This is what Nintendo doubling down on the 3DS looks like: Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, revamped versions of last year’s Pokémon Sun and Moon roleplaying games, are headed to the company’s dedicated games handheld on November 17. No, it’s not what the blogosphere predicted, or, it seems, wanted, which is to say a port of Pokémon Sun and Moon for the Switch. But that was too obvious a guess anyway.
Instead, on September 22, Nintendo Switch players are getting Pokkén Tournament DX, the game Nintendo and The Pokémon Company used to lead their eight-minute Pokémon Direct. Yes, it’s another Switch port, this time of last year’s Wii U arcade brawler developed by Bandai Namco, though also a game acclaimed in its own right, with global sales by the close of last year of over a million units—no small feat given the Wii U’s minute install base.
But consider what Nintendo wants the Switch to be. It’s already made the case for the device as a portable games console that’s either in your hands or on your TV. That’s maybe half of the story so far. The other half is what more than just you—meaning you and your family, friends and maybe even passerby—are able, willing and maybe even enthusiastic about doing with an impromptu, throw-down games emporium when you’re out and about.
Like digging into the hat trick Nintendo’s attempting to pull off with edgy, competitive games like Arms (June 16), Splatoon 2 (July 21) and now Pokkén Tournament DX (September 22), all timed to correspond roughly with the start and end of summer 2017. If Nintendo’s not-so-super-secret-strategy involves turning Switch players into viral throngs of guerrilla marketers, whose public interactions become ads for the console unto themselves, then it’s hard to imagine the company acting otherwise or more shrewdly than to bring boldly new (Arms) or artfully iterative (Splatoon 2) or platform-bottlenecked (Pokkén Tournament DX) 1-on-1 et al. games to its new flagship platform.
None of this, by the way, is any reason to assume Pokémon Sun and Moon won’t at some point make their way to Nintendo’s new console. With all the heavy hitters coming for the Switch in 2017 alongside The Pokémon Company’s own new smartphone games, to say nothing of the latter’s expansion plans for Pokémon Go, neither needs a Switch port of a contemplative, involuted 2016 3DS roleplaying game to buoy profits or put wind in sails.
Pokkén Tournament DX for the Switch thus seems like the smarter move now, operating on the assumption that the Switch’s capacity to engage new blue oceans depends on its ability to both swim and be seen in them.