Nintendo Switch: Zelda or launch games; we can’t have both

Nintendo’s upcoming console has been lauded by some as innovative, while others call it a mishmash of technology that doesn’t seem like it will hold up to the current generation of Xbox and PlayStation consoles.

What most people can agree on, however, is that the launch lineup of Nintendo Switch is rather paltry. With only 11 launch games (compared to Wii U’s 32 and Wii’s 21) in North America, the console has the smallest launch lineup of major consoles in the last decade.

So why is the lineup so small? Well, in a word: Zelda.

Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a massive game with a massive following and an equally massive amount of hype and anticipation. The balance with Nintendo’s launch lineup actually all comes down to this one game.

There are two schools of thought: release Switch with a wide variety of launch titles, or launch Zelda: Breath of the Wild alongside a few other games, but not much else.

Third-party developers, in all likelihood, don’t want to go up against a game that’s been anticipated for half a decade (Skyward Sword came out in November 2011), especially when the title is as prolific as a Zelda game. Even Nintendo isn’t releasing any other high-profile first-party titles, opting for one new title, 1-2 Switch which shows off the console’s technology rather than brings back an existing franchise. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, for example, could likely be ready for launch, but Nintendo has opted for a late-April launch to give Zelda some breathing room.

Even third-party titles on the launch docket for Nintendo Switch tend to be remakes or updates to existing games. Ubisoft is releasing Just Dance 2017, which came out in October last year, while Tomorrow Corporation is releasing World of Goo and Little Inferno, games from 2008 and 2012, respectively.

Zelda is also likely to have more of an impact on selling consoles in the first weeks of its life than a wide assortment of third-party titles would. With March 31st being the end of Nintendo’s fiscal year, the Kyoto-based company has less than a month to push out two million units of its newest console. Simply put, Zelda is the best way to do that.

As time goes on, however, the company will need a sustained push of games to keep the console moving off store shelves. As such, releasing games like Mario Kart 8 in April, ARMS in Spring, and Splatoon 2 in Summer will help solidify the Switch’s library of titles over a long period of time, rather than the fate that the Wii U suffered which saw gamers waiting months at a time for something worth playing.

Add in games like I Am Setsuna and Snipperclips in the early launch window, and bigger games like Rime and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for Summer and Fall releases, respectively, and Nintendo’s launch window strategy for the Switch makes a lot more sense than it may seem on the surface.

Throughout the year, Nintendo has marquee franchises launching for Switch, and E3 2017 will undoubtedly bring more game announcements, hopefully for even more franchises due out this year and into 2018.