Is Nintendo lagging behind in 2021?

Like practically everyone else in the world, I’m playing Metroid Dread right now. At least, that’s what my specifically catered collection of people I follow on Twitter leads me to believe anyway. And whilst happily playing away I had the intrusive thought: It’s not exactly been a banger year for Nintendo has it.

As much as you may not want to hear it, the Nintendo Switch is fast approaching five years old. Already. And in that half decade, I feel like general perception around Nintendo and them plodding along at their own languid pace has gotten a little stale for fans and critics alike.

Here’s the thing about the Nintendo Switch, it’s a versatile little device. While I could sit here and say there haven’t been any games out for the Switch in 2021, that would be categorically incorrect. There have been a ton of games out on the Switch, and there are more coming out all the time. When I say there’s nothing out on the Switch, what I’m actually saying is that there haven’t been any exceptional, must purchase titles that get the collective gaming fandom quivering in their #gamerchairs.

And for a lot of people, that’s becoming something of a pinch point amongst fans who actually want to play games on their Switch. Y’see, historically, Nintendo have gracefully bowed out of the drag race that is Sony and Microsoft’s war of pure power. Nintendo have been content to be off doing their own thing in their own corner.

Making unique consoles like the Wii and the Wii U, as well as dominating the market on (non phone) mobile gaming devices. The Switch kind of changed that. The reveal of the Switch kind of did away with them having two devices out at the same time, fulfilling the needs of both the console player and the game on the go.

It all seemed roses to begin with, the Switch was this amazing indie darling that allowed you to play all your favourite Steam and smaller games on the go, on a device of comparable power. And to cover it in solid gold, diamond encrusted icing, you’d get games like Super Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild to show that Nintendo were still making impressive games to innovate with the best of them.

And then the years went by and these amazing, iconic franchises kind of went quiet. Sure, we always only really got one big console Mario or Zelda game a generation in the past, but in that time we were still getting those characters showing up on the DS or 3DS. Now that those consoles aren’t a thing, the absence seems all the more noticeable.

Which maybe wouldn’t be the biggest problem for the Switch on its own. Nintendo have always been like that, their big releases being very few and far between. Making up for their sporadic nature by generally being amongst the best games to come out that year. It’s actually been one major move forward for Nintendo that has been the thing that has bitten them in the backside as the device reaches its half decade of life.

Unlike the previous couple of consoles, the Switch had a more comparable power to the Xbox One and Playstation 4 when it came out. Which meant that third party games we would never dream of seeing on a Nintendo console in the past were suddenly finding themselves on the Switch. Doom, Skyrim, The Witcher, Dark Souls. I could go on. They might not have ran quite as well, but they were on there.

Which is amazing considering that the console’s key feature of playing anything in handheld mode means you can suddenly play all of these games on the go. It seemed like the Switch and Nintendo could do no wrong… until people decided that’s all they could do.

In the middle of the Switch’s current lifespan, we got a console generation shift. The Xbox Series S/X and the PlayStation 5 giving another jump in power to the other main home consoles, while PCs always getting more powerful all the time. It left Nintendo in the dust in terms of their little device’s horsepower. Which would have historically been a non-issue.

Not so much anymore.

I don’t know if it’s all the comparable ports finding their way to the device, or if the developers themselves are feeling a little more pressure to get as much juice out of the Switch as they possibly can, but Nintendo have been finding themselves on the unfortunate receiving end of critics really bashing how their games look and perform on the device.

Sometimes unfairly I’d say.

The most fire I’ve been hearing lately being from the Pokemon fandom, which I admit I am unfortunately a participant in. Ever since the release of Pokemon Sword and Shield a few years back, I feel like there has been a level of comfort and ease at which the fans just dog-pile the Switch for anything they show regarding any new Pokemon announcement.

And while it mostly is Pokemon, it’s starting to bleed over into the other games they’re putting out as well. Which I feel it pretty unfair from a personal standpoint. Do I think the most recent Pokemon games have maybe overreached in terms of what the device is capable of? Sure, agree with that? Do I think it’s a problem common amongst all new games on the Switch? No, not really.

The two games I’ve played the most of this year on the Switch are Monster Hunter Rise and Hades, and I’ve can’t recall single time where I thought they performed poorly or the graphics dropped out or “looked ugly”. But nonetheless, I feel like this perception is starting to proliferate throughout a certain, vocal corner of twitter who just like to rag on things.

It’s something that’s really difficult to refute when there are so few big games coming out on the console in a year to show just how good it still can be.

Here’s the thing; I like the Switch, but I have a specific use case when it comes to the device: It never leaves the dock sat behind my television, and I exclusively play games on it using my Switch Pro Controller. So the whole mobile gimmick is lost on me when it ends up being just another home console in my eyes. So I’m super disinclined to buy anything that’s available on a more powerful console.

So maybe that’s why I seem to think the Switch hasn’t had the greatest year from a personal standpoint, coupled with this very loud social media dirge that makes me think everyone out there suddenly hates the thing. It has had its exclusives; Mario Golf: Super Rush, No More Heroes III, Warioware: Get it Together being amongst the biggest I never bothered picking up.

Simply because they failed to set the world alight.

The only hardware revision they have on the books is that OLED version, and there’s no jump in power involved in that device. And looking at their upcoming announced games, the biggest are the new Pokemon game in 2022 (which as I mentioned is getting ragged on by “fans” at every opportunity), a Mario + Rabbids game that hasn’t been mentioned since its announcement, Splatoon 3 and Bayonetta 3.

There’s also a new Kirby game, which historically have been announced during the death knells of a console’s final years. But as I mentioned, there don’t seem to be any real plans from Nintendo to announce any new hardware.

So I only have to wonder what kind of year Nintendo are going to have in 2022 compared to this year? Maybe I’m blowing this all out of proportion though. They seem to be plugging along at their own pace just fine, as they always have, and most likely always will. They’re putting out a lot of ports and indie games that seem to be doing just fine for them.

So maybe that’s going to be Nintendo for the next few years: content to put out just 2 or 3 games a year for the more “discerning” fans like myself while catering to what is probably a massive fanbase who are just happy to be playing their Switches on their commute. Maybe Nintendo isn’t the problem, maybe I am.

2 thoughts on “Is Nintendo lagging behind in 2021?

    1. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Switch. But considering the news that Metroid Dread got broke day one and there’s a better version of the game available for PC emulation, I worry a little that Nintendo aren’t in enough of a rush to put out a revised bit of hardware. For all sorts of reasons.

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