard-and-video-games Labo line.

There isn’t much room for another surprise game from Nintendo, is there? Maybe a Metroid Prime Trilogy collection? One of those inevitable Kirby games? Or some more smaller download-only games?

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All this assumes that Nintendo wouldn’t put out much more than one game a month for Switch, which brings us to…

Is the 3DS actually sunsetting soon?

Since the days of the NES and Game Boy, throughout the parallel lifespans of Nintendo’s handheld and console lines, Nintendo has split its publishing efforts across two (sometimes three) devices. One promise of the Switch was that a Nintendo machine that could work as a home unit and a portable could see a doubled output from Nintendo. As chock-full as Nintendo’s Switch line-up looks, if Nintendo were to, say, finally streamline down to publishing games for a single piece of hardware, they might start putting out more games per month. Could we be on the verge of that? Consider where the 3DS is now.

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The pending demise of the 3DS has been predicted many times before, but Nintendo defied such speculation in 2017 by releasing a new model of the machine, the 2DS XL, even after it started selling the portable Nintendo Switch. By continuing hardware support for the line, Nintendo also continued software support, primarily with some remakes, newly localized games for the west, and ports, which trickled all the way into 2019 with January’s Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, February’s Yokai Watch 3, and March’s Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn. Nintendo’s 2018-2019 fiscal year ends at the end of March. After that, the number of announced Nintendo-published games for 3DS is zero.

My insightful colleague Chris Kohler sees two scenarios here: they need to announce a new year’s worth of games or “admit it’s dead and, probably, introduce the smaller, handheld Switch.” The latter seems more likely to me, so, because it’s Nintendo, they’ll probably do the former. We’ll find out soon.

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Will Nintendo Switch Online might be the home of more new, original games?

One of yesterday’s bigger surprises was the announcement and immediate release of Tetris 99, a battle-royale-style Tetris game published by Nintendo and developed by the publisher’s longtime development partner Arika (maker of such disparate titles as the meditative underwater exploration series Endless Ocean as well as Dr. Mario and Dr. Luigi games). The game is free to subscribers of Nintendo’s online service, which up until now has only offered players online play and a smattering of classic Nintendo Entertainment System games.

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The obvious next move for Nintendo Switch Online was for Nintendo to start selling Super Nintendo or Nintendo 64 games. Instead, we got an original online-only game. That would be an unusual but interesting way for Nintendo to expand the service. What’s next? A Pushmo MMO? Who knows, but let’s float that one just so we can all imagine them seizing the opportunity to call it Pushmmo.

Editor-in-Chief. Playing: AC Odyssey (need to get back to Ashen, Spider-Man, RDR2, Iconoclasts, Arkham Origins, Sushi Striker, Samus Returns, and Ghost Recon Breakpoint)

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DISCUSSION

chriskohler
Chris Kohler

1. Yeah, I do think that BoxBoy (and the Joker release for Smash) is the April game. That said, May is wide open, and the rumor about Metroid Prime Trilogy is that it’s done and just waiting for a slot, and I could see why they’d maybe hold that back from the Direct, so maybe that’s it.

2. From a financials perspective, Nintendo has to announce some first-party 3DS games in the next month or it’s not going to make any sense when they go to investors and project that they plan to sell [number] units of 3DS software in the fiscal year 2019. That reality is from where I derive the two possibilities: Either we’re getting some kinda 3DS Direct soon, or they’re killing it off (in the sense that no more games are coming). The fact that nothing has been announced yet, and that this Direct had no 3DS games in it, are both points in the “dead” column. But you really never know.

3. I really love the idea of Tetris 99 - create a game that relies on being free, but don’t worry about monetization because you’re not trying to convert people into paid users, you’re using it as a carrot to get people to subscribe to your online service, so that’s how the economics work out. I definitely think we’ll see more of this as Nintendo looks to build its subscriber base.