The Gratuitous Rainbow Spectrum

Can Sports Guarantee Switch 2’s Success?

Can Sports Guarantee Switch 2’s Success?

Kris Randazzo
7 minute read

An Unlikely Place to Start

Sports games are a mess right now. No matter which sport you’re into, or which platform you’re playing them on, they’re an absolute mess. Poor performance, microtransactions and other predatory money-making schemes out the wazoo, annual iterative releases, it’s all become so much worse than it should be. 

What somebody needs to do is start making quality sports games again that place their focus on fun gameplay above all else, and I know this is going to sound strange, but I believe Nintendo is just the company for the job. 

It wasn’t that long ago when Nintendo made actual realistic sports games. And I’m not just talking about Mario Kart and Wii Sports. Over the generations, Nintendo has created a number of successful realistic sports simulations including NBA Courtside for GameCube, Ken Griffey Jr’s Slugfest for Nintendo 64, NHL Stanley Cup for Super NES, and Play Action Football for NES. This all dropped off rather suddenly during the GameCube era with the abrupt cancellation of the all-but completed Nintendo Pennant Chase Baseball, likely due to the landscape of sports gaming at the time. But if there was ever a need for a company like Nintendo to return to the sports arena, that time is now.   

If you think back to EA’s glory days of being the king of sports games, they had a crazy lineup of games that spanned all sorts of sports, and they were at the top of their game because they had to be. Competition nipped at their heels every year, and that drove them to be better. But since 

they started buying up exclusivity deals, everything has gone downhill. The focus has become more on how to siphon as much profit out of each release as possible instead of making sure that there’s a quality product making its way into players hands. For the last decade, people haven’t bought Madden because it’s the best football game there is. They bought it because it’s the ONLY football game there is, and it isn’t even on the most popular home gaming platform on the planet. 

Speaking of the Switch, if you look at its library, sports games are far and away its biggest area of opportunity. Sports games have a huge audience, and a large part of that audience is kids. Most adults who are exclusively into sports games don’t mind shelling out for an enormous PS5 to play the latest and greatest microtransaction-laden sports simulations, but kids are a different animal. More kids have the Switch than competing platforms, but their options for playing sports games are simply not very good, or worse, nonexistent. EA has all but skipped the entire Switch generation, opting to only fart out a half baked FIFA game year after year. NHL? NFL? Sorry, kids. NBA 2K is at best a shadow of what’s available on other platforms, which itself isn’t all that great. Baseball? MLB: The Show is on Switch now, but it's a technical nightmare, and the visuals are FAR below what even the meager Switch is capable of. 

Focus on Fun

Sports games are in desperate need of a shakeup. They need to be taken seriously. They need to be made welcoming for new players, yet complex enough that more experienced players can get as deeply involved as they want. And of all the companies out there that make video games, there’s only one I can think of that’s firmly focused on fun as their top priority, typically doesn’t go super hard with predatory microtransactions, and has the money to afford the considerable initial investment, and that’s Nintendo. 

First thing’s first, the licenses themselves would need to be worked out. The NFL is the big one in the US. EA still has exclusivity, but it’s possible that could be over as early as 2025 if someone were to flash enough cash in front of the NFL. FIFA is sort of a free agent, though licensing is probably pretty complicated with all the player leagues, but not impossible. The NHL is free and clear. Anyone can make a hockey game. The NBA is a little more tricky. 2K has the rights to use the license, but it doesn’t seem to be exclusive? The MLB is free and clear as well. Same goes for the PGA. NASCAR might be problematic as a company called iRacing seems to have the license, but again, it’s unclear if it’s completely exclusive. That just leaves Boxing and Tennis, and that’s all the major sports covered. These are the games that EA had up and running during their prime, and a unified sports banner that includes all these games would be a force to be reckoned with. 

Obviously getting all of these off the ground right away would be a fool’s errand, but coming up with a plan to create fun-focused realistic simulation games for these sports would be a game changer. And speaking of game changers, these should absolutely not be annual releases. They should be their own platforms that get updates each year. By this point, the goal shouldn’t be to make a whole new football game every single year, it should be to make something that can be built on with DLC. A sports platform that’s inexpensive to update every year with new rosters and gameplay features. Make them a one-time purchase that you can then build on. Get rid of all the sports betting, microtransactions, trading card mini games, all the fluff. Just make a solid game that runs and plays well, and you’ll have the advantage over every single established sports game on the market today. 

Add some extreme sports games to the mix like 1080, Excitebike, and WaveRace, and Nintendo could tap into the massive sports market in a way that nobody else is remotely interested in.  

Could it Actually Work?

Of course, Nintendo doing this poses some problems, namely exclusivity. Nintendo is perfectly fine with others’ games appearing on their platforms, but they’re much less lenient when it comes to things going the other way. They’ve given permission for certain projects to land on other platforms before, like Fatal Frame and The Wonderful 101, but those are outliers at best. Then again, if Nintendo is making great sports games, it could very easily breed competition, which is exactly what the sports game market has been missing.  

Yes, it’s a huge initial investment, but one that could potentially pay off handsomely. Nintendo isn’t the brand people typically associate with sports games. Sega and Electronic Arts still have that connection well locked up. But things can change, and sports games are in need of change more than most. If Nintendo made this a focus for their next platform, it would be huge. Unlikely, but huge. 

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