Tuesday, December 06, 2022

The Future is Uncertain for Nintendo Switch Sports’ Sportsmate Avatars

A follow-up to the Wii’s beloved Wii Sports is long overdue, but at last Nintendo Switch Sports is on its way. Combining sports both old and new, the recently announced title promises to offer fans much of the same fun that the original Wii Sports captured. Nintendo Switch Sports is far from a direct Wii Sports sequel, though. Aside from changing its roster of sports and featuring a new setting called Spocco Square, Nintendo Switch Sports Introduces a new line of playable avatars called Sportsmates. These Sportsmates can be fully customized and have much more detailed appearances than Wii Sports‘ Miis.


Some fans see the Sportsmates as an improvement on the Wii’s Mii avatars, but not everyone does. Others are critical of the Sportsmates, comparing them unfavorably to avatars from other games and demanding that Miis get the spotlight again. Regardless of their quality, Nintendo Switch Sports‘ Sportsmates have a serious problem: branding. Their name directly ties them to sports games, which means Nintendo will have a harder time reusing them outside the genre in the future. Unless Nintendo finds some way to rebrand Sportsmates drastically, they may be a Nintendo Switch Sports exclusive, rather than recurring faces of Nintendo.

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The Problem With Sportsmates

Nintendo Switch Sports Characters

Sportsmates look like they’ll work just fine for Nintendo Switch Sports, Their clothing customization and other malleable details make them a solid avatar for the Wii Sports successor. However, their name is a serious obstacle to their longevity. Miis got their start in Wii Sports before starring in all kinds of other games, from Wii Party to Wii Play, thanks to their flexibility, Miis thrived during the days of the Wii. Sportsmates, on the other hand, don’t seem capable of hopping between genres like Miis. Their name would make them feel out of place in a party game, or serving a more general capacity as Nintendo avatars. They’re irrevocably tied to the sports niche.

In that case, Sportsmates seem to have far less longevity than Miis. Nintendo Switch Sports could certainly get sequels that make use of Sportsmates, but Nintendo can’t reasonably reuse them as generic custom avatars in other games without rebranding, which could get confusing now that they already have an official name. Miis are so old that it would make sense if Nintendo wanted to replace them, and at first it looked like Sportsmates might be intended to do so. If Sportsmates were never supposed to replace Miis long-term, however, Nintendo should have stuck with focusing on Miis in Nintendo Switch Sports, rather than giving them a short-term replacement.

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Nintendo Switch Sports’ Impact

Nintendo Switch Sports Art

Criticism toward Sportsmates and nostalgia for Miis could present a solution for Sportsmates’ seemingly limited use. Nintendo could try introducing another set of avatars in the future that resemble Sportsmates in terms of colors, detail, and customization, but have more stylized designs that trend toward the classic, simple Mii aesthetic. As long as new avatars aren’t branded too heavily to their source, they could make good use of the Sportsmates’ innovations. That would be hard to pull off on the Switch, but Nintendo’s inevitable next console could make use of avatars like these.

Sportsmates are definitely an oddity. They don’t seem to have much long-term use outside of Nintendo Switch Sports, and their mixed reception combined with nostalgia for Miis makes it seem like Nintendo should have just used Miis to begin with. Miis will apparently still be in Nintendo Switch Sports, but it’s clear that Nintendo doesn’t want to make them a priority. In spite of their limited future utility, Nintendo clearly wants Sportsmates to be stars. Fans will just have to wait and see what Nintendo plans to do with Sportsmates and its Wii Sports revival in the coming years.

Nintendo Switch Sports releases April 29, 2022 for Nintendo Switch.

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