Console’s selection of third-party games isn’t likely to improve much with time.
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The Nintendo Switch is out and the reviews are in – and there seem to be two common threads in the assessments.
The first is that Nintendo’s newest console mostly succeeds in its ambitious attempt to be a multi-purpose hybrid gaming system. Reviewers are generally liking how it seamlessly shifts from being a home console to a portable device.
The other common sentiment found in many reviews is the advice to wait on buying it. Aside from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which is getting raves, there’s a paucity of launch games for the Switch.
As CNET says, “the Switch feels like an empty vessel, waiting for a deeper catalog of games and online features to take advantage of what is arguably Nintendo’s most ambitious and risky effort to date.”
Ars Technica says, “consider holding off until the end of the year unless you simply can’t live without a fully portable Zelda right this very moment.”
New York Magazine also highly recommends holding off: “It’s hard to not feel like the Switch was rushed to market — Nintendo was still figuring out its launch lineup just days before the system was due to hit store shelves, and my hardware troubles give me serious pause.”
It’s good advice on the surface of it, but there is a problem with waiting: the Switch’s proposition may not get any better no matter how much time goes by.
As I wrote in a recent column for The National, Nintendo has a bad track record when it comes to developing game catalogs for its consoles.
Going back to at least the Gamecube, which launched in 2001, the company has had trouble attracting third-party developers to its hardware. While creatively admirable, Nintendo’s insistence on making consoles that differ so dramatically from its competitors has hurt every release since then.
Instead, the company has had to rely on internally developed first-party games, which have mostly been a steady retread of few-and-far-between Zelda and Mario titles plus the occasional new franchise, like Splatoon.
True to form, the Switch is very different from its competitors and its third-party release schedule doesn’t look good so far. Given that, there’s no reason to believe its long-term catalog is going to be any better than the Gamecube’s, or the Wii’s, or the Wii U’s.
You can take the advice to wait on buying the Switch with a grain of salt because it probably won’t make a difference one way or the other.
The Nintendo Switch is a unique take on home-and-mobile gaming right now, and it will be the same in a year’s time. It’s just that there probably won’t ever be a lot of games for it.