Is the Nintendo Switch too old? Can Nintendo's wildly successful handheld, now in its sixth year, maintain its momentum amid concerns about horsepower and a potentially barren release schedule in the second half of 2023? Is The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom really worth $70?
These were some of the questions being asked heading into the first Nintendo Direct of 2023 — a show that Nintendo typically uses to set the agenda for the rest of the year. There was excitement among Nintendo fans, but wariness as well. Coming off a year marred by releases with notable technical problems, and with the long-rumored Switch Pro failing to materialize, the calls for a next-gen Switch have become difficult to ignore.
Biggest Games of 2023
In the end, Nintendo fans didn't get their Switch 2, or even much in the way of new information on The Legend of the Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. They did, however, get to see several prominent rumors come to fruition, including the long-awaited arrival of Game Boy and GBA games on Switch. The heavily-rumored Baten Kaitos collection also made the cut, and Advance Wars got a release date at last. Even Mario Kart 8 got a little love with a new character and track.
In a sign of the Nintendo Switch's increasingly advanced age, many of the announcements were more about looking back than looking forward. Retro Studios' Metroid Prime remaster — rumored since seemingly the dawn of the Switch — was a big part of the Direct, even receiving a shadow drop after the show was over. It's a release that's been loudly requested by fans over the years, not the least because Metroid Prime is so hard to get these days. Is the remaster enough to fill the gap between now and whenever the next Switch is released? It'll have to be.
Nintendo fans know it could be much worse
Of course, Nintendo fans know that it can always be worse. Much worse. The Wii U saw fewer than 20 games released at retail in 2016. The GameCube fared little better. Both consoles effectively withered on the vine in their final years as third-party developers fled to other platforms and new releases were pushed to next-generation successors.
The Nintendo Switch feels strikingly robust by comparison, handily surpassing the PS4 to become the third highest selling platform in history. Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, for all of their technical problems, still managed to move some 18 million units combined last year. With a mix of sequels, indie releases, and remasters, Nintendo has maintained a steady drumbeat of new releases on the platform. Add in the occasional blockbuster exclusive, and the Switch has managed to remain relevant — even essential — despite being multiple generations behind in tech.
That sense was heightened by the anticipation for today's The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom trailer. Ever since its brief reveal in 2019, the long-awaited sequel to Breath of the Wild has stood on the horizon like a glittering treasure for Switch owners. Its predecessor has grown in esteem to the point that many fans regard it as the best game in the series, if not the best game ever made. Tears of the Kingdom has come to symbolize the hope and anticipation that has defined so much of the Switch's run, which has fueled endless speculation around the next Nintendo Direct, the next Smash Bros. reveal, the next remaster, the next sequel.
Nintendo was content to let that speculation go on a little longer with today's trailer, teasing Zelda fans with around two minutes of new footage. It wasn't much, but it was seemingly enough to overcome some of the discontent over its $70 price point, which feels especially high on an older system like the Nintendo Switch. It hardly seems possible that Tears of the Kingdom will live up to its sky high expectations fueled by years of waiting, but Nintendo has made a habit of matching and exceeding the hype with Zelda.
A murky future for the Switch
After Tears of the Kingdom, though, Nintendo faces plenty of questions. Most of the anticipated sequels are out now; the well of remasters is almost dry. With so few future titles highlighted during the Direct, it’s hard to know what the rest of 2023 holds for Nintendo Switch. Even now, there’s a growing consensus among fans and observers that it’s time for Nintendo to move on from the Switch.
That won't be easy for Nintendo. The Switch has been easily the most successful Nintendo platform in 25 years, surpassing even the highs of the Wii. It has seen the company enjoy a creative and cultural renaissance that will be difficult — if not impossible — to replicate. A new Switch will garner plenty of excitement, but it's hard to imagine another moment like Animal Crossing: New Horizon.
Nintendo fulfilled many long-held rumors and dreams with the first Direct of 2023. After today, there won’t be many left. More than ever, the end is in sight.
Nintendo Direct February 2023
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Kat Bailey is a Senior News Editor at IGN as well as co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Have a tip? Send her a DM at @the_katbot.