A reader offers his theory on why Nintendo hasn’t had any new game announcements for so long, and what to expect for 2020.
I see that Microsoft has their first proper Xbox Series X reveal event planned for next week and the inevitable lists of hopes and guesses, as to what they’ll show off, have started to flood the internet. Except, it turns out they won’t even have any first party games there. I’ve watched enough of these things by now to know that you should always expect nothing and even then be prepared for disappointment.
People have been expecting Microsoft to unveil a massive wave of games all generation, basically as soon as Phil Spencer took over, and we’ve had absolutely nothing. Obviously they’ll have to show off some games next week but I’m betting one or two major reveals at most, with the rest being cross-gen stuff and games we already know about but might not have seen much on, like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
If expecting to be disappointed sounds too pessimistic the best way to think about it is to consider Occam’s Razor, the idea that the most likely explanation for something is also the simplest one. Which is why I’d like to talk about Nintendo.
The rumours this week suggest that they will not have a Nintendo Direct in their usual E3 spot and may not have one until late summer, almost a year since the last one and well over that since a major new game was announced. There are various exciting sounding theories as to why they’re being so secretive, from a new console, to a streaming service, to some kind of major team-up with Microsoft and/or another technology company. I don’t believe any of it.
Coronavirus is obviously part of the problem, but it only seems to be a contributing factor. After all, there was no coronavirus last year, or even really the first two months of this year, when Nintendo was being equally secretive for no obvious reason at all.
Except the reason is obvious: they reason they’re not showing any games is because they have no games to show. Clearly they’re working on many things, although they’ve only officially mentioned Zelda: Breath Of The Wild 2, Metroid Prime 4, and Platinum’s Bayonetta 3. Metroid Prime 4 is years away, after having been started again from scratch, and while it shouldn’t be that long Bayonetta 3 has given no indication it’ll be out this year.
Breath Of The Wild 2 might have been pencilled in for this year but I think one of the main reasons for the current radio silence is that it’s taken longer than expected and isn’t ready this year. Iterating on an old game, with the intention of making an expansion pack like sequel is something Nintendo has done multiple times before and it’s ended up with all-time classics like Zelda: Majora’s Mask and Super Mario Galaxy 2. It’s also ended up with both games taking much longer than originally planned.
The problem is that suddenly Nintendo has no other games to take Breath Of The Wild 2’s place, or at least none as high profile. That wouldn’t normally be a problem, except this Christmas they have the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X to go up against. Breath Of The Wild 2 would’ve been fine in that situation but Pikmin 4, a new Paper Mario, or whatever other second-stringer they have as back-up? Not so much.
If that is all they’ve got, better to keep it secret until the last minute so that even crumbs from the master’s table seem a tasty proposition. The alternative is having Sony and Microsoft fanboys mocking the Switch line-up for the rest of the year and constantly comparing it to the next gen launch games. But you can’t mock what you don’t know about.
That’s my reading of the situation anyway. If Nintendo had anything solid to talk about they wouldn’t be this secretive about it, since even they would realise it was worrying people about the Switch’s long-term prospects. I’m not saying it’s the right choice but it’s one consistent with what Nintendo has done in the past, and if they do have a Nintendo Direct before August I predict it’ll only be for more minor games like Super Mario 3D World Deluxe and the rumoured Super Mario All-Stars 2.
By reader Patton
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