Nintendo is a company used to receiving indiscriminate hate on networks with each new launch, with each new announcement. He ignores it and does well because he knows that he has his (very abundant) regular audience, who are looking at his console for some constants present almost since the days of the NES: accessible and recognizable visual design, notable but not radical playable innovation neither experimental, and total accessibility in the mechanics. And for decades, familiar faces and recurring franchises. A constant that seems to be accentuated over time.
In the last Nintendo Direct it has become very clear that, out of some thirty games and novelties presented, there is very little completely original material or exclusive. Let’s review the event launches (we removed very minor news like the arrival of new fighters to ‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’):
- Fall Guys – Ultimate Knockout: Multiplatform that arrives months late to Switch.
- Outer Wilds: Multiplatform that came out a year ago on other consoles.
- Legend of Mana: Multiplatform remake.
- Stubbs the Zombie: Remake, possibly not exclusive, but you have to recognize the originality: it comes from a cult classic from the first Xbox.
- Star Wars Hunters: Semi-exclusive. Switch will be the only console that has it, but it will also appear on Android and iOS.
- Detective Cliu – The Missing Heir Y The Girl Who Stand Behind: Remakes of Famicom classics.
- Tales from the Bordelands: Multiplatform sequel that arrives with a notable delay.
- Capcom Arcade Stadium: Compilation of classics.
- Neon White: Exclusive on console, but will also arrive on PC.
- Plants vs Zombies. Battle for Neighborville: Multiplatform sequel.
- SaGa Frontier Remastered: Multiplatform remake.
- Apex Legends: Multi platform.
- Bravely Default II: Exclusive sequel.
- No More Heroes 3: Exclusive sequel.
- Mario Golf Super Rush: Exclusive sequel.
- Ghosts’n Goblins Resurrection: Sequel / remake. At the moment exclusive, possibly multiplatform in the future.
- The Legend Of Zelda Skyward Sword: Remaster exclusivo.
- Splatoon 3: Exclusive sequel.
- Monster Hunter Rise: Exclusive sequel.
- DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power: Apparently exclusive, but belonging to a hyper-exploited franchise, like ‘Star Wars Hunters’.
That is to say, leaving aside the issue of exclusivities, which is still surprising that games like ‘Apex Legends’ or ‘Tales from the Borderlands’ reach Switch at this point, few games are seen that do not belong to established franchises or are not remakes or sequels (There is even a compilation).
That leaves us with two strict novelties that do not belong to previous series nor are they remakes: on the one hand, ‘Miitopia’, a completely niche title for Nintendo fans. And on the other, the authentic new announcement of the Direct, ‘Project Triangle Strategy’ (working title), a Square Enix tactical RPG highlighting its playable innovations in aspects such as attack strategies and turn-based combat.
Nintendo problem or sign of the times?
It would be naive to say that this lack of originality is a problem in the Nintendo catalog, when it is clearly an endemic problem in the industry. The new IPs are enthusiastically celebrated for how rare they are, and their triumphs (to say a couple of cases of very opposite styles, ‘Fall Guys – Ultimate Knockout’ and ‘Ghost of Tsushima’) are the exception, not the norm. The lists are filled with new installments of ‘The Last of Us’, ‘Doom’, ‘Call of Duty’, ‘Spider-Man’ or ‘Assassin’s Creed’. Games Extraordinary in many cases, but also of a significant nature: sequels, remakes or derivatives of franchises.
But the truth is that Nintendo has such a number of successful franchises under its belt that It is not that he is squeezing them to the maximum, it is that he takes all the calm in the world in producing new installments of absolute myths like ‘Metroid Prime’, perhaps one of the most prestigious games in its history. Possibly Nintendo’s problem is its tendency to rehash successful formulas. If ‘Mario Golf’ works, its mechanics are hardly touched.
This happens with iconic sagas like ‘Mario Kart’ or ‘Super Smash Bros.’, among many others: again without this being an obstacle for the resulting games to be great, or even extraordinary, the feeling is often “all of the above plus a few slight changes.” The latest example, ‘Bowser’s Fury’. Along with a literal remake of a Wii U game, another great title, but one that tastes like you’ve already played.
This is not an absolute rule. In fact, Switch has behind its back a few titles belonging to large franchises, whose quality and innovation is beyond doubt. Without going any further, the last two main installments of the most powerful Nintendo sagas, ‘Super Mario Odyssey’ and ‘The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild’, they keep the right balance between what we hope to find and a multitude of innovations. What should be a perfect sequel, come on.
The image of Nintendo, the same as always
So is this a problem? Could this lack of originality end up impacting the image of Nintendo? Remember that in the selection of our Extra Life companions Of the 27 best Switch games in 2020, 18 were sequels or remakes. And of them, some were decidedly minor titles, like ’51 Worldwide Games’ or ‘Two Point Hospital,’ and others were multiplatform like ‘Hades’ or’ The Outer Worlds’, that is, their originality was not due to Nintendo.
There is an almost institutionalized lack of originality in Nintendo releases, and that the last Nintendo Direct was in charge of corroborating, by active and passive (they replaced the announcement of a sequel to ‘Zelda’ by a literal remake of a game of ‘Zelda ‘from Wii, and disappointed by not introducing a new’ Metroid ‘, which is obviously … a sequel). But to the question of whether this may be a problem, the answer is no, because Nintendo has the ace up its sleeve of exclusivity and the Nintendo brand itself.
Leaving aside a handful of multiplatform games (which in most cases are played primarily on other consoles) and the reef indie, which Nintendo came across a bit by chance (but is exploding wonderfully), Switch hit games are sequels and remakes, yes … but they’re only on Switch, and they’re clearly Nintendo. It matters little if ‘Splatoon 3’ will be a somewhat derivative sequel, an extension of a past hit. What matters is that it will only be played on Switch and that it will bear the Nintendo seal: you can bet on a minimum of quality, fun and moderate originality.
That is the current policy of Nintendo: innovate and experiment with small steps (from ‘Super Mario Bros. 35’, almost a tinkering under indie philosophy about a millionaire franchise) while ensuring the commercial shot with refried and more or less predictable sequels. And on the other hand, reserve giant steps for your main Super Mario, Zelda, Animal Crossing installments or whatever it touches.
Is it a perfect plan in an ideal world? Do not: In that ideal world, there would be backward compatibility that would allow us to play Wii titles without going through the box again, as will happen with ‘The Legend Of Zelda – Skyward Sword’. But as a business, it helps Nintendo to grow the catalog and, above all, to consolidate its franchises as what they became for years: incombustible (and therefore infinitely reformulable) myths of popular culture.