The Nintendo Switch dominated 2017.
By brilliantly bridging the gap between home console and handheld gaming — not to mention releasing a stellar year-one game lineup — Nintendo delivered its first must-have system in what feels like ages, selling over 10 million units of the Switch in a staggeringly short amount of time.
But now that Mario, Zelda and the sheer buzz of the Switch's launch are behind us, can the Big N keep up the momentum? Here's what to expect from Nintendo's hot new console in 2018, from new features and services to the system's next crop of must-have games.
Game lineup: What's the next Zelda?
Nintendo seems poised to maintain that same variety and volume going into 2018, though it's unclear if we'll get anything that makes quite the same impact as Mario or Zelda.
Leading the first-party charge for 2018 are Kirby Star Allies and an unnamed Yoshi title, both of which look to offer charming 2D platforming in the kinds of gorgeous, colorful worlds you'd expect from a Nintendo game.
Switch owners also get ports of Bayonetta 1 and 2 — two incredible, hyper-stylish action games that were criminally underplayed on the ill-fated Wii U. This will help drum up hype for Nintendo's upcoming Bayonetta 3, which currently has no release date and seems more likely for 2019.
Japanese RPG fans can look forward to Lost Sphear and Project Octopath Traveler, the latter of which is a Switch exclusive that seems aimed specifically at old-school Final Fantasy junkies. Big AAA titles such as Wolfenstein II, Payday 2, Outlast, Mega Man 11 and the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection are all set to hit the Switch this year, as are smaller titles such as Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, Dragon Quest Builders, and Shovel Knight: King of Cards.
You can also expect more games that take advantage of the system's unique Joy-Cons the way 1-2 Switch and Arms do. Speaking to Japanese newspaper Asahi (as translated by Nintendo Everything), Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima teased that he'd like to see more games utilize the Joy-Con controller's motion control and HD rumble capabilities.
The Switch certainly won't be hurting for great games to play in 2018, though it feels like the console's next true system sellers are at least a year out. The next installment in Nintendo's beloved Fire Emblem tactical role-playing series is slated for 2018, but considering we haven't seen any gameplay or an official title yet, we wouldn't be surprised to see it slip to next year.
And then there are the big guns: Metroid Prime 4 and the Switch's currently untitled Pokémon game. These are arguably the system's two most anticipated titles, but considering that both are simply labeled as "in development," you shouldn't expect them until at least 2019.
Switch Online and Virtual Console
In addition to getting a bunch of new games, the Switch will debut its long-awaited premium online service in 2018. Dubbed simply Nintendo Switch Online, this $20-per-year service will allow you to play multiplayer games online, get exclusive eShop discounts, and download a variety of classic titles that will include Super Mario Bros. 3 and Balloon Fight. There's no set release date for the service, but some rumors suggest we might have to wait until fall.
Certain components of this service have rolled out for free ahead of the full launch, and Nintendo has a fair amount of work to do to convince us that it'll be worth paying $20 a year for online play. You currently need Nintendo's shoddy Switch mobile app just to chat with your friends during online games, and it's still unclear what else the app will do aside from letting you check your stats in Splatoon 2.
Nintendo remains silent on whether it will bring its popular Virtual Console program to the Switch. This service allows you to purchase classic NES, SNES, Game Boy and Nintendo 64 titles à la carte on systems such as the 3DS and Wii U, though it's possible that the Netflix-style collection of classic games you'll get by paying for Switch Online will replace it.
New hardware and accessories
It's hard to imagine the Switch getting a significant hardware refresh anytime soon, even from a company that seems to release a new variant of the 3DS every few months.
The console's simple, versatile design is part of what makes it such a huge hit, and it doesn't suffer from the same bulkiness at launch that necessitated the eventual Xbox One S and PS4 Slim. While it would be nice to see, say, a cheaper Switch configuration that ditched the TV dock, it's very likely that the $299 Switch you see now is the same one that'll be sold throughout all of 2018.
What you will probably see, however, are new colors, bundles and possibly even new types of controllers. Nintendo has already released special themed Joy-Cons inspired by Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2 and Arms, and it's easy to imagine the company doing something similar for major releases such as Yoshi and Kirby.
Nintendo's Entertainment Planning and Development Division lead, Shinya Takahashi, teased the possibility of new Switch add-ons in an interview with IGN, saying "[The Switch] gives us a lot of possibilities that we could consider for the future in terms of what you could attach."
Entertainment and apps
The Nintendo Switch currently has just one entertainment app — Hulu — and we've yet to hear official announcements about support for the other big streaming giants. Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube are all available on the company's Wii U and 3DS consoles, so it seems like those services will inevitably come to the Switch.
However, streaming services appear to be last on Nintendo's priority list. In a recent interview summarized by Nintendo Everything, Kimishima seemed to be interested in keeping the Switch a games-first machine, and noted that "such features may already exist on other devices in households."
Will Nintendo Switch get a price drop?
Price drops are a common part of any console cycle — unless you're dealing with Nintendo. The Big N's consoles (and games) are notorious for retaining their value for years, and considering how well the Switch is selling right now, don't expect to see its $299 price tag go down in 2018.
Nintendo will have a hard time recapturing the sheer magic of the Switch's 2017 launch — but it doesn't have to. With Kirby, Yoshi, Bayonetta and a healthy stream of third-party and indie games, Nintendo fans will have plenty of reasons to keep their Joy-Cons in hand. And now that the Switch is in over 10 million homes, we wouldn't be surprised to see even more major publishers bring their latest and greatest to the new system.
The big question is whether Nintendo can deliver on some sorely needed features. Will the Switch Online service be worth paying for? Will the system get more entertainment apps beyond Hulu? The Switch's design and game library are already superb, but a bit more fleshing out could put it on a par with PS4 and Xbox One in a big way.
But even if the Switch doesn't get any major upgrades — or the next Breath of the Wild — it still seems poised to do the one thing its competitors can't: deliver a ton of great games that you can play both at home and on the go. That wouldn't be a bad sophomore year for a system already doing so many things well.