The Switch Needs Smash… Now!
Maybe you’ve heard of this new console. It’s called the Switch. One of the best-selling consoles of all time. Already sold more than the Wii U. Basically the hottest item in 2017.
I’m here to tell you that the Switch is in trouble. In fact, I’m here to tell you that the Switch won’t be able to keep up this pace much longer unless it gets one very important game.
I don’t care what version of Smash Brothers that Nintendo releases. They could straight up port Smash 4. They could make some dreams come true and create a Melee HD. They could make an entirely new Smash. It doesn’t matter. One way or another they need Smash and this is why.
The Switch has been selling itself on killer first party apps. Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey were two that made it one of the most in-demand consoles last year. This year, we are getting a Kirby game, a Fire Emblem game, and a Yoshi game, alongside a number of other highly anticipated titles. In the future, we will see a new Metroid Prime title, among other things. This trend can keep the Switch afloat for quite a long while.
However, all these titles appeal to the same person, the Nintendo fan. Nintendo fans are going to purchase Nintendo consoles anyway. Nintendo fans purchased the Wii U. It’s likely that all the Nintendo fans that purchased a Wii U have already purchased a Switch. To continue selling consoles, Nintendo needs mass market appeal.
However, mass market appeal is hard to come by for Nintendo consoles. They don’t really play the games that other AAA consoles do. They don’t really give gamers access to the variety of title that the PC platform does. Nintendo has a strong brand, a very specific image that all their games fall into. That image tends to be simple and family friendly, which is exactly what ends up losing the hardcore gaming crowd, which is a sizeable chunk of the gaming market.
However, Nintendo actually does have one game that appeals to the casual family friendly gamer and the hardcore gamer at the same time and that’s Smash. It’s a game that can be played as a ridiculous party game or a hardcore competitive game. In fact, it’s an e-sports title that the common gamer understands well enough to get into. In fact, it was Nintendo’s only e-sports title.
That, right there, is the problem. Nintendo is losing a lot of ground in the world of e-sports. They tried to keep their foothold with releases like Arms and Pokken Tournament DX. They even tried to enter the FPS world with Splatoon 2. However, none of these titles had staying power. The market is saturated enough with fighting games that Arms and Pokken couldn’t stand up to bigger titles like Street Fighter V and Dragon Ball FighterZ, and the FPS market already has so many successful e-sports that users weren’t trying to rally around Splatoon 2 with its lack of voice chat and Nintendo’s minimal support for the competitive community.
EVO 2018’s game lineup was recently announced and Nintendo had two titles in it: Smash Melee and Smash 4. Neither of these titles are on the Switch. Smash 4 had 143,000 people tune in to watch it in 2018 while Melee had 128,000 people tune in. That’s a HUGE amount of people that Nintendo is refusing to advertise the Switch to. If they had a Smash for Switch planned, they could announce it at EVO and I guarantee you that everyone in attendance would immediately pre-order it.
Nintendo isn’t going to fail if they don’t appeal to the hardcore gaming crowd. However, Nintendo consoles have certainly underperformed by having too narrow a marketing focus. Smash won’t carry the Switch alone, but Smash has traditionally taken the slot of a killer-app in Nintendo’s lineup, and with most of their major properties getting burned through in the second year of the Switch’s life, they are going to need to keep churning out killer-apps.
Just how killer is Smash? Well let’s look at Melee. It’s estimated that 70 percent of people who owned a Gamecube owned a copy of Smash Melee. The Switch has sold about 15 million devices right now, 70 percent of 15 million is 10.5 million copies. Granted, it probably won’t see that high a success rate. Smash 4, for example, only sold 5.32 million units. However its predecessor, Brawl, sold 13.25 million units so imagining a Switch Smash selling 10 million units is not in the realm of implausibility.
But the biggest reason why Nintendo needs Smash now is simple. They need to prove they can do it. Smash has been walking on a Razor’s edge since Melee’s release. Both Brawl and Smash 4 both came up with interesting ways to allow players to use Gamecube controllers, the preferred Smash control method. The Switch has a USB port that allows gamers to use the Wii U’s Gamecube controller adapter, so it appears as if Smash could work just fine on it. However, being tethered to the console kind of goes against the very thing that makes the Switch desirable: portability. However, the JoyCons are surely not accurate enough to play Smash at a competitive level.
This has gotten the Smash crowd wondering, is the Switch the end of Smash. That’s a question that Nintendo needs to answer soon, or else they are going to lose one of their most loyal and active fanbases.