Flatiron Hot! Gamer: Nintendo 2017 Year-In Review (Part 2: Ventures Beyond Gaming, 2018 Predictions)
By Max Shapiro
Be sure to read part 1 of this piece if you haven’t already.
As successful as Nintendo was this year in the field of mainstream gaming, a recurring tend for the company as of recently has been their attempts to venture into other fields. The first of their efforts was the mobile games based on their franchises that they’ve released, which are meant to draw in the more casual crowd as well as help promote their console games. So far, we’ve got five of them: Miitomo, Pokémon Go, and Super Mario Run came out in 2016, while 2017 saw the release of Fire Emblem Heroes and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. Of these five titles, Miitomo was the only one that was something of a misfire due to it essentially being a half-baked social platform, and Nintendo will be shutting the app down altogether in just a few months. But the other four games have all seen great success. Having played Super Mario Run I can confirm that it’s supremely addictive, and I was also part of the Pokémon Go craze the summer it released, short-lived as it was. I haven’t played the Fire Emblem or Animal Crossing titles simply because I’m not a fan of those franchises, but those who are seem to generally agree that they do a good job of scaling down to gameplay those series are known for to make it fitting for a mobile experience (I can certainly say that’s the case with Mario Run). And at least so far, it seems like Nintendo has had enough integrity to stay clear of the more toxic side of mobile gaming, since none of these games are riddled with absurd paywalls or microtransactions.
But mobile apps haven’t been the company’s only means of branching out, because a while back they announced that a Nintendo-themed land is coming to Universal Studios parks around the world, which we now know is called Super Nintendo World. It’s not due to open until 2020, so we didn’t get too many details last year, but the things we do know have fans more than a little excited. I don’t know about you but I’m pretty psyched for the Mario Kart attraction that’s been confirmed to be a part of the park.
And as if that wasn’t enough, it’s looking like Nintendo’s characters will also be hitting the big screen in the coming years, because they’re reportedly on the cusp of closing a deal with Illumination Entertainment (the animation studio behind Despicable Me) for a Mario movie. I’ve been dreaming of a proper animated Mario film for years (it’s better we just pretend that live-action abomination from the 90s Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo had the misfortune of starring in doesn’t exist). Additionally, a live-action film based on the 3DS game Detective Pikachu with Ryan Reynolds voicing the titular protagonist was announced to be due for release in 2019. It’s anyone’s guess how this movie will turn out, but Pikachu being voiced by Deadpool is enough for it to least have my attention.
Let’s see, what else? Oh yeah, a Mario-branded cereal from Kellogg’s also hit supermarket shelves a few months back, as if to hammer in Nintendo’s whole “we’re branching out” thing. Haven’t tried it, but I heard it’s good.
What’s in Store for 2018?
So I’ve made it pretty clear that in 2017 Nintendo knocked it out of the park on almost all accounts, but can they keep that momentum going this year? As far as first-party Switch titles go, we have Kirby Star Allies coming in March, Mario Tennis Aces in coming sometime in the spring, and new entries in the Fire Emblem and Yoshi series coming at unspecified dates later this year.
But those are just the brand-new games, because we also know about ports of three Wii U games, which are all coming in the first half of the year: Bayonetta 2, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and Hyrule Warriors. Mario Kart 8 and Pokkén Tournament received this treatment last year, and it looks that trend will continue throughout 2018. And as long as Nintendo keeps making brand new games alongside these ports, this is only good news as far as I’m concerned, because it means that the loads of people who never owned a Wii U are getting the chance to play the great games its library contained.
It’s a promising lineup so far, but there are still some gaps that need to be filled. We don’t know very much at all about games coming in the latter half of this year, but that doesn’t mean fans don’t have any ideas. First, there’s the ever-elusive Pikmin 4. Series creator Shigeru Miyamoto confirmed this game to be in the works over two years ago, but to this day we’ve heard nothing of it aside from quick statements from Miyamoto himself reassuring us that the game is still coming. The last time he spoke about it, he said that “it’s progressing.” Many, myself included, have a hunch that Pikmin 4 was originally in development for the Wii U and was later moved to the Switch, and that this is the year we’ll finally see it.
Then there’s Animal Crossing, which we haven’t heard anything about from Nintendo, but the tune of many fans seems to be that the timing feels right for a new mainline entry in that series. I also wouldn’t be surprised if an HD remake of the Wii’s The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword came out by the end of the year, as well as one or two more Wii U ports (Possible candidates include Super Mario 3D World, Pikmin 3, Yoshi’s Woolly World, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, and Xenoblade Chronicles X). However, this is all just speculation. We do officially know about Metroid Prime 4 and Bayonetta 3, but given that we’ve seen quite literally nothing of them beyond logos, it’s safe to say we won’t be playing those games until at least 2019.
But that still leaves the need for a heavy-hitter for the holiday season—this year’s Breath of the Wild or Mario Odyssey, in other words. And by checking the pulse of the fanbase, we can see that what this game will be has been narrowed down to two possibilities, the first of which being Super Smash Bros. A Smash Bros. game hitting the Switch is inevitable, but people are pretty split on what form it will take. Some believe it will be an entirely new game, while others think it will be an upgraded version of Super Smash Bros for Wii U with lots of new characters, stages, and modes. If if is indeed a beefed-up Smash Wii U, I think the possibility of it releasing this holiday is very real. But if it’s a brand new game, I don’t see it coming for at least another two years.
The other candidate for this year’s holiday title is the new Pokémon game that’s been confirmed to be in development for the Switch. We haven’t seen anything of it, but given that Pokémon games release almost annually, I wouldn’t be surprised if it made this year. As for the likelihood of both of this game and Smash Bros. releasing in 2018…it’s not impossible, but unlikely in my opinion.
Another big question mark going into this year relates to the Switch’s paid online service. Originally planned to launch this past fall, it has since been delayed into sometime this year. Nintendo’s performance in the past regarding online has been incredibly iffy, so let’s just hope this service doesn’t suck. But an even more questionable absence is the Virtual Console, the service that every Nintendo system since the Wii has sported, which allows you to download games from their older consoles. Nintendo has confirmed that it’s coming, but we still have no idea when. Some have speculated that the reason it’s taking so long to launch is because they’re overhauling the service to be more akin to Netflix, where you’d pay a monthly rate to have access to all of Nintendo’s classic games rather than paying for them individually. And speaking of Netflix, I also expect that streaming service, among others, to be added to the Switch’s OS at some point this year (it’s already got Hulu).
But how about the 3DS? Well, the system’s only high-profile upcoming game we know about right know is Detective Pikachu (which actually came out in Japan about two years ago), and I sincerely hope it stays that way. I’m not going to regurgitate what I said before, so I’ll simply reiterate that it’s time for Nintendo to move on from the 3DS and focus solely on the Switch. However, I do think that we’ll see at least one or two mobile games this year (my money’s on Zelda and Kirby). The NES Classic is actually being out back into production come April, and there have even been rumblings of both an N64 Classic and a GameBoy Classic being on the way.
The final thing to mention here is something the company announced just a few weeks ago: Nintendo Labo. This is a series of cardboard kits that you assemble and attach to the Switch console and Joy-Cons, and use with special interactive games. I’m not really diving into it since this article is long enough already, but to say the least, it looks pretty damn cool. It comes out on April 20, and you can learn all about it here.
So to finally wrap things up, it’s great to see that Nintendo is finally on the right track. After many years of struggle the company has finally found itself back on top, and let’s hope that’s where they stay.