January is an exciting time to be a Nintendo fan. For the past couple of years, the first month gave us a Nintendo Direct to reveal information about upcoming titles for our shiny new Nintendo Switch consoles. As December comes to a close I find myself thinking about what the almost-inevitable January Direct may hold for us. I decided that before I listen to any podcasts, read any articles, or watch any YouTube discussions on the subject, I wanted to do a little research and form my own predictions for what might be announced.
To prepare, I went back and watched a few previous Directs. Specifically, I watched the September 2017 Direct to find out what games were announced for 2018, then watched the January 2018 Direct to see which ones got a follow-up and what new announcements we received. I also noted the structure of the January Direct and the release timeline of the games announced at that time. Finally, I watched the September 2018 Direct to get an idea of what we currently know is planned for a 2019 release. I compiled a page of notes about these previous presentations and made a list of what could potentially be discussed during the presentation.
With my notes and thoughts gathered, today I’ll be sharing my predictions about the January Direct: it’s length and structure, what titles I expect to see, and which ones I don’t think will make an appearance. Once it’s all said and done, I want to hear your thoughts on my predictions and whether or not you agree with them, as well as your own hopes for surprise announcements.
LENGTH AND STRUCTURE
One thing I had forgotten until I went back and started my research was that in January 2018, we got a Direct Mini rather than a full-length Direct. For comparison, here are the rough run times of the three presentations I watched when working on this article:
- September 2017: ~40 mins
- January 2018: ~15 mins
- September 2018: ~35 mins
This is a pretty significant difference in run times, and if this January Direct follows in the footsteps of the last we might need to manage expectations as far as the number of announcements we expect to see. To help me get a clearer vision of whether or not the January presentations are smaller in scale, I checked out the Wikipedia page on Nintendo Directs, which lists all of the events that have been held over the years.
Here’s the trend I noticed: January seems to have a significant Direct every other year. The 2018 Direct was a mini, but in 2017 we saw the major titles coming to Nintendo Switch for the first time. In 2016 there was no January Direct, but in 2015 Nintendo revealed the New 3DS in a January Direct. 2014, nothing in the states, but in 2013 a January Direct aired only a couple of months after the launch of the Wii U. Not only do these early presentations seem to happen every other year – 2013, 2015, 2017 – but they seem to always be tied to hardware: the Wii U, New 3DS, and Switch, respectively.
With that in mind, my first prediction is that we will have a full-length Direct in January 2019. Not only does this year fit the every-other-year trend, but there have been rumors of a new Switch SKU coming out this year. With rumblings about new consoles happening in the Sony and Microsoft worlds too, Nintendo will want to make a move in order to keep up. Additionally, having multiple Switches in one household seems to be a goal they wish to work towards in order to take advantage of the Switch’s more unique functions – consider the interesting possibilities shown off in Super Mario Party. Even if the new Switch device isn’t revealed during this Direct, I think there are too many games coming up that have vague 2019 release dates for Nintendo to simply spend 15 minutes on the presentation. 2018 was considered a weak year for Switch as far as first party titles are concerned, so Nintendo will likely want to show in 2019 that they have lots of strong games to deliver during the first half of the year.
When it comes to the structure of the presentation, I anticipate that this Nintendo Direct will continue the rapid fire headlines that we have seen over the past couple of years. This style of presentation is engaging and seems to be working for them – as the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” I also anticipate them to discuss titles for both the 3DS and the Nintendo Switch. The last few major Directs that haven’t been focused on a single title have featured headlines for both Nintendo devices, and although it seems silly to continue talking about the 3DS in 2019, Nintendo plans to continue supporting it so they’ll most certainly talk about the games coming to the handheld.
Since we’re already on the subject of the 3DS, I’ll start off my game predictions by discussing the handheld system. We already know about three games coming to the 3DS in 2019: Bowser’s Inside Story, Yokai Watch 3, and Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn. Bowser’s Inside Story is slated for a January 11th release – keep that date in your head, as it will be important later in the article. I don’t anticipate Inside Story to get a lot of airtime but if the Direct comes out before the release date, then they’ll definitely plug an advertisement for it. Yokai Watch 3 is coming out in early February, so that will almost certainly be advertised during the 3DS segment. The release date for Kirby has yet to be confirmed, so I’m predicting that Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn will have its official release date revealed.
Surely to goodness the whole 3DS segment won’t only be three games though, right? It’s hard to say. The September 2018 Direct only highlighted four 3DS games, so it’s not a stretch to think that we may not see much more this time around. However, I have a hard time believing that a segment would even exist for the 3DS if they only talked about already-announced games, so I’m predicting that we’ll learn about an unannounced 3DS title during this Direct. I don’t anticipate it to be a new game, but rather for Nintendo to continue the pattern of porting/remastering titles. As far as what game may get this treatment? I honestly have no idea, but I’m gonna commit to a guess and say Paper Mario: Color Splash will be ported to 3DS. They seem to like the Mario RPGs being in the handheld realm and Color Splash doesn’t seem so complicated that it couldn’t run on the New 3DS. The game received positive reviews, so making it available to the massive audience of 3DS owners could be a smart move.
Now let’s get to what I expect will be the meat of the presentation, Nintendo Switch titles. Pictured above is a game that we know is slated for a January release, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe. Goodness, what a terrible name. Anyway, this already-announced title is coming out on January 11th, the same day as Bowser’s Inside Story on the 3DS. Now this is interesting because not only are two games being released on that same day, but guess what day the January Direct Mini was held last year? January 11th. With all of that in mind, I’m going to predict the date of the January 2019 Direct to be Thursday, January 10th. I think being able to say that these two games are releasing the next day will be a good marketing choice – one last push for publicity before they are released into the wild.
There are currently two games I’m aware of that are slated for released in Spring 2019 specifically: Yoshi’s Crafted World and Fire Emblem Three Houses. The former has been shown off quite a bit, while the latter has only a single trailer. I think both games will get release dates during this Direct, but I think Yoshi will have a short trailer while Fire Emblem might get a bit more focus. What I would like to see for that game is a segment talking about the benefit of formations, telling the basic premise of the story, and showing off the support system. I’m curious to know if this title is going to lean more towards the Awakening/Fates end of the spectrum or if, like its art style, it will have a stronger resemblance to the Radiance titles with less focus on romantic relationships. My hope is that romance won’t factor too heavily into the support system, but since Awakening and Fates effectively reached a whole new audience thanks to shipping my prediction is that marriage will be significant to the game and shipping characters together will be shown off in the trailer.
Nintendo’s other first-party offerings that have been confirmed as 2019 titles are Luigi’s Mansion 3 and Animal Crossing. We heard about both of these titles back in September, so is it possible we’ll learn more about them now? My guess is that we won’t see these games in the January Direct. I don’t expect either of them for Spring 2019, and one thing I noticed during my research was that many of the games mentioned in the September 2017 Direct were not brought up again during the January 2018 Direct. This seems to suggest that Nintendo wants to space out talking about their games, so we might see more details on titles they haven’t mentioned in awhile but fewer details on recently-announced games.
One thing that we normally see during Direct presentations is the announcement of updates for Nintendo’s major online titles. Directs throughout 2017 and 2018 often spoke about the latest news concerning ARMS and Splatoon 2. With both of those games now totally finished with major updates, I’m thinking we might see these sorts of updates for different games. During the last Direct, it was stated that Mario Tennis Aces would be supported until June 2019. Since the last update happened at the end of November and didn’t feature any new characters, my prediction for the January Direct is that new characters will be announced for Mario Tennis Aces, along with other features of the next update.
Nintendo’s biggest online game at the moment is Super Smash Bros Ultimate, a game which just released on December 7th and announced its first DLC character during the Game Awards. Smash is the clear and obvious choice for an online game to discuss updates about, but I don’t think the timing is right. I doubt Joker is ready to show gameplay footage for, and I don’t think they’re going to announce the second DLC character so quickly after the first. Since the team is hard at work on the paid DLC, I also doubt that they are working on any free updates similar to the ones available for ARMS or Mario Tennis Aces. So my prediction for Smash Bros is that we won’t see it at all in the January Direct.
There’s one more thing to discuss with Switch Online, and that’s the service itself. Currently there’s no virtual console service for the Switch outside of the small offering of NES titles that come with the paid online membership. In the September Direct, Nintendo promised to expand this library of NES games, but up to this point we’ve heard nothing about the possibility of other consoles being added to the service. A lot of folks want to see SNES titles included as well, and I think it would be great for Nintendo to provide a solid virtual console experience for the Switch. However, my prediction here is that at most, Nintendo will reveal a couple more NES titles, but they won’t give us any groundbreaking info that makes their online service more appealing. I love Nintendo, but they’ve never impressed me with their approach to online and I don’t expect them to change my mind on that in the foreseeable future.
We’ve talked about Nintendo’s first party offerings for 2019, but what can we expect from other developers? Daemon X Machina started the show at E3 2018 and was featured again briefly during the September Direct, but still has no firm release date. That Direct also showed us that GameFreak, the masterminds behind Pokemon, are working on a new RPG IP called Town. Now we already know that there’s a new Pokemon game slated for the second half of 2019, probably in November as Sun and Moon, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, and Let’s Go all released around that time. Given that releasing Town too close to Pokemon could cannibalize the new IP, my guess is that Town will release in summer 2019 and thus be shown off in this Direct. Conversely, since Daemon X Machina has gotten a lot of attention in the past couple of major presentations, I predict it will get a break and won’t show at this Direct.
I’ve been ignoring a lot of smaller scale titles so far in my discussion, but Directs often feature a segment that very quickly shows off multiple third-party titles within one headline. In September a number of tabletop games were announced, some of which are slated for release in March and April while others have more vague 2019 releases. Of particular interest to me is Munchkin, which claims to be a dungeon crawler inspired by the Steve Jackson card game of the same name. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if this and other tabletop titles were shown off in a quick segment, so I’m predicting Munchkin to make an appearance during the Direct, along with Catan, which also has a “2019” release date.
Now we can’t talk about third party support on Switch without talking about Square Enix and their effort to port multiple mainline Final Fantasy titles to the console. Final Fantasies VII, IX, X, X-2, and XII are all planned to release on Switch at some point in 2019, as well as the remastered version of Crystal Chronicles. While this is certainly exciting news, I don’t expect to see release dates confirmed for any of these games. The Square title that I do think will make an appearance during the Direct is Dragon Quest Builders 2, which is already out in Japan but lacks a western release date. Last year, the January Direct revealed a DQ Builders demo, and I think we will see the same thing this year. We’ll get a release date and an announcement that the DQ Builders 2 demo is available today (today being the day of the Direct, of course).
Now there are a few titles for the Switch which we know exist, but still don’t have any kind of release date defined at this point. Bayonetta 3 was announced in December of 2017 at the Game Awards, and since that time we’ve learned a whole lot of nothing about it. Metroid Prime 4 is in a similar boat – after it was originally teased at E3 2017 we’ve not seen it at all. I don’t expect both of these games to show up at the Direct, but surely one of them has to finally be shown off, right? A while back on Twitter I made a prediction regarding E3 2019 – since Nintendo’s E3 strategy the past few years has been to focus predominantly on a single title, I expect Metroid Prime 4 to be that title in 2019. With that in mind, I think Bayonetta 3 will be shown more in this Direct with a confirmed 2019 release date, while Metroid Prime 4 will continue to be a mystery for a while longer.
After the reveal of Joker as DLC for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, speculation started to run rampant about whether or not we can expect Persona 5 to come to the Nintendo Switch. Personally, I think there’s a good chance of that happening, but I’m not convinced that right now is the time to talk about it. Nintendo likes to connect their character trailers for Smash Bros to game announcements – in the September Direct, Isabelle was confirmed as a playable character and Animal Crossing Switch announced immediately afterwards. So my guess is that Persona 5 for the Switch won’t be shown off at this Direct, but rather will be held off until Joker gameplay is ready to show off.
Now naturally, I don’t anticipate that Nintendo will only talk about titles we’ve already heard of before. The January 2018 Direct saw a number of games announced – I think the difference between then and now is that while the Direct Mini featured mainly ports, I don’t expect we’ll see many ports during this Direct. I do think there’s a possibility of getting one last Wii U port to the console, perhaps a game like Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. As far as a brand new game that might be announced, I’m going to predict Pikmin as the franchise to next get some attention. We’ve got a 2D Mario right at the beginning of the year, Yoshi is coming out as well as Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem, it feels too soon for Zelda and Metroid is on the distant horizon – with most of the major players having had their chance at a Switch title, I think it’s time for Olimar and his crew of flower buddies to have a turn.
I’ve now gotten out all of my predictions, so let’s do a quick TL;DR to review.
Predicted Date: January 10th, 2019
Predicted Length: ~30 mins, full length Direct
Predicted Structure: Rapid fire headlines, 3DS and Switch titles discussed
- New Nintendo Switch SKU will be revealed/teased
- Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn will get an official release date
- A new 3DS port will be announced – more specifically, I’m guessing Paper Mario: Color Splash
- Yoshi’s Crafted World will get a short trailer confirming the release date
- Fire Emblem Three Houses will get a more detailed trailer with a release date as well as some mechanical aspects of the game and the support/marriage system
- Luigi’s Mansion 3 and Animal Crossing will not be shown
- Mario Tennis Aces will have a new update announced that includes new characters
- Super Smash Bros Ultimate will not have any announcements during this Direct
- Nintendo Switch Online may discuss a couple of NES games but won’t reveal SNES support
- Daemon X Machina will not be shown during this Direct
- Town will be shown more and will have a summer 2019 release date to prevent it from conflicting with Pokemon in November
- Munchkin and Settlers of Catan will be shown and given release dates
- No Final Fantasy title will have a release date confirmed
- Dragon Quest Builders 2 will announce a release date and a demo will drop the day of the Direct
- We’ll finally get to see Bayonetta 3, but Metroid Prime 4 will still be held off for E3 2019
- Persona 5 for Switch will happen, but it won’t be announced at the Direct – they’ll wait to reveal it with the gameplay trailer for Joker
- This Direct won’t be port-heavy like last year; there may be one port, and I’m predicting that port to be Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
- Pikmin 4 will be announced and a trailer will be shown
This is my first time making predictions of this nature, so I’m excited to see how many of them – if any at all – end up coming true! In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject, adventurers. Do you agree with my assertions? Do you think I’m way off base? What do you hope happens regardless of whether or not it’s realistic? Let me know in the comments below!