How Nintendo achieved a surprisingly strong 2019 – TheSixthAxis

How Nintendo achieved a surprisingly strong 2019

Lite fantastic.

Even with our attentions increasingly focused on the next generation of home consoles, it’s impossible to ignore Nintendo and the company’s ongoing success with the Switch. Despite some pre-launch trepidation, the hybrid handheld system quickly found a foothold and 2019 has been another great year as we approach its third anniversary. Once again, a solid first party lineup laced with a few more experimental titles here and there has kept Nintendo firmly planted in the spotlight.

Nintendo games released in 2019

Astral Chain | Review
Cadence of Hyrule | Review
Daemon X Machina | Review
Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training for Nintendo Switch | Review
Fire Emblem: Three Houses | Review
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening | Review
Luigi’s Mansion 3 | Review
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 | Review
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 | Review
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe | Review
Pokémon Sword & Shield | Review
Ring Fit Adventure | Review
Super Mario Maker 2 | Review
Tetris 99 | Review
The Stretchers | Announcement
Yoshi’s Crafted World | Review

Coming into 2019 Nintendo had already sold more Switch units than the Nintendo Wii U and GameCube had managed in their lifetimes, and were just several hundred thousand short of the N64. As of September, the total number stands at 41.67 million sales, Nintendo likely having shifting another truckload during the holiday season, especially with the launch of a new mainline Pokémon game and some hardware revisions big and small.

Although technically still part of the current Nintendo ecosystem, we effectively waved goodbye to the 3DS this year. With no new first party titles beyond a couple of re-releases, Yo-Kai Watch 3 and Persona Q2 were there to give the plucky little handheld a subdued sendoff. There’s a strange handheld gaming space in its absence, and although the Switch was built to bridge the gap between home and portable consoles, it’s weird to see Nintendo only focus on one platform instead of juggling two.

Of course, it was only a matter of time before the company came up with a hardware revision for its power-selling Switch. As many pundits had long predicted, Nintendo launched a lighter, smaller version at a slightly lower price. Although it boasts a better battery life and swaps directional buttons for an actual d-pad, the lack of TV output is a feature some gamers won’t be able to pass up on, and some games lean heavily on having Joy-Con to enjoy them.

If there’s one thing we all definitely missed in 2019, it was the presence of Reggie Fils-Aimé. While it always feels weird when fans coo over the heads of multi-national mega-corporations, having genuinely likeable figureheads is something that helps the gaming industry stand out among its counterparts. The President of Nintendo America retired in April and it wasn’t long before his successor became the inspiration for just as many memes. His name is Doug Bowser, after all.

As for games, Nintendo had ’em all year round, starting with yet another tarted up Wii U port in the form of New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe. A couple of months later saw the release of Yoshi’s Crafted World, but the game slotted in between was arguably more intriguing. Following a Nintendo Direct stream in February (in which a Link’s Awakening remake was announced) Tetris 99 suddenly popped up on the eShop, completely free to anyone with an active Switch Online subscription. On paper, a Tetris battle royale game sounds like confusing, opportunistic spin on the classic puzzler but it executes its simple premise brilliantly.

Throughout those summer months, Nintendo kept its more hardcore fans engaged with strategy epic Fire Emblem: Three Houses, flanked by Daemon X Machina and Astral Chain, with the surprise indie mash-up Cadence of Hyrule being another surprise hit sandwiched in between. Then, of course, we had Luigi’s Mansion 3 as well as Pokémon Sword & Shield to round out the year. While it sold like hotcakes for Nintendo, a smaller-than-expected Pokédex and other unrefined design choices held it back from receiving universal acclaim.

Nintendo’s full slate for 2020 has yet to be confirmed. It’s hard to imagine that there will be quite as many first party games next year though fans are chomping at the bit to get their hands on Animal Crossing: New Horizons as well as the surprise sequel to Breath of the Wild. While it’s great to see these tentpole franchises continue to deliver, we’d be just as interested in seeing what new IP Nintendo is willing to take a bet on, with Splatoon and/or ARMS hopefully making a comeback too.

Written by
Senior Editor bursting with lukewarm takes and useless gaming trivia. May as well surgically attach my DualShock at this point.