Nintendo Switch owners are craving sports games, plain and simple. 

Since its debut on March 3, 2017, the Nintendo Switch has sold 14.46 million units and has made quite the splash on the gaming landscape. The Switch’s ability to be used as a home console and/or a portable device has made Nintendo’s newest console a hit among gamers. As an owner of a launch day Nintendo Switch, I can’t begin to tell you how satisfying it is to play something like Hollow Knight at home docked or undocked and then bring the Switch with me to my in-laws and make more progress.

There has been one thing lacking on the Nintendo Switch that I can’t put aside: sports gaming. We can debate what “sports gaming” is, but for the sake of this article I’m going to talk about some of the major sports/sports entertainment – Soccer, hockey, football, basketball, baseball, and wrestling.

More importantly, I want to speak on third-party sports gaming on the Nintendo Switch. Right now the Nintendo Switch boasts a handful of third-party sports games and only three from major developers/publishers. Those games are NBA 2K18, WWE 2K18 and FIFA 18.

When you think of third-party gaming, you think of games like Madden, The Show, FIFA, NHL and NBA 2K and NBA Live. These are the major players in yearly released sports gaming. Both the Playstation 4 and Xbox One have access to all of these titles, sans The Show which will forever remain a Sony exclusive. The Switch only has access to NBA 2K18 and FIFA 18.

During EA’s E3 press conference, there was an outcry on Twitter when Madden wasn’t announced on the Nintendo Switch. For many gamers, myself included, a modified Madden 19-on-the-go is something we’re craving.

NHL 19 received the same kind of outcry from diehard hockey fans. During the NHL awards, EA announced pre-orders for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One with Nintendo’s machine relegated back to juniors.

When you look at sales from EA’s only Nintendo Switch game, FIFA 18, it is surprising that EA wouldn’t put resources into a Madden or NHL game. FIFA has currently sold 860,000 physical copies. Unfortunately, Nintendo doesn’t release eShop data, but you could make the case that FIFA 18 sold close to one million copies.

FIFA 18
FIFA 18 has been one of the best performing third-party games on the Nintendo Switch (Photo Credit: Nintendo)

This pales in comparison to the Switch’s two “big brothers” in gaming, the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One. FIFA 18 sold 11.23 million copies on the PS4 but only 2.90 million on the Xbox One. When you take into account that FIFA 18 sold about 1 million copies on the Nintendo Switch, it makes the Xbox One numbers look pretty bad. When you further consider that the Switch’s FIFA 18 wasn’t running on the Frostbite engine and was a modified version of FIFA 17, almost selling 1 million copies is quite impressive.

Another major release on all three consoles is NBA 2K18. Based on VGChartz, NBA 2K18 sold about 370,000 copies on the Nintendo Switch while it sold 1.88 million on the Xbox One and 3.12 million on the PS4.

As someone who purchased NBA 2K18 on the Nintendo Switch and dumped about 170+ hours in GM mode, I was quite happy with 2K’s port. The framerate was locked at 30 fps and the graphics looked like it was running on a Playstation 3.5, but the gameplay was solid. For someone without a Nintendo Switch, saying “Being able to play 2K at work during my break” sounds foolish, but it is quite impressive.

2K seems to be doing their best to support the Nintendo Switch. They’ve released NBA 2K18 and pre-orders for 2K19 are live for the Switch. They also release WWE 2K18 on the Nintendo Switch, but the port was incredibly broken and sold poorly. It’s unknown if it sold poorly (180,000 copies) due to being released a month and a half later than its Xbox One and PS4 counterpart or because the internet has labeled it a buggy, broken disaster.

Why isn’t EA porting any of their other sports games onto the Nintendo Switch?

As an NHL gamer, not having NHL on the Switch is a travesty. EA Sports NHL producer Sean Ramjagsingh confirmed with USGamer that NHL 19 will not run on EA’s Frostbite engine. This begs the question as to why it isn’t coming to the Switch. It’s possible that NHL, EA’s second worse selling sports franchise behind NBA Live, doesn’t have it in their budget.

That seems to be the only thing I can look at. EA Vancouver’s NHL team isn’t as big as their FIFA team or the team at EA Tiburon (Madden), so it’s possible they don’t have the resources. It can’t be an engine issue as FIFA was able to build a custom Switch engine.

Madden has also chimed in as to why they won’t be coming to the Switch this year. Ben Haumiller stated: “We always think about every platform out there. It’s really a decision of what’s best for Madden and us as EA and where we’re going. You never rule out getting your game in front of players. You want to go where everyone is. We’d never rule it out. We just don’t have any current plans right now.”

It’s disheartening to see the Switch not getting the sports titles that system’s base is craving. The plus side is that games like Rocket League continue to thrive on the Nintendo Switch. The Switch version has already sold its PC counterpart despite being released two and a half years later!

The Nintendo Switch is ripe for the picking when it comes to sports gaming. Surprising releases like the well-received Football Manager Toucher 2018 (73 on Metacritic) could make way for more sim-based games like Franchise Hockey Manager or Out of the Park. WWE 2K19 not being released for the Switch could open the door for Fire Pro Wrestling World to clean up (hint, hint). 

Will sports gaming ever become a mainstay on the Nintendo Switch like it is on the PS4 or Xbox One? Probably not, but Switch sports gamers are willing to take a shot on anything. Just don’t give us the broken, buggy WWE 2K18-type ports.


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Greg Ezell
Born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, Greg has been playing sports video games since Ice Hockey on the NES. Greg is currently working as a Program Director in the non-profit world, but his true passion is hockey. While Madden, various wrestling games and MLB The Show are some of his favorites, NHL remains the go-to sports series. Outside of sports games Greg enjoys J/RPGs, Monster Hunter and Stardew Valley.