Look, everyone’s excited about a Nintendo console, the Nintendo Switch, and for good reason. We love it because, for the first time since GameCube, casual Ninty fans and veterans alike have a piece of hardware they can latch onto. Plus, a new Legend of Zelda and Mario title don’t hurt, either.
And all this, two years after the Year of Luigi.
But now that the dust has settled on last week’s announcement, that initial electrifying excitement has begun to turn. No, I’m not here to denounce Nintendo’s new console as a sham – trust me, I’m still incredibly excited for what Nintendo is proposing – but there was definitely something very wrong hidden among all the hipster parties and faux eSports gatherings we saw during the short, three-minute trailer.
You see, we need to talk about a little game called Skyrim.
The Skyrim’s the limit
Let’s not start by creating a dragon-themed flamewar and instead state this from the off: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of the greatest games ever coded by man. It’s still a landmark in open-world design and remains one of the yardsticks that all action-RPGs are measured against. There’s simply no denying that. (Yes, Morrowind is amazing too, but dragons.)
But despite it being one of the all-time greats, there’s a real kicker that’s impossible to ignore: It’s a five-year-old game.
Sure, it’s getting a graphical upgrade (essentially bringing it in line with the PC version), but that doesn’t change the fact it’s still a remaster from a previous generation that’s going to sit alongside revolutionary titles like Breath of the Wild. And that doesn’t sit well with me. My fear is that the Nintendo Switch, much like the Wii U, will be oversaturated by a glut of familiar games repackaged for financial gains. Remember what happened when obscure, or long-forgotten titles got the treatment in 2013? (Think Darksiders II and Lego Harry Potter.) They didn’t sell consoles or generate hype of any kind.
I’m not saying re-master games ruined the launch of the Wii U, but I don’t think they helped.
And look, releasing re-mastered games on a new system works on Sony and Microsoft’s machines because of the sheer number of titles released on either console. While people moan, re-releases do little to dilute the substantial software libraries these consoles develop over the course of their lifetimes.
But Switch is different. Nintendo probably won’t garner the same support from third-party developers and will, in all likelihood, have a much smaller library. Moreover it’s trying to establish not only a new platform but a new way of gaming altogether and, to be honest, re-releasing old software probably isn’t going to send the right message.
I know it seems a cardinal sin to say a console won’t benefit from something as wonderful as Skyrim, but the last thing Switch needs is a launch game that’s nearly five and a half years old – and one that would have been out on other current-gen hardware (in its rezzed-up form) for a whole five months by the time Switch arrives.
Yes, there’s an argument to be made that Switch will require the presence of recognisable multiplatform titles to survive and flourish in the modern market, but the likes of FIFA and CoD are iterative licences that turn on the freshness of their content.
There’s nothing fresh about a remastered game. We’ve been there. We’ve done that. It brings nothing to the table. And while these titles will almost certainly appear on Switch at some point, they’re only going to make Nintendo’s job harder in those first few launch months.
When Nintendo Switch enters our lives and we’re all meeting on rooftops for ‘gaming parties’ or a flirty rendezvous in an airport, it should have – nay, it needs to have – every big Ninty gun blazing. We know we’re almost certainly getting The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but that’s not enough.
We need a brand new, 3D platformer Mario (remember the glorious days of Super Mario 64 and Mario Sunshine?) and a new Splatoon would almost certainly help sell the multiplayer aspect (as well as helping it cement itself as one of the firm’s core titles).
And, while we’re talking wishlists here, would a new Smash Bros kill you, Nintendo? We can live without a new Mario Kart for a little while considering Mario Kart 8 isn’t that old is still one of the best karting games ever, but nothing shows off the couchplay sentiments quite like laying the smacketh down as Kirby or Fox McCloud.
Getting on brand
Thing is, while Sony and Microsoft have built global brands that have become synonymous with the modern image of gaming, the software and identity of those brands have been watered down beyond all recognition. It’s not a surprise really, both consoles have had to adapt to a buying public that’s more games more often, and it’s taken its toll on what makes a game truly PlayStation or succinctly Xbox.
Nintendo has never really had that problem.
The Nintendo brand – that warm, inclusive, evocatively Japanese feeling – has never been watered down, even with the boom of Wii or the failings of Wii U. Nintendo machines always have an almost intangible magic about them, and it’s one that’s seen the company build the gaming industry into what it is today – even if it seems like that very same market has seemingly left it behind.
But as Nintendo counts down the days to March and the release of Switch, it’ll need the bedrock of its known quantities (and one’s yet to be revealed) to keep said magic in the jar.
In short, we love you Skyrim, but this is one party you’re not invited to. Sorry.