Less than a year on, the Nintendo Switch is blowing past everyone's expectations
It turns out that there was a surprising lack of bullshit in Nintendo's reveal of the Switch, all the way back in October of 2016. Remember that video? With the guy walking his dog while playing Zelda and all that nonsense we'd clearly never actually do?
Well, it's not even 12 months since the console-shaped handheld was released, and I for one have already taken mine outside and played Zelda on a park bench. Honestly, that commercial was some prescient stuff.
I'm ignoring two glaring errors, of course: first, the guy playing Skyrim on the plane is using his controllers wirelessly, meaning he hasn't engaged flight safe mode – he's a monster – and second, I've not been invited to any rooftop parties, probably because they're all sloped residential roofs around here. Also I'm unpopular.
Beyond that, it turns out a three-and-a-half minute ad from a games company told almost 100% truths, showed us a product it actually intended to release as it was shown, and suggested actual realistic scenarios in which its console would be used. Basically the precise opposite of Microsoft and Kinect, then.
So it's been just over nine months since Nintendo didn't manufacture enough consoles to satiate our demand, or 'released it' if you want to get technical. In that time, what's actually happened? Well, for one (and not to get too hung up it), everything in that reveal video is already out. Breath of the Wild, NBA 2K18, Skyrim, Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Mario Odyssey – all actually finished and released on the system. That in itself is an achievement.
Beyond that, we've gone from general derision directed at Nintendo and its flailing, confusing Wii U to the kind of awe and respect the company has known and – let's be honest – expected from us players for many a year. I'm not going to say it was easy for them or that things have just shunted back to normality, because there's been a monumental effort on the part of the Big N to re-establish all this goodwill and win back the love. But the shift back does feel like a return to how things were.
Obviously, it helps that the past nine months have seen two genuine GOAT contenders on one console, from the same company. But let's not dwell on tha—
Actually, let's dwell on that, because good god we need to celebrate something in 2017: year of unending sadness.
My personal feelings on Zelda games past don't factor into this much, but let it be known I have not enjoyed a game in this series, ever, and I've been playing them 20-odd years. Breath of the Wild changed that fact with such apparent ease that not only am I embarrassed about my previous Zelda dislike, I am actively seeking out previous titles to replay and reappraise as a sort of penance.
The scope of its world, the depth of its systems, the fact you could thwock a tree trunk (while riding it) halfway across the game map – everything came together so easily, so naturally, that it could only ever be a game that took a hell of a lot of time and work to get right. Nothing this good would ever be expected to be a launch title, and a game like Breath of the Wild on any other console would be the absolute standout on its roster, period.
This is the Switch, though, so obviously just a few months later Super Mario Odyssey released and showed yet another absolute masterclass in design. If anything, it was a wonderful parallel for the Switch itself: a game we all had our eyes on and were eager to learn more about, that turned out to be something rather unexpected (you're friends with a hat), and that ultimately ended up being one of the Best Things To Happen, Ever.
I could just copy and paste the above Zelda paragraph here because by crikey if Nintendo didn't just do it twice in under a year – effortlessly good fun, depth of systems, a bewilderingly well-made world... just, yeah. Amazing. I've not finished it yet, mind you, so my reviewer instincts stop me from calling it the best of the best, just in case it goes terrible in the last two hours of play. Naturally.
(On a personal note, part of the reason I haven't finished Odyssey is because the Switch allowed me the chance to – finally – play an Elder Scrolls game on the go. I've been waiting on that for over a decade, and I don't even care if we're supposed to hate Bethesda this week or not.)
And it hasn't stopped with the big names hitting the Switch, either – independent developers are finding a whole new market for their games with Nintendo. Yes, another thing I would have baulked at, were you to have told me a year ago it would happen. Stardew Valley, Golf Story, Overcooked – I don't need to list them all, there's a list for that – all vying for a position – for visibility – on a machine that isn't yet breaking under the strain of five triple-A releases per week. Translated: indie devs have realized they can make money on the Switch.
Few predicted just how much of an indie games machine the Switch would become. Well, except for those who saw precisely this happening on Sony's PS Vita, but let's not get bogged down in that. The fact is, Nintendo has on its hands (in our hands) a machine with some of the absolute best games for $60 alongside the absolute best at $20 – and you can take it with you wherever you go.
It's no surprise, then, that the Switch has sold stupendously well, revealing most analysts' predictions to be nothing more than half-ignorant guesswork. And that includes Nintendo's internal predictions, which fell short of the device's actual sales. The numbers don't lie, as Sesame Street's Count never said, and the most recent predictions -- from analysts, who I may have just said are half-ignorant -- have the Switch shifting just shy of 17 million units around its first birthday.
If you'd told me this a year ago, I'd have laughed you out of my Celebrity Deathproof Bunker 2016 Edition, and you'd even hear some chuckles were the claim thrown around back in March. But time makes fools out of all of us, especially when we doubt Nintendo. The Switch is here, it's established, it's the most exciting place for games this side of a specced-up PC, and the future is looking incredibly bright.
Really though, I'm still smarting over the fact I can't actually play Skyrim without the Joycons attached while on a plane. That advert was such an egregious lie, and a slap in the face to those of us who actually value sky law.