The Sunset of Switch
The sun's getting real low
Last week’s Nintendo Direct was a good time, but it left me with the distinct impression that the Switch’s life is coming to an end. Let me preface this by saying I don’t think this is a bad thing! Nothing could be further from the truth. The Switch is without a doubt my favorite game console since the Super NES, and while it isn’t perfect (no console is) it’s been just an amazing ride full of wonderful new games and excellent re-releases of most of my old favorites. It’s great! But there’s something about the Switch’s lineup for the remainder of the year that kind of screams “endgame” to me, and I think it’s time I made peace with that.
My personal slate of Switch games for the rest of this year is nuts. I haven’t even touched Kirby: Return to Dream Land Deluxe, We Love Katamari Reroll, Sonic Origins Plus, Annalynn, or the Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters, and I still need to finish Advance Wars, Shadows Over Loathing, and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. That leaves the Gimmick re-release, Pikmin 1+2 and 4, Disney Illusion Land, Vampire Survivors (because of course I’ll play that game again), Sea of Stars, Horizon Chase 2, Super Mario Wonder, Metal Gear Collection, WarioWare Move It, Super Mario RPG, and Sonic Superstars, with games like Anton Blast, Plucky Squire, and Silksong without release dates but still likely (hopefully) releasing this year. That’s a LOT of gaming to do on top of my pre-existing backlog from years prior, and that’s just the stuff that I personally care about. I’m not hurting for games, but it’s still impossible for me not to notice all the stuff that isn’t here, and I can’t help but feel like it’s being held back for whatever Nintendo’s next console is.
2024 still has some promise. Prince of Persia hits in January, Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon is getting ported, Princess Peach is getting her own game, Professor Layton and the New World of Steam is coming, and of course Metroid Prime 4 is theoretically still a thing. That’s a pretty swell lineup of games, but where’s Mario Party? Why didn’t Superstars ever get any DLC? Where’s Donkey Kong? Where’s the followup to Super Mario Odyssey? Why haven’t we seen or heard anything from Metroid Prime 4 yet? Where are the 3rd party games? Where are all those other rumored ports like Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and my beloved Kid Icarus Uprising?
My guess? The new stuff is moving to Switch 2, and the ports will continue to hit Switch for at least another year, since it would be nothing short of madness to have this system’s successor not be 100% backwards compatible.
Where We've Been
The Switch was in many ways already outdated when it released back in 2017. This isn’t anything new for Nintendo. The Game Boy was hilariously outclassed by its competition in terms of technology, but it more than made up for that with its incredible library of games, ultimately beating the Lynx and Game Gear in terms of market share by a very wide margin. But also like the Game Boy, we’re really starting to see the ceiling of what the Switch hardware is capable of this many years into its life.
Tears of the Kingdom is a masterpiece and really quite a marvel in a number of respects, but it also seems like the absolute pinnacle of what the Switch can do from a technical standpoint. This is in no way a bad thing because it’s an incredibly fun game, but while I rarely if ever think about it’s limits while I’m playing it, sometimes I see gameplay footage of PS5 games, or heck even PS4 games, and wonder what Nintendo could do with that kind of power.
Now, I know there are a lot of folks out there who will never be impressed by this kind of stuff, but I gotta say, I’m incredibly excited by whatever Switch 2 winds up being because there’s every possibility that it could deliver the kind of graphical upgrade we haven’t seen in other consoles since the 90s. Yes, amazing-looking games like Horizon and God of War exist now, but Nintendo games with that kind of graphical punch don’t, and thanks to the degree of “behind the times” Nintendo has kept themselves, when they do start taking advantage of last gem technology, it’s going to look incredible, especially next to the games on Switch.
I’ve always been of the mindset that Microsoft did irreparable damage to the game industry by launching the Xbox 360 when they did. That whole HD generation was just too ahead of its time and affordable technology hadn’t caught up yet. That’s when games started becoming more expensive, and not just for people to buy, but for people to make. Games became incredibly resource heavy, and keeping them affordable and profitable was a near impossibility. Nintendo, on the other hand, made Wii. It was dirt cheap to make, and while it kept them a generation behind in terms of tech, it also helped keep them profitable. The platform’s success also saw a number of developers, especially Nintendo, do some crazy stuff to push the ancient hardware beyond its limits. Games like The Conduit or MadWorld still look cool as heck to this day, and that’s not even including Nintendo’s own crazy impressive stuff like Mario Galaxy. That kind of hardware limitation breeds innovation, and even though games weren’t anywhere near as successful on Wii as other platforms, they were often just as profitable because of the lower investment to make them.
The Switch's Specialty
I think the PS5 and Xbox Series are super impressive consoles, but honestly none of them hit me as hard as the Switch because while of course their games look great, they’re super powerhouses, I’m of the mindset of, what’s the saying? “I want shorter games with worse graphics made by people who are paid more to work less and I’m not kidding.” That’s never going to happen in a console generation based on bleeding edge graphics. But it could absolutely happen on a machine that uses technology that’s been around long enough for people to have mastered it, and costs considerably less to make. I’ve probably put thousands of hours into my Switch, and while I love my PS4 and Xbox One, they’ve been used a mere fraction of the amount of time I’ve used my Switch.
Of course, that’s my experience, and I do not represent every gamer. Games mean different things to us all, and we all prioritize different things in the experiences we enjoy. But for me, and obviously for a whole lot of others considering the Switch’s sales numbers, what matters is fun, and I imagine it’s a lot easier to focus on fun when you aren’t pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into a game’s visuals alone.
But wait, the PS2 is the best selling game console of all time, and it wasn’t a generation behind in tech! No, but it was a cheap DVD player, which accounts for a HUGE portion of its sales. It’s wild to me that so many people don’t seem to understand that’s by far one of the biggest reasons the PS2’s sales numbers are as high as they are. Yes, it was a phenomenally successful game console, but the DVD component can’t be overstated. Especially back then, gamers played games, but everyone watched movies, and the PS2 was the least expensive DVD player on the market. It was a genius strategy, but that’s like saying the Wii would have sold just as well without Wii Sports. It just isn’t true. So the fact that the Switch has the possibility to overcome its lifetime sales is all the more impressive because it doesn’t have a fad game like Wii Sports or a basic non-gaming function that every home needs to have. It’s just a game console, and a darn cool one at that.
So yeah, I think the Switch's life is coming to an end, and I’ll be glad when that’s the case. I hope Nintendo can maintain the momentum though and not screw things up because if there’s any company that can fumble a ball like this it’s Nintendo. But as long as they don’t go crazy trying to senselessly reinvent the wheel, the Switch successor is going to be nuts. Metroid Prime Remastered already looked amazing on Switch. Imagine what that kind of talent can do with something on par with an Xbox One. Color me excited. In the meantime, I have a whole lot of games to play.