When we got our first look at the Nintendo Switch late last year, one of the first major titles that people noticed was Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. This tease got people excited. Sure, it was a game that was five years old (now nearing six), but it showed that Nintendo was taking the steps to right the wrongs of the Wii U’s nightmarish lack of third-party support.
Since then, there’s been a rather concerning trend with the Switch’s third-party offerings. Rayman Legends, World of Goo, Lego City Undercover, The Binding of Isaac, and now Payday 2 have all been announced for Nintendo’s system. On top of the larger third-party staples like Minecraft, EA’s upcoming FIFA title, and Bethesda’s Skyrim, Nintendo is building an eclectic library of content for its system. If only they were relevant.
These games aren’t lacking in quality, mind you. In fact, most of these games were well received when they first released. However, that’s where the problem lies. Most of the third-party support Nintendo has secured so far for its hybrid system is stuck years in the past.
Of course, after the rather disastrous third-party support for the Wii U, it’s understandable that Nintendo may have to make amends with some of these developers. As such, this trickle of older third-party classics is a good start, but it’s something that Nintendo needs to build upon and move away from fast.
While PS4 and Xbox One owners are enjoying Red Dead Redemption 2, the latest Call of Duty title, Star Wars Battlefront II and many more blockbusters this holiday, Switch owners have Skyrim. A (then) six-year-old game that cannot stand shoulder to shoulder with the stunning Special Edition that released on other platforms last year. While fighting a dragon during a flight is sure to be fun, if you’ve already played Skyrim (or any of the other third-party titles coming to Switch), the portability appeal is going to wear off faster. An appeal that’s even further compounded when even bigger and better new games are releasing on other systems.
After all, just take a look at how much has changed from when Skyrim released back in 2011, to 2015 when The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt released. While both great games, The Witcher 3 is leaps and bounds ahead both visually and content-wise. Players don’t pick up a system to play prettier versions of old games or to simply be able to take them on the go. They want fresh and new experiences. On that front, Nintendo is relying heavily once more on its first-party games, albeit with a little help from “Nindies.”
While the ability to play some of these titles on the go is certainly alluring and will tempt some players to pick them up for a second (or possibly third/ fourth time), the appeal is certainly limited. An appeal that’s even further compounded when even bigger and better new games are releasing on other systems. Just look at the Xbox One and PS4 so far this year. Sure, the PS4 doesn’t have backwards compatibility in the same sense as Microsoft’s system, but Xbox One’s Black Ops II vs. PS4’s Persona 5, NieR: Automata, and Nioh is a slightly one-sided battle.
Even these smaller indie titles aren’t going to be enough to entice the majority of hardcore gamers over to Nintendo’s system, especially if the first-party offerings are of no interest to them. If Nintendo wants to tap into that core demographic, they need to show that they can cater to them. Bring the next Call of Duty title to the Switch to make use of that new online network. Get Ubisoft and EA on board to bring their biggest and newest titles to the system, rather than years-old ports or casual experiences like Just Dance. Nindies are a great way for Nintendo to build strong relationships with third-parties and show that they’re serious about the Switch, but these alone cannot carry the console, and the major third-parties need to be properly brought on board fast.
Nintendo has something special with the Switch. The ability to play console-like games on the go is certainly alluring and will tempt some players to pick the system up. However, its appeal is certainly limited when, outside of Nintendo’s first-party offerings, the third-party support is stuff you probably played on your 360 or PS3, heck maybe even your Wii in the case of World of Goo. If Nintendo wants the Switch to avoid a fate not too dissimilar to the Wii U, third-party support needs to be thought out and relevant, not the scraps of generation’s past.