When Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimes appeared during The Video Game Awards to announce a port of Bayonetta 1 and 2 for the Switch, he inaugurated what will almost certain be the Year of the Port for Nintendo's console.
Fresh off a historic first year, the popular hybrid will be a natural destination for a host of ports. You can already see it starting to happen. In the course of announcing Mega Man 11, Capcom revealed that both Mega Man Legacy Collection games were on the way to the Switch. Bethesda has already ported Skyrim and DOOM, with Wolfenstein on the way. Nintendo ported Mario Kart 8. Indies have been flocking to the Switch amid the success of the Stardew Valley port.
In 2018, this stream of ports will become a deluge. Demand is huge for Switch ports, and Nintendo is sitting on a host of Wii U games that can easily make the transition to portable. Seemingly every major series that isn't a graphical powerhouse is being rumored for the Switch.
The appeal for both fans and publishers is obvious. Fans get a portable version that they can break out whenever they want. Publishers get another burst of sales at fairly minimal cost. A gratuitous double dip on another console would be a welcome sight on the Nintendo Switch.
Who wouldn't want a portable version of, say, the Mass Effect trilogy? Or the Arkham games? Or maybe Wind Waker HD?
Publishers are recognizing the inherent appeal of Switch ports; and with the install base firmly established, are scrambling to pump out as many ports as possible. The very first Nintendo Switch release of 2018 is a port of The Escapists 2. Following that, February will see ports of Bayonetta, Dragon Quest Builders, and Pac-Man Championship Edition 2, and Payday 2, with Wolfenstein 2 and Darkest Dungeon slated for later in the year.
That's almost certainly the tip of the iceberg. As publishers scramble to throw resources as the Switch, more ports will continue to appear. The fall will almost certainly be rife with them. Already there are reports that Monolith Soft is weighing a Xenoblade Chronicles X port, and that Square Enix is trying to cram Final Fantasy XV on to the system.
If there's a danger to this approach for development on the Switch, it's that ports might choke out original development for the platform, at least in the short term. Indeed, even the novelty of portability will only take you so far with a game you've already played. If the Switch's online store is littered with last-generation releases, it will inevitably start to feel stale and... well... last-gen.
Adding to that concern is that there's seemingly little on the horizon from Nintendo save for second-tier releases like Kirby Star Allies and Yoshi. Nintendo kickstarted the Switch with the incredible one-two punch of Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey, but there's nothing of that magnitude on the way for 2018. Pokemon and Fire Emblem are likely still a year away, and there's been no sign of a new Smash Bros. game. Nintendo is obviously the Switch's most important developer by far; and if 2018 is an off year for them, the platform's library of original releases may start to seem slightly barren.
But it Won't be All Ports for the Switch in 2018
Still, the Switch won't be totally bereft of original releases in 2018. Aside from Nintendo's aforementioned Kirby and Yoshi games, Sega is prepping Valkyria Chronicles 4, which is apt to be a perfect fit for the system. Project Octopath Traveler, the retro-styled RPG from Square Enix, is already getting a lot of positive buzz. And, of course, Reggie followed up his reveal of a Bayonetta 1 and 2 port with word that Platinum is also working on Bayonetta 3. Indeed, with the 3DS on the way out, Japan figures to come through in a big way for the Switch.
Beyond that, though, it will be ports, ports, and more ports as publishers and indie developers alike scramble to cash in on their back catalogs. We may see a lot more original development in the future as formerly retiscent publishers throw their full weight behind the Switch; but in their short term, they will be looking to get as many games out for it as possible.
To be honest, I will be perfectly happy to see many of my favorite games make the journey over to the Switch. It's emblematic of the platform's natural appeal that so many older games feel fresh and new on the portable screen. And heaven knows that the world needs a Persona 5: Crimson Edition for the Switch.
But whether you want them or not, you'd best be ready, because the ports are definitely on their way. The only question is how long it will be before we start to get sick of them.