What if I told you that the Nintendo NX could have more first party software than any other Nintendo console ever released? “That’s impossible,” you might say, and, truth be told, I can’t blame you with all of the software droughts that the Wii U and the 3DS had. But little did we know that Nintendo may be moving to a strategy that could allow for one of their largest libraries yet, and I have a good idea of what we could see the first year. When it all comes together, you’ll be saying “The NX will have how many games!!?”
Combining Handheld and Console Development
So how is Nintendo going to make all these new games? Well, it’s due to an interesting internal change with how Nintendo makes games.
In early 2016, Nintendo told business newspaper Nikkei that the company had combined their console and handheld development. While this change appears to be a change in hardware development, the article notes “Nintendo is hoping the move will encourage further connectivity between console and portable devices, including the implementation of handheld devices as console controllers, and game data sharing so players can continue playing their console game on their handheld when away from the couch.” Additionally, The Wall Street Journal reported that the system may very well be a hybrid citing development insiders (who had received development kits). Specifically, they state “People familiar with the development plans said Nintendo would likely include both a console and at least one mobile unit that could either be used in conjunction with the console or taken on the road for separate use.” Based on this, it looks very likely that the Nintendo NX could have combined console and handheld game development.
Combining handheld and console development makes sense as the 8th Generation has been plagued with software droughts for Nintendo. As Satoru Iwata stated during a financial briefing “Wii U has lost momentum due to the release pace of software titles after the launch period.” While Nintendo had a good amount of games planned for 2013, the majority of them didn’t launch until later in the year . Of course, it doesn’t help that those games didn’t get much of a foothold. As a result, Wii U sales went from 3.45 million in the 2012 fiscal year to 2.72 million in the 2013 fiscal year.
Moreover, Nintendo has been making the same game over and over. There is a Mario Kart for the Wii U and 3DS. There is a New Super Mario Bros for the Wii U and 3DS. There is Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS. Most of Nintendo’s efficiency has been wasted on making a version for each console. Yet if they don’t do this, some series get left out in the cold. For example, there was a traditional Animal Crossing game for the 3DS, but not for the WIi U.
Having two system that both need games has stretched Nintendo thin. Nintendo was able to produce a plethora of games with the Wii because it didn’t follow the HD trend of its competitors. With the Wii U, Nintendo struggled makings HD games with Shigeru Miyamoto stating “We may have underestimated the scale of this change and as a result, the overall software development took more time than originally anticipated just as we tried to polish the software at the completion phase of development… “. Now, Nintendo can have a tidal wave of software titles right out of the gate. As Sean Malstrom states on his blog “…instead of two pipelines to make games, there will be only one big pipeline. NX could have double or triple the first party software that the Wii U had. This is necessary for NX to go anywhere.” If Nintendo’s strategy is to really focus on one system, then that system could have a ton of games.
How Many Games Will There Be?
So that brings us to the ultimate question: Just how many games will the NX have??
To answer this, I took a look back at the last 5 years from 2011 to 2015 to see how many games Nintendo and their internal development teams (Intelligent Systems, NdCube, Retro Studios and Monolith Studios) had created. These years were chosen as they would be the best representative for the NX because the NX will most likely be an HD system and the Wii was made to be a weaker system compared to Nintendo’s rivals. Also, these are the most recent years and should be more representative of current game development cycles. I took a few other assumptions into account as well:
- I included the Legend of Zelda remakes on the 3DS. Although Grezzo was behind them, Nintendo still assisted in development of them. See here and here.
- Although Monolith worked on Project X Zone, I didn’t include that title or its sequel in this list.
- This list does not include Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS, Kid Icarus Uprising, and Pokemon games.
- It does not include games made by second-party developers, such as Next Level Games and HAL Laboratories.
- This list only includes full retail games.
- The data is based on Japanese release dates.
|# of games||9||7||8||5||11||40|
Games included above
|Mario Kart 7||Animal Crossing: New Leaf||Fire Emblem Awakening||Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds||Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer|
|Nintendogs + Cats||Brain Age: Concentration Training||Tomodachi Life||Mario Party Island Tour||Codename: S.T.E.A.M.|
|Star Fox 64 3D||New Super Mario Bros 2||Legend of Zelda” Wind Waker HD||Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker||Fire Emblem Fates|
|Steel Diver||New Super Mario Bros U||Pikmin 3||Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze||Rhythm Heaven Megamix|
|Super Mario 3D Land||Nintendo Land||Wii Fit U||Mario Kart 8||Splatoon|
|Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword||Kiki Trick||Super Mario 3D World||Super Mario Maker|
|Rhythm Heaven Fever||Mario Party 9||Game and Wario||Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival|
|Wii Play Motion||Wii Party U||The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D|
|Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D||Legend of Zelda: Tri-Force Heroes|
|Mario Party 10|
|Xenoblade Chronicles X|
The average per year is approximately 8 games. This would mean, on average, Nintendo releases a game every month and a half (and this isn’t including second party games). The variance (standard deviation) is approximately 2, meaning a year could have upwards of 10 games.
Based on this information, it’s safe to say that the NX will have about 8 games throughout 2017. Most likely, the system will have 3-4 games available immediately at launch, another 3 to 4 titles released towards the end of the year. That said 2017 could have more games since new Nintendo games in 2016 are few and far between. The only games coming out during 2016 from Nintendo and its internal developers are Starfox Zero and Starfox Guard, Mario Party Star Rush, and Paper Mario Color Splash. As such, it’s very possible that 2017 could have upwards of 10 games coming from Nintendo as they gear up for the launch of the NX. In a Investor Q&A, Kimishima stated “One of the reasons for choosing the launch timing that we did is so that the software lineup will be ready in time for the hardware launch.” Interestingly, Kimishima mentions “software library” implying Nintendo is gearing up a software library. Given the assessment above, Nintendo could have a plenty of titles ready and the delay could very well be to polish titles and line up the library to avoid software droughts.
In total, Nintendo had 39 games during the 5 year period, so whythe heck did the Wii U and 3DS have such software droughts? With a game released every month or two, you’d think the Wii U would have had plenty of games (especially as this list excludes some games). The problem was two fold. First, game development comes in cycles. 2012 and 2014 were very light on games where as 2013 and 2011 had plenty of games. A game takes about two to three years to complete, so there will be dry years. So 2014, for instance, only had two Wii U games: Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. The second issue, as mentioned above, was that Nintendo had to make games for two seperate system. Even worse is that, in order to maximize the selling power of their best franchises, like Super Smash Bros, Mario Kart, and of course Super Mario, Nintendo had to develop a title for both their handheld and console. As a result, Nintendo can’t give attention to their smaller series. Did you ever wonder why Nintendo isn’t making more F-Zero titles? Well, they have to make two Mario Kart games. There just isn’t enough time.
Developing on a single system is a win/win for Nintendo. In the weak years (like 2012 and 2014 above), the drought will be alleviated by second-party titles and, hopefully, third-party titles. Although 2014 was a light year for Nintendo, it saw the release of Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS, Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, Hyrule Warriors, Kirby Triple Deluxe, Mario Golf World Tour, and Pokemon Art Academy. On the other hand, there is a torrent of new software in the strong years (like 2013 and 2015). Before even considering new second-party titles, 2013 and 2015 had eight and eleven titles, respectively. “But wasn’t 2013 a bad year for Nintendo?” It was, and some of Nintendo’s sleeper hits for that year actually appeared on the 3DS: Fire Emblem Awakening and Tomodachi Life. Even though the goal was to bulk up the Wii U’s library, Nintendo still had to work on the 3DS as well. Even worse is that both of these titles were released during the first half of 2013 when the Wii U’s drought was at its worse. Although 2015 saw a lot of titles as well, only five of the eleven titles were released on the Wii U. Ultimately, the biggest problem with trying to support two systems is that one flourishes while the other struggles.
What Games Will Be On the Nintendo NX?
Once we think about how many games are available on the system, we naturally think about what those titles will be. So far, the only game confirmed for the NX will be The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Beyond that, it’s all speculation, but we have some good guesses. Miyamoto has confirmed that Pikmin 4 is nearing the end of development. There have also been a rumors from every corner of the internet suggestion ports of Wii U games, such as Super Smash Bros, will come to the NX. I have also written on why I believe the next Smash will come sooner rather than later.
Beyond that, Mario Kart is a very real possibility. Mario Kart games come out roughly every two to three years, and the Mario Kart 8 came out two years ago. Retro Studios has also been working on a new game. What that title is is anyone’ guess. Will it be a new series? Metroid? Or perhaps they will tackle another Nintendo IP the company hasn’t touched, such as F-Zero. All of these could be real possibilities. If you want to know more, check out Nantendo’s Road to the NX. It remains ones of the best assessments of Nintendo internal development teams.
Nintendo executives have routinely discussed the fact that the NX is a system with a new concept. Based on the rumblings we’ve gotten from Nintendo, it could very well be a combined handheld and console system. If that is true, we could see a huge stream of Nintendo games released for the system, approximately 8 a year (not including second-party titles). Time will only tell what the NX will really be, but needless to say, there is a plenty to be excited about.
 – Actual standard deviation was 2.24