The Switch Won’t Need Breath of the Wild at Launch to Succeed


Nintendo Switch is a fairly ambitious piece of hardware. Setting aside the hybrid nature and detachable controllers, it marks a first in hardware pairing for Nintendo, teaming up with Nvidia to essentially handle the entirety of the insides of the system. It’s a risky proposition over sticking with AMD, but it’s a partnership that could pay off in massive ways long haul.

That being said, most folks that care to know have heard the recent rumors that Breath of the Wild likely won’t be there when the system launches. This feels like a blow to the proposition of buying the Switch, and for those who were going to pick it up just to play that game it certainly is. Of course, you can still argue that when it does release, it’s not as if you can’t just pick the system up then too. Being there day one or being there a few months later really shouldn’t affect your hype levels for either product. The Switch wasn’t going to become massively successful because of Breath of the Wild, and likewise Breath of the Wild wasn’t going to be a better game just because it was there at launch. That’s just not how things work.

What we can agree upon however is that while it was never officially stated, it was reasonably presumed that Breath of the Wild would be the major launch title for the system in the same way Twilight Princess was for the Wii. It is still to this very day, after-all, the only confirmed Switch game coming from Nintendo. Yes they teased ports and a new Mario game, but nothing is officially stated on their existence, outside of them saying all footage was superimposed. Breath of the Wild isn’t an unknown – it’s heading to Switch and Wii U.

Breath of the Wild, at the time of publication, is the only confirmed Nintendo Switch game out of Nintendo’s in-house studios.


Still, if Nintendo Switch is to be a success, Breath of the Wild at launch was never necessarily going to be needed. After all, you can (at the time of this publication) get the game for Wii U according to Nintendo. However, I want to bring up some key words from the current president of Nintendo of Japan, Tatsumi Kimishima, who is now at the head of his very first hardware launch:

“When asked why Nintendo wasn’t launching the NX in time for this year’s big holiday season, Kimishima explained that Nintendo wanted to make sure there were games to go along with the NX.– (Source: Nikkei, transcribed and translated by Kotaku)

He wanted to make sure the Nintendo Switch has games. Does that sound like someone who is worried if Zelda can’t make it at launch? It sure doesn’t to me. It sounds like someone who made a completely sound decision to not repeat the game drought issue that Wii U and 3DS faced during their first respective year on the market.

So, what will Nintendo Switch launch with to drive excitement? We earnestly don’t know, though more recent rumors have been stating that Mario Switch (tentative title) will be there day one. Is Mario a big enough game?

Well, it can be… if it pushes the boundaries the way Super Mario 64 did back in the day. Even the original Mario Galaxy for Wii churned out sales that have topped* even the best selling Zelda title*. If it is a true to form 3D Mario title that pushes us towards a new boundary breaking experience, we could have a winner. But still, even then, we’re not necessarily looking at a top tier launch, are we? One game? It’s going to be 2017, that simply won’t cut it.

While we still aren't 100% sure what Mario Switch is, history shows a 3D Mario game at launch can be a massive boon if done right.
While we still aren’t 100% sure what Mario Switch is, history shows a 3D Mario game at launch can be a massive boon if done right.

The system will likely have some Wii U ports of some sort at launch. That makes it a nice lineup, but wholly unoriginal. Mario may lead the charge, but it has to have something else. Third parties will probably come out swinging too. Ubisoft is bound to have a ZombiU like experience for the system day one, and other major third party companies could follow suit. Beyond that, the Switch is likely going to have one big surprise title up it’s sleeve. Is it the new Metroid game people feel like Retro Studios may be working on? Possibly. How about a new IP? It’s hard to put that past Nintendo given their recent track record of making new IPs.

It’s likely none of this instills confidence in the launch, because there is nothing here but speculation. And it’s true – I cannot definitely sit here and tell you everything will be alright day one. What I can tell you is that day one is not nearly as important as the second month, the third month, the fourth, the sixth, and the entirety of that first year. I still to this very day feel like the Wii U had a really strong launch lineup. It maybe lacked that huge #1 seller, but it was pretty good with exclusive titles at the time in New Super Mario Bros. U, NintendoLand (which is better than what it is given credit for), and ZombiU. I can easily see how the Nintendo Switch launch could be even better than that.

Then, we know (if the rumors are true) that Breath of the Wild is a month two, maybe month three game. That’s a really strong title to keep momentum going. We know a Pokemon game is in the works for it. Will that hit in month six? That’s really the tip of the iceberg. The key to the Nintendo Switch having a successful launch and first year was never in the hands of Breath of the Wild. Rather, it’s in the hands of Tatsumi Kimishima living up to his promise of a consistent lineup of strong games all throughout the first year on the market. Zelda replaced by Mario at launch is not bad. Both were likely landing inside Nintendo’s exaggerated “launch window”. Nintendo has to have more than just those two games ready to hit in the first year too if they want to live up to the true potential this system has. With a hybrid like system at their disposal, it’s much easier to see more production heading to Switch in year one than either 3DS or Wii U offered.

Don’t blindly have faith in Nintendo – they haven’t given us a reason to give them that benefit yet. But the mere fact Mario and Zelda are both likely landing on the system at least within the first six months already gives this system something the Wii U never had – a chance.

Let’s at least let January 12th, 2017 happen before we jump entirely off the hype train. Nintendo has yet to prove the game library. Let’s let them have that chance on their designated reveal date first before hitting that panic button.

Nathanial Rumphol-Janc

A veteran in the video game media sphere, Nathanial co-founded Gamnesia, founded, ran the news the segment on the Zelda Universe Podcast, found and ran Zelda Domain from 1998 to 2006, and built Zelda Informer as the Editor-in-Chief from 2008 to 2017. He now owns and operates Nintendo Prime. You can follow him on twitter @NateJanc, otherwise just stay tuned at Nintendo Prime for more of his work.