When the Nintendo Switch made its debut back in March of 2017, one of the first games Nintendo announced for the platform was a brand-new IP called ARMS. Following the success of Splatoon for the Wii U, ARMS aimed to expand Nintendo’s eSports presence with a boxing game that featured a diverse roster of characters wielding extendible arms. Since its announcement, the game has seen generally favorable reviews, with many critics praising the game as Nintendo’s next big franchise. As of March 2018, ARMS sold 1.85 million copies worldwide, and while these numbers mean that the game was a clear success, questions remain about why it wasn’t a slam dunk like Splatoon 2 or Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (which sold 6.02 and 9.22 million worldwide respectively), and whether or not it will survive the impending Super Smash Bros.
ARMS is an incredible game, but for me it was one I had to play to understand. There are four main modes, each offering a unique way to play the game in whatever way the player sees fit. There’s a single-player campaign called “Grand Prix,” a 1-4 player local multiplayer mode called “Versus,” a casual 1-2 player online mode called “Party Match,” and a competitive single-player online mode called “Ranked Match.” Each mode has its own variation of matches, but the most common has players compete in a one-on-one brawl to knock out their opponent by depleting their HP. It’s not a particularly unique concept, but ARMS elevates itself from a generic to a unique and creative brawler through the strategic depth achieved by the abilities unique to each character, as well as a wide variety of interchangeable arms that each fighter can choose from, which have their own varying abilities, status effects, deployment speeds, and power levels.
Reviewers loved the game for its tone and unique gameplay, and its 77 on metacritic(which compares favorably to Splatoon 2’s 83) suggests that consumers do, too. And yet Splatoon 2 has sold triple the amount of ARMS.
So, what gives?
As it stands, there doesn’t seem to be a specific reason as to why ARMS hasn’t taken off in quite the same way Splatoon has, but I’d wager that brand familiarity, and more specifically its similarity to Super Smash Bros., has a lot to do with it. Splatoon as a genre fills a space previously unoccupied by any other Nintendo IP, and despite the clear differences between the two games, Super Smash Bros. and ARMS both fall under the same “fighting game” umbrella. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there can only be one, but it might mean that, when given a choice, players are deciding to hold off on ARMS and hold out for a game they’ve known and loved for the last decade instead.
That’s not to say that ARMS is failing by any means, but its pool of players has been steadily dropping since its debut, and I think we can all expect that number to plummet when Super Smash Bros. releases later this year. The question is, will ARMS be able to survive this kind of blow?
Obviously, we’ll have to wait and see, but I believe ARMS is an incredibly overrated title that I hope will be at the very least be able to carry over into a sequel. On the outside, it appears that Nintendo remains dedicated to the platform, but they slowly seem to be waning their support off of it and onto whatever gameplan they have in store for Super Smash Bros.
ARMS recently had its own US and Canada Online Open, but it’s not being featured alongside Splatoon 2 and Super Smash Bros. for E3 2018. Not to mention, ARMS also isn’t featured in Nintendo’s newest advertisements, even though its multiplayer capabilities both meet and exceed some of the titles that are (one of them being Splatoon 2, which lacks local multiplayer).
I’m really curious to see what the future holds for ARMS, but regardless of what’s going to happen to it after the release of Super Smash Bros., it remains ones of the games I staunchly recommend to all Nintendo Switch owners. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of experiencing it for yourself, there’s never been a better time to jump in and see what it’s all about. Personally, I’m holding out hope that some of the ARMS characters will debut in the new Super Smash Bros., but at the very least, I think it’s safe to say we can expect to see some kind of spin-off or sequel in the future.
ARMS is available now exclusively for Nintendo Switch.
Update 5/10/18: ARMS now has a free demo for anyone curious about the game! You can find it on the Nintendo Switch eShop, or schedule it for download over-the-air here.