In Defense Of Small Launch Lineups

by Donald Theriault - January 13, 2017, 4:23 pm PST
Total comments: 14

Or how the only launch game Donald buys is from Konami.

Nintendo of America has finally confirmed the launch lineup for the Switch for March 3, and compared to their last console launch, the quantities are slim. 1-2-Switch, Breath of the Wild, Super Bomberman R, Skylanders Imaginators and Just Dance 2017 is the entire Day One lineup. The Wii U, for comparison, launched with 33 games (disc + eShop) on November 18, 2012 – partially a factor of holiday, partially due to getting far more (initial) love from 3rd parties. Electronic Arts infamously had as much at the Wii U launch as Nintendo did.

My own personal Day One preorder list – which is still subject to being cancelled down the line – is Super Bomberman R, since I’ve had Breath of the Wild’s Wii U version preordered since 2014 at what will be at least a $35 discount by March 3. And frankly, if you told me even during our pregame show that the only thing I would buy day 1 was from Konami, I probably would have laughed at you.

But I’m personally fine with that limited lineup.

Third parties who were largely burned by the Wii U were never going to come back in the same capacity. Those titles have always struggled on Nintendo consoles, especially at launch time when everyone focuses on the big Nintendo property. In the Switch’s case, said big Nintendo property is the most hyped Zelda game in history given they devoted an entire E3 booth to it. The early attach rate for Breath of the Wild will likely be reminiscent of Mario Kart 8 or Twilight Princess, where it’s the “default game” for the system and hopefully kicks it above the 2 million Switches sold Nintendo is planning for.

Nintendo is also trying to prevent software droughts for the Switch – consider that they dropped three games on the Wii U at launch then didn’t release another game for a full five months after that (the original release of Lego City Undercover). Following launch, they have the drug trip known as Snipperclips in March and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on April 28. ARMS is due in “Spring” which usually means May, and then Splatoon 2 in the summer. There’s going to be significantly marketed Nintendo content on the Switch in almost every month of the year, assuming the target dates outlined by Nintendo of America are accurate (personally, if Xenoblade 2 makes 2017 in North America I’ll be doing a jig).

The final reason I’m glad to keep my launch day spending down is the price of the system itself. In Canada, the Switch is launching for $400 + tax, Joy-Con sets are $100, and the Pro Controller is $90. I’m still not even sure that I’m going to be able to keep my preorder at that rate since I still have other bills to pay and might have to ship down to a major US city soon. So if I miss out on a game or two – well, they’ll still be there when I get back and can secure one. I’ve hunted Amiibo, I can snag a Switch in April if I have to. Would I have preferred the original placeholder price of $249.99 US/$329.99 Canadian? In a heartbeat. But that’s the hand we’ve been dealt.

A five game launch lineup is incredibly small for a modern system, even if one of the games is potentially a candidate for consensus Game of the Year. But in the Switch’s case, it was inevitable and is necessary.

Talkback

Evan_BJanuary 13, 2017

Opinions inbound: highly volatile material on display. Some will be triggered, salt likely. Prepare popcorn.

I'm in much the same place. Personally, I'm actually going to have plenty to play at launch and even on Launch Day. Objectively, this IS a small software launch lineup, and means that the Switch could have a bit of an uphill climb early in 2017 until it potentially really starts to hit is stride with a busier and more marquee fall release schedule. Being a longtime Nintendo observer though, I can see how we got here and I can understand the hopeful path out: Nintendo using first party to potentially headline every month in what would otherwise be a drier mid-year season, then hope that they can deliver in the fall and solidify momentum behind the system.

Ian SaneJanuary 13, 2017

Interesting to see the perspective of another Canadian.  At those prices I see no reason to be an early adopter if the launch lineup isn't too hot and I can get Zelda on the Wii U so that takes out the killer app.  It isn't Nintendo fault the Canadian dollar is the way it is but that's going to make it a hard sell over here.  For me it just isn't reasonable to spend that kind of money until the price goes down or the lineup is strong enough to justify it.

OedoJanuary 13, 2017

I'm mostly in agreement. The launch lineup is being carried entirely by Zelda, yes, but Zelda looks absolutely amazing. Not "this looks like an amazing game for Nintendo fans." Zelda looks like an amazing game, period. Between some of the core Nintendo fans who will (and can, given the price) buy it early and the people who are drawn in by Breath of the Wild, I can't see Nintendo having too much trouble selling its initial shipment of two million units for the immediate launch window. Their big launch game is one that most people are going to be playing for a long, long time, and, as has been laid out in this post, they have a steady stream of compelling software coming throughout the year. I think some of the criticisms Nintendo is receiving when it comes to the price of the console, price of the accessories, and how they've chosen to market Switch over the past day have merit, but the first party games they've shown look awesome and, overall, their strategy for releasing them is sound. 

Evan_BJanuary 13, 2017

Hey! Where's the salt for my popcorn, people?!

Quote from: Oedo

the first party games they've shown look awesome and, overall, their strategy for releasing them is sound. 

The problem is there just isn't enough of them! If they had a Smash port and a Mario Maker port to plug some Spring/Summer holes it would look a lot better, or if they had been able to secure just one or two more significant third party commitments to give a better prospect for the future.

As for this talk of the Canadian dollar, I personally blame the strong Japanese Yen. I feel like the unfavorable exchange rate has been a millstone around Nintendo's efforts at competitive pricing for years and years.

supergttJanuary 13, 2017

This is a pretty craptacular launch. reminds me of the n64.

however, I bet this is what they had to do to have ANY games through out the year. Cause there are just about zero third party games that will come out on this. gimpped fifa? six year late skyrim? a ubi sports game that tanked? They'll be lucky to sell a million units between them.

I weep for nintendo's '18 financials.

Quote from: supergtt

however, I bet this is what they had to do to have ANY games through out the year. Cause there are just about zero third party games that will come out on this. gimpped fifa? six year late skyrim? a ubi sports game that tanked? They'll be lucky to sell a million units between them.

Truth.

Evan_BJanuary 13, 2017

Quote from: supergtt

This is a pretty craptacular launch. reminds me of the n64.

however, I bet this is what they had to do to have ANY games through out the year. Cause there are just about zero third party games that will come out on this. gimpped fifa? six year late skyrim? a ubi sports game that tanked? They'll be lucky to sell a million units between them.

I weep for nintendo's '18 financials.

There's the salt I needed.

WanderleiJanuary 13, 2017

Not sure we have full launch locked in. I'm not wrapped with local pricing, considering region free, I'm might go import route.For games, I like to play one game at a time, especially big epic game/rpgs. So Zelda will be it first cab off the rank.

ejamerJanuary 14, 2017

Original article really hits home. I haven't been sold on Switch yet. Despite being somewhat intrigued, the current state of Canadian currency makes it a very tough sell.  $400 CAD for a console is simply more than I can shell out right now - especially when I'd need to spend even more for games and (optionally) extra controllers.

LucarioJanuary 14, 2017

Mark that up another $100 for Oz Shaymin... This console just seems more hassle then it's worth. I want to get it, but i don't want to cripple myself too. I dunno what to do.

Evan_BJanuary 14, 2017

I just want to reiterate that people are making a huge deal about additional controllers, but there are already TWO in the box! What game do you need more than that many controllers for, anyway?!

nickmitchJanuary 14, 2017

Zelda being the only game at launch could be good.  The lineup and pricing may not be the best for the Nintendo faithful who can play wait-and-see at launch and still play Zelda.  However, for the people Nintendo might be trying to win back, Zelda might be the best game to reel them in.  I do worry that doesn't pan out too well if there's not much else there.  A $300 Zelda machine isn't the most appealing purchase.

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