Nintendo’s Disappointing, Underwhelming, No Good, Very Bad Year

Animal Crossing, and, well, nothing else at all.

If I told you that Nintendo had a bad year, you might say that I’m not very educated on how business and money works. After all, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has become the second highest selling Switch game in the console’s library, reaching over 26 million units in sales through the first three quarters of the fiscal year.

That same report states that the numbers on hardware sales have also seen an 80% year -on-year increase, demonstrating the ability to pull the casual audience into their grasp in a way that other companies just can’t manage to do.

But what about the hardcore Nintendo fanatics who want something more? The strong sales on the aforementioned products do nothing to motivate them to innovate and release new games for loyalists, instead lying steady in the prone position with the success they are having on one big title and some retreads.

Obviously, we all knew that what they put out this year would pale in comparison to their competitors. The new console generation was kicked off with the Xbox Series X and Playstation 5 releasing last month to enormous anticipation.

But no fan was asking for a new console. The Switch is still pulling huge numbers in sales, and it also is incredibly relevant from a gameplay perspective still. The dual-capability of handheld and TV play hasn’t become outdated in the least in the nearly four years since arriving on the scene, and Nintendo has been rumored to release a hardware update sometime in 2021.

No, what beleaguered fans of the company are disappointed in is the complete disregard for new software during the entirety of the 2020 calendar year. That is what made these last 12 months so disappointing, regardless of large sales figures and shiny console update predictions for the future.

After the big Animal Crossing launch in March, Nintendo followed with the lukewarmly-received Paper Mario: The Origami King, and rereleases in Pikmin 3 and Super Mario 3D All-Stars. Once again, sales seem to be the only thing on their mind this year, ignoring the usual pride they have in creating innovative and new products.

Putting out the games from the Wii U generation just because nobody bought that system on a causal level leaves those who did buy it out to dry. Why not make a fourth Pikmin game instead? Why not put out a new big Mario release instead of three older games that everyone and their grandparent has played?

Hyrule Warriors is too niche to consider it a big new title, and it just continues to spur analysis of when the Breath of the Wild sequel will finally grace anxious fans. After all, these icons like Mario and Link are what separate Nintendo from the other big dogs in the industry.

Their properties are decades old, carrying on a legacy for generations of hungry gamers. It’s disrespectful to not put out new content for these characters on a more regular basis, and 2020 was simply the culmination of a disturbing trend for Nintendo in their company policies.

The Switch’s lasting legacy is soon to become that of port or remake machine. They’ve put almost the entire last generation of their library on the console, they charge a full 60 dollars for each of these releases, and they often add so little extra content to the remake that it’s insulting.

I’ve added an amazing video below from Nin10doland on YouTube discussing some other logistics and stats backing my argument.

So is 2021 going to be just a boring for us as 2020 was? Initial speculation and rumors lead me to the same conclusions as for this year. Rumored remakes for the next year include a Fire Emblem title, a Metroid Prime trilogy remaster, and ports of Pokemon Red, Gold, and Ruby.

The saving grace from the speculation mill is that Breath of the Wild’s sequel will finally arrive by the end of next year, but with nothing being officially announced, I would advise against getting your hopes up too much.

I want to say that one positive to making Nintendo’s entire library available from the last decade on the Switch makes it unique compared to the competition because you get to see the impressive display of greatness they have put out across time. It’s like all of the programming you get on Disney + representing that giant’s whole catalogue.

But the downside is greater than the advantages to it. Sony and Microsoft make their consoles backwards compatible with nearly all of their previous generation’s content, so they allow you to enjoy their history and forge forward with their new ideas simultaneously.

Nintendo is going to start frustrating their most loyal fans to a point that they loose some of that rabid base that is unmatched in the gaming industry. The people who ignore their odd business practices (as written about beautifully by Victor Li in this piece here), the ones who just go with the lack of technological advancement in their consoles, the fans who will introduce their children and grandchildren to Nintendo culture.

I know that this comes off as a huge hit piece, but it’s coming from a good place. I play nearly 100 percent of my games on Nintendo platforms. I’ve loved them and only them for over two decades now. I think that Nintendo is the most creative force in the entire realm of digital entertainment, and I would hate to see that go away because of lazy business strategy. Because nothing in the world matches a brilliant new title from Nintendo!

University of Washington Class of 2020 in English Literature and fan of video games and basketball. Twitter: @LaibShawn

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