Why the Nintendo Switch Should Steer Clear of Ports
The Nintendo Switch is an incredibly exciting new platform that has most of the gaming community looking forward to January 12th—the date Nintendo will finally give everyone an in-depth look at the hybrid—as the real Christmas Day. Though we weren’t supposed to hear any news from the time the reveal trailer aired until the January event, numerous rumors have since surfaced from seemingly reliable sources (Laura Kate Dale being the most prolific). Out of the bunch, there was one that had me concerned almost immediately–the first six months of the system launch is rumored to be comprised of Splatoon, Mario Kart 8, and Xenoblade Chronicles X “enhanced ports,” with many speculating that Super Mario Maker and Smash Bros. will follow shortly after.
Some argue that it makes sense from a business perspective to bring over the more popular Nintendo titles many gamers missed out on this generation. From that angle, I can see why they’d do it. But from a Wii U owner’s angle, I can’t help but feel disappointed. The fact that these games are going to be repackaged and brought to another platform isn’t what’s bothering me–heck, I had no issues when Wii U ports starting showing up on the 3DS. But when launch comes and the majority of first-party games are ports, what are Wii U owners supposed to get excited about? There has to be more than Zelda: Breath of the Wild to entice upgraders.
The vast majority of Wii U owners are hardcore Nintendo fans. These are fans who already know they’ll preorder the Switch or grab it on day one. Whether they buy Nintendo consoles for certain games (Smash Bros., Mario Kart, etc.) or because they know Nintendo delivers the kind of experiences they love, these are the company’s most faithful customers. Is it a tiny percentage of the market? Absolutely. Does it make sense to reach farther and pursue more diverse audiences? Definitely. But making the foundation of your new system launch a series of remakes that your core audience has likely already played screams misstep.
So how do they remedy this if the rumors are true? Easy: carefully pick the ports that have the most potential and upgrade them to sequels.
Splatoon seems like it’ll lend itself well to this approach–the new version shown in the trailer is already being hotly debated amongst its fan base as to whether it’s a sequel or not. With the addition of the long-desired pants and hair customization options as well as new maps and weapons, the port/sequel is poised to please fans of the first game and newcomers alike. Throw in another solid single-player mode and revamp the lackluster local multiplayer and you have yourself a true gem of an exclusive FPS.
On the other hand, there’s not much that games like Mario Kart 8 and Smash Bros. could really do to differentiate themselves. Add new characters and stages? Sure. But from what we saw in the reveal trailer, MK8 looks just about the same as it always has, albeit with a two-item mode. In terms of Smash Bros., it’s hard to imagine another full entry being made for a long time. The cast of characters is so huge and the stage selection so inclusive (not to mention the seemingly endless bonus modes and extra content), it’d be insane to do anything other than make a port with updated graphics and all of the DLC packed in.
It’s understandable that Nintendo wants to release definitive versions of a few of its key franchises. But it’s also important to cater to owners of those original titles. Sequels are one way to do this; charging the double-dippers half price for digital downloads of the enhanced ports is another. Whatever solution Nintendo decides on, there has to be one–the Nintendo faithful can’t be left out to dry come launch day.
– Brent Middleton