Battletoads is coming back.
This revelation came as quite the shock to many watching Xbox’s E3 2018 press conference, and fans of legendary developer Rare were delighted to learn that an old favourite would be returning. Unsurprisingly, a number of Nintendo fans are equally as interested in the resurrection of the I.P. because of its roots with the company and notoriety of providing one of the most challenging NES titles ever made.
Even then, how’s the previous company tie relevant to that tidbit of news when the title is set to appear as an Xbox exclusive? As Microsoft is likely well aware, this same group of consumers reflects on many of Rare’s games as classic Nintendo titles because the Japanese firm once partially owned the Twycross-based studio. Not exactly a groundbreaking revelation, I know, but it’s safe to say that these fans would probably spend money on what equates to a smaller project for the firm if it were to arrive on their platform of choice. In that light, it would initially benefit Microsoft if the publisher were to launch Battletoads on Nintendo Switch from a sales perspective – and other Rare franchises should follow suit.
To clarify, I’m not saying that Microsoft should begin the process of porting something like Sea of Thieves over to the Switch, nor should the company pivot ongoing development for AAA titles like the rumoured Perfect Dark reboot said to be co-developed by Gears of War studio The Coalition. Those specific examples don’t make sense when paired with Microsoft’s desire to peddle its own hardware.
Mind the “Xbox Exclusive” titling that flashes at the beginning.
In the case of Battletoads though, it’s evident that this project will be modest in size and won’t necessarily rely on the power of the super-charged Xbox One X to function (4K hand-drawn 2.5D graphics aside) and truthfully it probably won’t sell consoles on its own either, making it a perfect candidate as a cross-platform romp. The smaller-scale development also means that the cost of development on Switch would be minimal in comparison to the price tag associated with creating the full title, with platforms already established ahead of time in order to ensure that the game can run properly across consoles.
Others like Killer Instinct and Rare Replay also stand to sell like hotcakes if they were ever to jump over to Nintendo Switch. Admittedly, a little more work would be required for the former to make the jump, but seeing classics like Banjo-Kazooie and Conker return “home” through the latter is enough to excite consumers (and their wallets) with the simple allure of Rare’s legacy I.P. on Switch. But it also does so much more than just generate additional revenue from another platform for Microsoft.
As an example of this strategy, Microsoft’s Executive President of Gaming, Phil Spencer, said something that made fans excited recently: claiming that he has no problems at all with Banjo and Kazooie joining Super Smash Bros. as playable characters. Since the bear and bird duo are long-requested favourites – despite the fact that many thought they would never get in – Smash aficionados were understandably stoked by this revelation. Still, this isn’t an entirely honest gesture from Spencer, because it’s really just a means of getting attention for Microsoft’s first-party properties.
It’s advertising directly to a new consumer base through a blockbuster Nintendo game like Smash, and it’s one that actively wants to be excited by these properties.
The same can be said for the Gears of War and Halo skins present and available for purchase in Minecraft on Switch. These allow newbies or curious consumers to engage with the franchises they otherwise wouldn’t be able to on another platform and it can get them turned on to Microsoft’s Xbox if and when they ever feel the need to try out the real McCoy. It’s that initial spark of intrigue that can get the ball rolling on a major purchase decision, plus it doesn’t eat into the current install base of the Xbox.
But wait, why wouldn’t bringing first-party games to Nintendo Switch take a bite out of Xbox sales? For the same reason that software like Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge, Banjo-Pilot, and Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise didn’t derail Xbox when they arrived on Nintendo handheld consoles. Now, it can be argued that those particular titles weren’t also on Xbox which would make that strategy akin to releasing Super Mario Run on mobile devices, but the shelf life of aforementioned games like Killer Instinct and Rare Replay have peaked and since dipped significantly from a profitability perspective – not completely, mind you, but they probably aren’t selling many consoles as of this writing.
So while sales have fallen by the wayside, it’s important to also note that the Switch occupies a different niche than competitive hardware like the PlayStation 4; this makes the Nintendo console a far better pairing as a co-platform for Microsoft. And soon enough that potential partnership stands to be strengthened even more – provided that the company is willing to acknowledge the opportunity at hand.
Successors to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are coming in the next few years, that much is inevitable. Software will then follow suit, placing Nintendo Switch at an even greater disadvantaged from a technological standpoint – unless the demand for Switch creates a sloth-like adaptation of these higher-end titles or Nintendo releases a more powerful version of the hardware. Either could happen. Truthfully, the latter seems more likely, but I digress.
At the point when Nintendo needs to retool its hardware, Microsoft’s value in utilizing Switch increases. The house of Mario can’t stand toe-to-toe with home hardware powerhouses, and truthfully the company doesn’t want to either. Instead, the Switch provides a very different experience from the others, which broadens the wiggle room available for collaborations and ports. It’s the same ideology behind releasing exclusive Xbox games on Windows PC, because Microsoft doesn’t see that user base as a threat to its gaming console’s well-being on the marketplace.
Releasing Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Twooie on another platform isn’t going to take a chunk out of Microsoft’s hardware sales, but it will reacquaint hungry audiences with the characters before the likes of a Banjo-Threeie appears on the Xbox Two. Yeah, that particular sequel feels like a pipe dream to me as well at this point, but this proposed strategy compels gamers to check out Microsoft’s console because it once again makes the franchise relevant. It’s a perfect pairing from a marketing perspective because those beloved platformers are no longer moving Xbox 360 units like they did when remastered versions first arrived on the platform in 2008 and 2009, respectively.
As for the new Battletoads arriving on Nintendo Switch, and in spite of my personal desires, it probably won’t happen. If the game has a shot at resonating with audiences like the adorable-yet-stupidly-difficult Cuphead did then Microsoft will see value in keeping it locked to its platforms – at least initially. Still, there is ample space for other collaborations and something akin to Rare Replay compliments Microsoft’s plans quite nicely if the end game is to drive interest in newer games and different hardware.
Fans will just have to wait and see how far Microsoft and Nintendo are willing to go. In the meantime, the industry will remain abuzz with rumours and speculation.
Battletoads is currently without a release date but is set to arrive exclusively on Xbox One… for now.
Think it’ll never happen? Do you actually agree? You can find Riley on Twitter at @TheRileyLittle to let him know either way.