Nintendo and indies, a perfect match.
It seems strange to think that the Nintendo Switch has only been out just over six months, as we’ve seen a pretty good stream of big releases for the system since launch. Especially compared to the slow last few years of the Wii U, the Switch has had an impressive start to its first year. Yet, for how impressive it’s been, that’s mostly due to three different aspects – strong Nintendo releases, big partnerships with third-parties, and a wealth of indie games. While nothing is set in stone, of course, these first six months with the Switch have shown that Nintendo has the ability to prop up the system on its own, but third-parties are starting to flock to the system more and more.
Things started out incredibly strong for the Switch when Nintendo released Breath of the Wild alongside it, perfectly showing off the capabilities of the system while advancing the Legend of Zelda formula in a new direction. Since then, we’ve seen a handful of other strong releases like Snipperclips, ARMS, Splatoon 2, Pokken Tournament DX, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. It’s important to note here that two of the big Nintendo games released this year weren’t developed by Nintendo, as you have Mario + Rabbids by Ubisoft and Fire Emblem Warriors by Koei Tecmo. This shows more of a direct effort on Nintendo’s part to bring third-parties into the fold, and encourage developers to bring games to the system. By having third-parties develop two big Nintendo titles, it sets the example for others that Nintendo is ready and willing to work with them.
Nintendo has clearly put a lot of effort into bringing third-parties into the fold, both with their own IPs and the third-parties’. One of the very first games we saw on the system was Skyrim, and Bethesda has since announced two more games coming to the Switch. We’ve seen popular sports titles like FIFA and NBA 2K18, as well as more niche Japanese titles like Disgaea 5 and Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2. There’s been a sampling of games for nearly every genre so far.
There’s also a couple third-party Switch exclusives coming next year from other developers with Square Enix’s Project Octopath Traveler and Suda51’s Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes. With the Switch nearing 8 million units worldwide it’s clear that the system is succeeding in its first year, and third-parties are looking to jump on the bandwagon more and more. This is a stark contrast to the Wii U, which had already started losing a bit of its third-party support after the first year in.
The key factor here is that there are brand new third-party games hitting the system, as well as exclusives. With more on the way like Wolfenstein II, Dragon Quest XI, and Shin Megami Tensei V in the works as an exclusive, Nintendo is gaining steam both for their titles and third-parties’. Things are certainly looking promising now, but it’s important that Nintendo continues to boost their system and improve, providing incentive for third-parties to stay and develop.
More impressive even than that, however, has been how the Switch has nailed the indie market so far, providing a steady flow of acclaimed and new titles. These include the likes of The Flame in the Flood, Oxenfree, Stardew Valley, Binding of Isaac, Shovel Knight, Minecraft, Golf Story, and more. There’s even more on the way, too, with the likes of Battle Chef Brigade, Super Meat Boy Forever, and Tiny Metal. Somehow, the Switch has gained indie title after indie title of all types, releasing nearly five a week for the last couple months.
This presents an interesting opportunity for the system, where indie games are almost more appealing than larger third-party titles that have released on the Switch. The release schedule of the system so far has created the perfect opportunity for the indie market. While waiting each month for the next big Nintendo release, there’s a handful of indie games you can pick up to fill your time in between, many of which don’t require a huge 100 hour block of time for you to commit. The nature of the Switch and its portability make it perfect for smaller, more contained indie titles that you can wrap up in 4-10 hours. Bigger experiences still look great on a large TV, but the smaller, more artistic ones are a blast to experience on the vibrant tablet screen.
The system certainly has the potential to be a veritable indie machine, and Nintendo is showing strong support for the indie scene. Things like their Nindies Showcase Direct show how committed it is, and in a strange twist, Sony will even be publishing indie titles on the Switch through their new Unties publishing label.
Through a combined effort of big Nintendo releases, third-party games, and groups of indies, the Switch has seen a flood of content over the last six months, a trend that’s surely going to continue. With the rising momentum of the system and Nintendo itself, third-parties are starting to pay more attention to the Switch, and their support will help the system keep going. At the same time, the Switch is becoming an astonishingly good system for indies, and clearly there’s a lot of reason for indie developers to bring their games to the system, considering many games like Oceanhorn, Flame in the Flood, and Shovel Knight are selling better on Switch than any other platform. It’s been a strong first year, and Nintendo needs to ensure they continue courting third-party and indie developers as the Switch gets older.
Nintendo has gotten the Switch off to a head start just by themselves, but now if they play their cards right, third-party developers and indies can boost the system to new heights.