A wise man once said that “too much of a good thing…is a good thing.” Coming off the drought that was the end of the Wii U’s lifecycle, Nintendo seems to have adopted that approach for their Switch platform, lavishing game after game onto their appreciative fanbase. While it’s kick-started the Switch to an incredible first few months, I can’t help but wonder if their will be any long-term ramifications to Nintendo’s franchises.
The game that sparked this thought is ARMS, Nintendo’s quirky new take on the fighting genre. The game was generally well-reviewed and seemed to have a lot of hype upon release, and then…nothing. Sure, the game got a major update and Max Brass was released, but beyond that, the buzz surrounding this game seems to have completely disappeared. What happened?
The easy answer is that kids and squids happened. Barely a month passed between ARMS‘s 6/16 and Splatoon 2‘s 7/21 release dates, and most gaming outlets jumped onto the Splatoon hype type several weeks before the game released. The result: We’ve been discussing single-player freshness and gear abilities while ARMS has languished in the background.
For most Nintendo franchises, like Zelda and Mario Kart, this wouldn’t be a big problem: They’ve been around for decades, and are well-entrenched in the minds of gamers. A new franchise like ARMS, however, doesn’t have that history to lean on, and it needs time, space, and attention to establish itself as another arrow in Nintendo’s quiver. Splatoon received the time it needed back when it first arrived on the scene (it had three prime summer months to itself before Super Mario Maker dropped that September), and was able to grow into the beloved juggernaut it is today. Will ARMS be able to do the same in a more-competitive environment, or will Splatoon 2 cut it off at the knees?
Another example: Remember when Ever Oasis was an exciting new Nintendo IP back in 2016? The game came out just over a month ago, and it’s already competing for attention with Hey! Pikmin, Miitopia, and even the New Nintendo 2DS XL. I’m hearing absolutely no buzz for this game, and while its characters seem charming, I doubt anyone will be pestering Sakurai to put Tethu/Tethi in the next Smash Bros. game.
While every game has to contend with some competition during its launch window, ARMS and Ever Oasis are having to fight against fellow first-party titles on top of whatever third-party games are released—it’s a self-inflicted wound! Nintendo’s compressed released schedule means that any game they bring in won’t have a lot of time to establish itself, and for newer franchises that aren’t already held dear by Nintendo fans, it may be too much to overcome.
In the short term, the issues aren’t causing Nintendo any problems: Switches are still flying off shelves, Link and Mario continue to print money, etc. In the long term, however, I wonder what this will do to Nintendo’s “farm system,” because if new IPs like ARMS end up falling by the wayside, the company will be even more dependent on its existing franchises than it is today. People already complain about Nintendo never doing anything new—could things be even worse in a few years? (Granted, Nintendo’s already got a bunch of neglected franchises that they could turn to—Metroid, anyone?—but eventually people are going to want more, and Nintendo won’t be able to give it to them.)
Thankfully, time is still on Nintendo’s side for the moment, and another large content update or two might help drive the gaming conversation back towards the company’s new IPs. In the meantime, Nintendo needs to think long and hard about its franchise development plans, and how packing games too close together may deprive them of the space they need to thrive.