Nintendo in 2020 has been a non-event that could ruin the company

A reader is worried that Nintendo’s continued silence is coming at the worst possible time, given the imminent launch of the next generation.

With everyone getting excited about the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X at the moment I can’t help thinking there’s something we’ve forgotten… Nintendo. Now that coronavirus and 2020 being a complete disaster are concepts we’re all familiar with, I think we’ve kind of forgotten just how little Nintendo has done this year. They might as well not exist outside of Animal Crossing and I cannot see how that is healthy for them.

We are now getting up to one year without a non-specific Nintendo Direct that announces new games and Nintendo are now hinting that maybe they’re getting tired of the idea and are going to try new ways of introducing new games. (Really, like what? Short of coming round our house and telling us personally what solution is there that doesn’t involve some kind of video reveal?)

The end result of all this is that they haven’t announced a single major new game all year or released one outside Animal Crossing and the upcoming Paper Mario: The Origami King (I’m going to be generous and describe that one as major). Beyond that there’s nothing and, more importantly, no sign that there was ever meant to be anything, coronavirus or not. The plan for 2020 basically seems to have been: let’s pretend it doesn’t exist and just skip to 2021.

At what point they became aware they had nothing I have no idea. They certainly couldn’t have predicted Animal Crossing would blow up the way it has as it was never that big before, so from a planning of point of view they had even less than it currently seems. From their point of view their big plan was to release one second-tier game in March and then then a third-tier game in July and then absolutely nothing for the rest of the year. The same year that Microsoft and Sony launch their new consoles…

Now, some people will no doubt claim that doing and saying nothing is all part of some grand master plan to cope with the next gen but I think it’s pretty obvious it’s not. A next gen launch is almost always a disappointment in terms of games and having a critically-acclaimed title out on the Switch at Christmas would be the perfect way to take attention away and convince people that the Switch is still the place to be.

We can already see that the PlayStation 5’s launch line-up is not very interesting and while Microsoft does have Halo they’ve already said that’s the only first party game. Release Zelda: Breath Of The Wild 2, or some other equivalent, at the same time and it’d be perfect for Nintendo. Especially if they’d already been reminding the public how great the Switch is with a series of other great games all through the year… So yeah, that didn’t happen.

Nintendo might as well have not existed in 2020. Their only major game was only as big as it was because of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic that they couldn’t possibly have predicted and beyond that it feels like the whole company just took the year off and forget to even leave so much as the tea boy in charge.

I don’t even know how they come back from this. Are they suddenly going to start releasing a bunch of new games in 2021 and pretend that this big 12-month dead zone never happened? I bet they’re not suddenly going to have anything out early in the new year, so they’ll probably only just get into gear again as Microsoft and Sony do – which is the exact opposite of what they should’ve done.

Perhaps Breath Of The Wild 2 or something equally big will be out at Christmas, maybe they’re not sure because of the coronavirus, but they need something to remind people they still exist. A bunch of Super Mario remasters will get some attention but they’re not new games, they’re the exact opposite.

Nintendo could’ve used the poor quality of the next gen launch line-ups to its advantage, but all it’s done is provide Microsoft and Sony with an open goal and made itself irrelevant in terms of video game discussion for an entire year. Nobody’s talking about new Nintendo games because there are none to talk about.

They’ve been the comeback kings more times than I can remember but usually that’s because of some grand mistake they’ve made, like the Virtual Boy or Wii U. But this time Nintendo are not failing because of something they’ve done but because they’ve done nothing, and that’s not like them. I worry that the mistakes made in 2020 will reverberate for many years to come and will bring the success of the Switch to an early and undeserved end. And if they’re not careful, the whole company.

By reader Onibee

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