The Sports Desk – Another Lean Year For Sports Games On Switch?
Things are going great for Nintendo and the Switch system. It seems like every day during the recent holiday season, the system was breaking a record and getting good news. That's wonderful for the platform, but I think sports software on the system is a different story. While FIFA 18 and NBA 2K18 in particular where surprisingly decent games (even though they weren't up to snuff with the versions on other consoles), they aren't enough to cover the genre on the Switch. Many have pointed to the console's success and recent comments from executives at both EA and Take-Two as indications that everything is fine, but the pessimist in me believes this year will be another uneven year for sports titles on the system.
EA – with its Madden, NBA Live, NHL, FIFA, and other franchises – is clearly the bellwether for sports titles, and until we see other franchises join FIFA on the console, the genre will continue to be an afterthought. Madden in particular is the star here in America, but in the Switch's current context, even Madden isn't going to be a likely release.
First of all, while I believe that executives are telling the truth that they're pleased with the Switch, the NPD software sales numbers for the U.S. show that both FIFA and NBA 2K dropped off the Switch software top ten lists after their debuts. Contrast this with the normal software sales patterns on the PS4 and Xbox One – where sports game are consistently in the software top 10, and often surge during important moments in the sports' real-life seasons like the playoffs, and it's clear that the environment for sports titles is just different on the Switch.
Before the Switch's launch, EA said it was going to take a wait-and-see approach with the Switch. If I was EA, I wouldn't be impressed enough with the sales performance so far to bring in other titles. In fact, I have a feeling Madden won't even come out at all on the Switch this year. The game won't get the international sales boost that FIFA enjoys, and even though Nintendo is starting a paid online service, it lacks the features of the other services and doesn't suggest that as serious as its competitors about online.
The lack of a robust online service for the system trickles down to how third-parties themselves approach online with their games. For EA, the Ultimate Team fantasy mode is a very lucrative venture, and the same goes for NBA 2K's MyCareer mode. Even with whatever sales the publishers are happy with for their games on the Switch, the number of people interacting with their online modes and marketplaces are small. If that's the case, there's way less money being made by the companies, which is the beginning of the end.
Consider the fact that Madden and the other EA sports titles aren't even on PC – a platform that has a better install base, system performance, and online ecosystem – and if EA won't go after that market, it's hard to believe that it thinks the Switch is going to be an easier sell.
I hope that this year's titles like the Switch version of FIFA get features like Ultimate Team's weekend league and squad battles, but the bigger issue is that perhaps Switch players just aren't experiencing the games in the same ways that the players on other systems are enjoying. It's fine that Switch is its own thing, but again, a publisher like EA wants reliable sales conformity across the board, not plucky little cousins.
The Switch is a success on its own terms, but for the foreseeable future it just so happens that this is irrespective of the sports genre.
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A quick rundown of some of the sports news from the week
NHL 18 Gets a Weekly HUT Competition
Registration Is Open For the ForzaRC 2018 Competition
Get more info at the official Microsoft blog (click above), and register here.