Nintendo has put up massive numbers so far this year, smashing software records and padding the company bank account. However, there’s still a lot of a year left to go, and many Switch owners are craving new games. The recent Mario Direct helped, but that’s mostly just old classics with a little touch-up. The holiday season often accounts for around half of the yearly revenue, so Nintendo typically drops their biggest game of the year just before Black Friday. Mario and Pikmin remasters are coming in September and October, but November remains barren. What will Nintendo’s big holiday 2020 Switch game be?
Nintendo’s big holiday 2020 Switch game
Of course, the simplest answer is that we don’t know yet, but there are plenty of possible choices. In a typical year, we’d already know the holiday 2020 lineup by E3, if not sooner, but COVID-19 has the whole world scrambling. Nintendo may be hesitant to commit to hard release dates until they’re sure they can reach them. That said, there are a handful of games that have already been announced, and others still have been heavily rumored. Let’s dig into some possibilities!
Breath of the Wild 2
The dream scenario would be a holiday 2020 release for Breath of the Wild 2. The critically acclaimed Zelda masterpiece has sold 18.6 million copies on Switch, and the Wii U version pushes that number over 20 million. It’s the most successful entry ever in one of Nintendo’s most iconic franchises. It’s exactly the kind of holiday bombshell Nintendo loves to drop. But is it ready?
It’s been one year and (nearly) three months since Nintendo first teased the sequel at E3 2019. We also know that Nintendo began planning it during the development of the first game’s DLC. The final DLC pack release in December of 2017, so we could be nearing the three-year mark of development. That’s shorter than the typical development cycle for a new 3D Zelda game, but Nintendo can save a lot of time by recycling the graphics, physics, and many of the locations from the first game.
Nintendo hasn’t given us anything new since last year’s E3, and the window is closing fast, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem. Again, COVID-19 has tossed the norm out the window. Nintendo has shown they are willing to announce release dates just days or weeks ahead of time, instead of months. In a year like 2020, it wouldn’t be all that surprising for Nintendo to blow us away with a Zelda Direct just weeks before it drops.
It’s been over 1,000 days since Nintendo and PlatinumGames teamed up to reveal Bayonetta 3 at The Game Awards 2017. Unfortunately, we’ve heard virtually nothing else about the game since then. Once every few months someone from PlatinumGames will make a vague statement about “smooth development,” but it never goes any deeper than that. On its quarterly reports, Nintendo consistently lists its launch window as “TBA.”
That said, Bayonetta 3 has been in active development for a long time, and staying out of the public eye just gives them more focus. It’s entirely possible that they’re in the final stages of development, pushing hard through the pandemic to get this game ready for a holiday launch. It’s not a blockbuster IP like Zelda, but it’s still a popular franchise with a dedicated fanbase. Can it hack and slash its way to a 2020 release date?
Speaking of moderately popular franchises with passionate fanbases, I’m in the mood for some Metroid! It’s been a few years since Samus saw the light of day, and it would certainly be a pleasant surprise. Metroid Prime 4 was first teased over three years ago at E3 2017. However, Nintendo updated fans with some tough news in January of 2019. Nintendo was unhappy with the game’s development, so they scrapped it and started fresh, putting Retro Studios in charge.
It’s been a year and a half, but we haven’t heard a peep since then. And frankly, it’d be overly optimistic to expect that to change this year. Retro Studios is still trying to hire a Lead Producer for the game, which suggests it isn’t near completion. Their hiring page has numerous job listings, and some of them have remained unfilled for many months. They’ve been looking for a Lead Graphics Engineer since April of 2019. It breaks my heart, but I doubt we’ll even see a trailer this year, much less the game’s actual release. Metroid Prime 4 will almost certainly not be Nintendo’s holiday 2020 title.
However, there’s more to Metroid than just the Prime series. Metroid began as a 2D franchise, and it’s been over a decade since we got an all-new entry in that style. However, early this year, a leaker with an impressive track record mentioned two upcoming games. One was a Paper Mario entry that would “return to form,” and the other was a 2D Metroid with some relation to Fusion. Paper Mario: The Origami King would be revealed a few months later. It’s definitely not a complete return to form, but its overworld and battle system are the closest we’ve seen to the classic style in a long time. Does that mean a 2D Metroid is just around the corner? We’ll have to wait and see.
New Pokémon Snap
E3 may have been canceled this year, but Nintendo still had a few big announcements in June. One of the most exciting reveals was New Pokémon Snap. The original captivated audiences in 1999, and it feels like fans have been begging for a sequel ever since. Nintendo Switch has been tremendously successful at capitalizing on nostalgia, with games like Super Mario Odyssey reminding lapsed gamers why they fell in love with Nintendo as children. It feels like an ideal fit for that holiday 2020 slot. But will it be ready in time?
Unfortunately, we have very little to go on. Nintendo hasn’t given us any additional information since that first, brief trailer. If you paid close attention, you’ll know that trailer specified “Not actual gameplay footage,” so we haven’t really seen the game at all. With that in mind, I wouldn’t hold my breath on this one. We’ve been waiting over 20 years for this, so what’s one more?
Coasting on DLC and limited-time bundles
Of course, there’s always the possibility that Nintendo simply doesn’t have a major title ready for the holiday season. It would be unusual and certainly not ideal, but… that’s pretty much 2020 in a nutshell. And even before the pandemic, Nintendo pushed Animal Crossing out of late 2019 into early 2020 when it needed more polish. Nintendo has cautioned investors that the duration and severity of the pandemic could eventually lead to delays.
If that should happen, Nintendo won’t necessarily be doomed to a poor finish. Pokémon Sword and Shield still have another DLC pack coming out later this year, which could help fill the gap. That said, most people who will want to play it probably already purchased the expansion pack earlier this year, so it won’t bring in enough revenue on its own. Nintendo could put out DLC for other popular Switch games, such as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Nintendo can also leverage its recently-announced Super Mario Bros. 35th anniversary lineup. The Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection and the new Game & Watch will only be available for a few months… for some reason. Nintendo could easily capitalize on this artificial scarcity with bundle deals. A physical collector’s edition of 3D All-Stars bundled with a Mario-themed Nintendo Switch would likely sell like hotcakes.