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Want to predict the next big Nintendo Switch game? Just rewind 5 years

When it comes to the video game industry, we’re currently living in an age of speculation. Players are no longer satisfied just getting news on upcoming games by patiently waiting for announcements. Insiders and leakers have become a fundamental part of the game hype cycle in the social media age, fueling a need for unofficial scoops. When a gaming livestream gets announced, it’s usually surrounded by tons of rumors, leaks, and predictions that set some high expectations. It’s easy to get disappointed by something like Nintendo’s September Direct when leaks from high-profile insiders wind up being a bust.

But what if I told you that you can become your own insider, especially when it comes to Nintendo Switch? Yes, you can create your own realistic predictions with ease rather than getting let down by enticing Reddit threads. All you have to do is follow Nintendo’s development cycle patterns, which have become crystal clear following today’s Direct showcase.

Five-year plan

The deeper we get into the Nintendo Switch’s life cycle, the more clear patterns in Nintendo’s release cadence are starting to show. If you look at the company’s first-party 2022 release calendar, you might notice that it looks a little familiar. That’s because a good half of it has been comprised of sequels to games that hit the console in 2017.

In the Switch’s inaugural year, we got Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Splatoon 2, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, Fire Emblem Warriors, and more. By the end of this year, Switch owners will have Xenoblade Chronicles 3, Splatoon 3, Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope, and Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. That’s not to mention that we were originally supposed to get The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom this year too, following up on 2017’s Breath of the Wild.

Coincidence? Or the machine-like reality of video game development cycles? You decide.

Fire Emblem engage characters stand in a field.

Five years isn’t a hard and fast rule, but you can see that rough time frame holding true when it comes to Switch sequels. September’s Nintendo Direct made that especially clear as it gave us our first look at the console’s 2023 line-up, which is already paralleling with 2018 and 2019. Octopath Traveler 2 is coming five years after its predecessor (though it’s a Square Enix project, not Nintendo) and Fire Emblem Engage‘s timing tracks by similar logic, though it’s a year early. If you really wanted to get tinfoil hat about it, you could note that Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe will launch five years after the last 2D Kirby game on Switch, Kirby Star Allies.

With all that in mind, Nintendo fans can start to make some educated guesses as to what could be coming in the back half of 2023 and even 2024. For instance, 2023 will mark the five-year anniversary of Pokémon Let’s Go! Pikachu and Eevee. We tend to get a new Pokémon game every year and Nintendo’s holiday 2023 slot is currently open, so you could make an educated guess that a Gold and Silver remake in that style could land around then.

Follow that logic into 2024 and you can start making even bigger predictions. That year gave us Grezzo’s excellent remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. The studio has been mostly quiet since, leaving fans to speculate whether or not it’s planning to remake another Zelda game. Perhaps we’ll see some long-rumored Oracle of Ages and Seasons remakes then. Other possibilities could include sequels to Luigi’s Mansion 3, Super Mario Maker 2, Yoshi’s Crafted World, and Ring Fit Adventure. It’s entirely plausible that a September 2023 Direct could include any number of those games.

Link hero shot | The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening review

You could poke plenty of holes in that logic, especially considering that we don’t have a Super Mario Odyssey follow-up on the horizon and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate defies any established Nintendo timelines. But this simply serves as a reminder that for all its secrecy, the video game industry often runs like a predictable machine. You can analyze patterns and start to make educated guesses about sequels with relative ease. There’s an assembly line-like efficiency to franchise production and Nintendo has especially locked that down during the Switch’s lifespan. There will always be left-field surprises and series that buck trends due to their success, but half of the Switch’s exclusives in the past year should come as no surprise to anyone who’s tuned in enough.

Become your own Nintendo insider.

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Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
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