It is a bias-free undeniable fact that the Nintendo Switch cannot power sports games in the same manner that the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro can. Die-hard sports fans who own a Switch as their primary console are, frankly, out of luck due to the console’s limited offering, and few (if any) would recommend the hybrid system to avid sports gamers (though 2K and EA have tried really hard with at least a couple of their ports). So how does Nintendo remedy this predicament? The answer is not clear, but I have some strategies that could improve the console’s standing in the short and long term.
Avoiding Mario Tennis: Aces’ Mistakes
Mario Tennis: Aces should and could have been a must-have title that propelled the Switch to new heights for sports fans. Nintendo’s initial foray into first-party sports on its hybrid console had all of the makings to be a huge hit: a varied roster of Nintendo icons, exceptional multiplayer and a fun RPG-style single-player mode.
But the characters were unbalanced and entirely unlocked from the start. New characters were introduced via an oddly timed DLC release that encouraged users to play in monthly tournaments. The adventure mode was a far cry from the RPG mode in the Game Boy Color Mario Tennis and the wonderful Golf Story. Customizable settings were very limited.
Nintendo teased during E3 that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate would be riddled with unlockables that constantly reward players for sinking time into the game. Why not do that here? There is no shortage of unused Nintendo stars, environments for courts, and items that could been unlocked to greatly boost replay value. The game’s core tennis game is the same ultra-tense frantic chess match it has always been, but Nintendo missed the mark on what could have been another deep and must-have first-party entry.
Gameplay Over Graphics
The Switch, despite excellent first-party offerings, found itself skipped by a handful of otherwise perennial releases due to limitations and porting pains. WWE 2K18 was so unplayable that 2K is not even bothering with a release this upcoming year. No AAA sports titles will be as perfect on the Switch as they are on other consoles. FIFA 18 may have felt like an older version released for the Switch, but it included Manager Mode, Career Mode and FIFA Ultimate Team while avoiding performance hiccups even in handheld mode. At the very least, It was portable PS3/Xbox 360-era FIFA title. That could very well be the unfortunate route for foreseeable releases, but Switch players would certainly rather have a graphically inferior port than not have a release at all.
Instead of maximizing the Switch’s power for graphics, developers should make ironing out performance issues a top priority, and stabilize the frame rate and core gameplay. Franchises may take a few years before they are perfect, but that comes with the release of any new system. Consider each sport’s “best ever” titles: ESPN NFL 2K5 and MVP Baseball 2005 look awful compared to today’s games, but their gameplay makes them timeless classics.
An Influx of Indies
Hamster’s Neo Geo titles comprise the bulk of sports titles available on the Nintendo Switch. Plenty of sports are covered (no hockey but we have bowling and robot baseball), but players are understandably left with a longing for more than a port of an arcade game released almost a full 20 years prior. A few sterling indie releases have made their way onto the Switch eShop (such as Golf Story), but the void still feels colossal.
Nintendo’s very public goal of releasing “20-30 indie games per week” is something to get excited about, especially if local multiplayer masterpieces like SportsFriends find their way to the Switch. Indies are not for everyone and do not scratch the same AAA sports release itch, but an increased host of offerings can quell frustration. The Mutant Football League reboot and Nidhogg 2 are coming this fall, so as a start why can’t The Golf Club 2, Super Mega Baseball 2 or Out of the Park 2018 make their way to the Switch?