Not always known for its support for professional Esports, Nintendo’s Switch console sets the company up for success in the booming competitive industry. With a new focus on providing a more powerful system than its predecessors and on games (and allowing third parties to publish more games for the Switch than either the Wii or Wii U before), the Switch seeks to build on some of the success of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. But for Nintendo, its first party contributions may pave the way to some great competitive Esports.
Of course we’re all aware of Nintendo’s extremely popular Super Smash Bros and its popularity within the fighting game community (FGC). With the Switch, however, Nintendo’s well received but little known Splatoon earned a sequel in Splatoon 2. Featuring large and unique maps (many of which are remakes from the original Splatoon), colorful and memorable gameplay, and interesting team battles, Splatoon 2 - despite its childish aesthetics - could splatter its way into the Esports scene. Team based gameplay is easily the most profitable segment of Esports, and Splatoon 2 could fit that bill. In fact, Splatoon 2 features two additional slots in each game meant for observers or commentators, meaning it could be, much like Halo, one of the easiest accessible Switch games for Esports.
As far as gameplay goes, Splatoon 2 features the same third person gameplay from the original, while adding and improving upon existing weapons, stages, and character customization. Teams are split into groups of four (with those extra two slots for spectators), so players will battle in traditional 4v4 set ups. We’ve seen successful 4v4 multiplayer third person shooter games on traditional consoles, but not many have made an excellent transition into Esports. Splatoon 2 could prove to be pretty unique in its genre should it find success in the Esports square (unless you group it with the hard competition in the FPS genre). As more details are released, we’ll be able to figure out how well it will hold up under scrutiny.
One could argue that Nintendo’s Switch announcement trailer hinted at the company stepping into the Esports arena willingly by showing two individuals in a stadium filled with cheers and viewers as they prepared to compete. Should Splatoon 2 fail, Nintendo will undoubtedly release another Super Smash Bros during the Switch’s life span. In any case, the Switch emerges at a time when Esports is at an all time high, something that could, potentially, increase profits after the Wii U struggled. It seems like a win-win.
Arms, too, could posit itself as a contender for attention in the world of competitive gaming. Perhaps a bit too gimmicky for Esports, it is possible that Arms could develop a niche market in the FGC for motion gaming. After viewing various clips of gameplay footage, Arms could make for an interesting competitive scene. Depending on how the final product fares and just how much strategy and skill is involved in addition to fan reception, Arms would be the Switch’s first potential FGC game. If the motion controls are too much or too ineffective for the Esports ring, Arms also offers non-motion controls, therefore cementing the potential for it to succeed - if it’s capable. Additionally, Arms placed almost in the top spot of the Evo players most anticipated game of 2017, meaning it could transition quickly into a pop culture/Esports phenomenon.
As more details surrounding Arms is released, the game is fleshing out to be a highly strategic fighter. According to a Nintendo’s Treehouse, Arms features a sort of paper-scissor-rock idea behind its combat. In other words, players must know controls, combos, and actions when fighting, as the proper counter to each input is necessary in finding victory. I imagine this would translate into watching player patterns and discerning how to counter them before/as they happen. Of course, Arms isn’t the first fighting game to follow the paper-scissors-rock mentality, but it features some unique content while potentially cashing in on Nintendo first party quality.
The recently released Mario Kart 8 Deluxe could set the scene for competitive kart games. The original kart racer, Mario Kart 8 features numerous maps that showcase re-imagined classics and plenty of solid originals and forces players to maintain certain skill sets to in order to find success. Among friends, a casual approach is fine, but could Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, much like its Smash Bros counterpart, carve its way into the competitive scene? It’s doubtful at the moment, particularly because there isn’t a strong community for the genre, but it’s another popular title that Nintendo has at its disposal. If there’s any indication of how well Mario Kart 8 Deluxe could perform, it’s that the online multiplayer modes - those of which also allow for spectators - works well and experiences minimal-to-no network interruptions and/or lag.
The Nintendo Switch launched on March 3rd, and despite its limited launch titles, found massive success with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Still, Nintendo has a knack for making high quality products - particularly first party products. With the addition of popular third party titles and third party accessories designed specifically for gaming (the HORI competitive Switch stand, for example), the Switch is set to storm into the scene. Will the newest system steeped in Nintendo’s innovation set the world, and, perhaps, the Esports business, ablaze, or will it fizzle like its Wii U predecessor?