Hear me out those 2 fanboys that find a way to read this. Nintendo is NOT Sony, they do not make the same type of system and their games appeal to a different audience. If the Switch was just a true home console replacement for the Wii U I would make a case Nintendo needed to do better this time around attracting 3rd parties, but since that is not the reality I would like to lay out an argument for why they not only can succeed without that level of AAA support, they are better off without it.
First, the Switch is NOT a home console. Despite Nintendo touting it as a “hybrid” and some in the gaming press towing that line, let’s face it, the machine is weaker than the base Xbox and PS4 consoles which have already been replaced with more powerful iterations. The reality is, more and more reports of the big budget AAA games NOT coming to Switch due to the weak hardware is a reality gamers have to accept. However, Nintendo has traditionally done well attracting handheld and mobile ports or versions of games for their portable consoles, Rock Star who has not made a game for a Nintendo home console ever has made games for the DS family. Microsoft, who competes directly with Nintendo in the home console space, has allowed Rare, a subsidiary of theirs, to release games for the Nintendo handhelds. If Nintendo, and their partners, want to be successful on Switch they have to look at it from that perspective. Sure make a comparable home port running on last gen builds if you must, but the focus needs to be getting the maximum potential out of the handheld side and letting the console shine in that arena.
Second, the Wii sold gangbusters and it was not just weaker, it was pathetic how weak it was compared to it’s big brothers. Unlike Switch, Wii had more than just weak horse power, slow CPU, less RAM and puny GPU going against it, it ALSO had to deal with the issue of the Wii remote, which meant certain games either had to be reworked entirely for motion controls, games like fighting games didn’t work so they were axed after the first few attempts, and that meant some games either had to be compromised, or developers had to spend additional, limited, resources retooling their game to not only run on weaker hardware but to utilize wonky, non industry standard controls. In the end it was easier for them to develop exclusive games for the Wii from the ground up than to try butchering their square games to fit into the round hole Nintendo was selling. Another limitation of the Wii was the memory size. It had 512 MEGABYTES, at least the Switch has 32 Giga Bytes and is expandable up to 512 GB. Wii was only expandable up to 8GB and that was a hard limit. The base Xbox ORIGINAL came with that much memory. So games that required DLC or patches, and such, had to be compromised, or skipped. I wouldn’t pay full price for a Wii game that was missing key features, and most gamers didn’t which is why 3rd party games that did that sold terrible and the ones that sold well were built from the ground up with Wii in mind, or were quick ports of PS2 games with motion controls reworked anyways because they were cheap to port games that were already fully developed.
Third, Nintendo 1st party games always sell best and 2nd party games sell behind there, 3rd party games that DO find success on the Nintendo platform do so by imitating what Nintendo is doing on the console. A game like Mortal Kombat X or Destiny won’t work on a Nintendo Switch, but a 3rd party game in the Mortal Kombat universe that is scaled down to run on the hardware and caters to the retro audience that eats up Nintendo consoles has a better chance of appealing to that audience. Think of it like this. Switch is NOT getting SF5, but it is getting a SFII game that is targeting the Nintendo audience.
Fourth, Nintendo fans = retro fans. Let’s face it, with their roots going all the way back to Atari, Nintendo has been a part of the gaming community and in the hearts and minds of gamers since the first successful home consoles. Sony has been in the game for 20 years, but Nintendo has an additional 15 years on them easily. That means there is a larger audience of classic and retro gamers who identify with Nintendo. Sony has always gone after the more modern, younger gamers and Xbox has always tried to make a PC for the living room, leaving Nintendo the last remnants of the early days of video games. This causes a lot of warm fuzzy feelings with Nintendo gamers that Sony doesn’t and Microsoft never will have. You could make a case that Microsoft was in the game just as long with their PC stuff, but PC gamers and retro console/retro arcade gamers don’t always intersect. That being said, Wii was a retro gamers wet dream and for that reason alone I keep that wonky butt of gaming jokes around. Even now, the majority of launch titles really play on that nostalgia. In fact, ARMS and Breath of the Wild are the only games that I own for the console that aren’t retro themed or inspired in some way.
Nintendo does need to get some of the big name franchises, the Call of Duty games, the sports titles, etc., but they don’t need the latest and more current console iteration, realistically that’s not going to happen anyways, but they can get by with ports that are catered to their audience and the gamers who see it as a second console will play it for the Nintendo games and the retro games with 3rd party ports catered to their tastes leaving them to buy the deeper, more complex and big budget experiences on their preferred Microsoft, Sony or PC of choice.
That being said, there are going to be those who buy the Switch as their primary console and they will want some 3rd party games too. However, the majority of them are likely to be the same pro-Nintendo audience that favors the “Nintendo” style of gaming so they probably aren’t Call of Duty or Destiny gamers to begin with.
Nintendo has learned a long time ago they can’t go toe to toe with the big boys. That is why the had to go the blue ocean route. They found their audience with Wii and DS because they learned what works and what doesn’t. Unfortunately people, mostly short sighted folks that don’t follow the gaming industry, tend to see the failure of the Wii U as an isolated event and pick it apart. I could write an entire article on why that failed and Switch is doing well, but instead I will just say Nintendo knows how to reach their audience and by merging their home console and handheld audience into one market they have finally solved many of the problems they were having.
Nintendo isn’t going to abandon the 3DS/2DS family just yet, but people have to understand how long it takes to make a game and launch a new platform before they go throwing around claims like new games coming to that as proof Nintendo isn’t merging their platforms. The Switch is it going forward. Games that were 1-2 years out from release when Switch launched that were already in development for 3DS were going to continue no matter what. Nintendo wasn’t just banking on if Switch failed they were working on plan b, rather what likely is happening is games that were commissioned and started before Switch was even finalized were just too far along to move over to the Switch and Nintendo always supports their old handheld or console at least a year or two after they replace it. However with Wii U, they stopped cold turkey, just killed it with Breath of the Wild and washed their hands of it.
In a world where Nintendo has to divide their attention between making games for two platforms, a small developer like Nintendo falls into the drought situation more often than they can handle. Once the 3DS winds down and all you see are ports and games coming from the smaller, lesser studios and the interns, you will start to see a shift of full development migrating to Switch and the merging of the two markets into one will be complete. After that point you won’t see six or seven Switch games a year followed by six or seven 3DS games, you will start seeing 10-20 games for Switch and 3DS will just fade away. By then the 3rd party developers who figure out how to make games for the Nintendo audience will have done so.
This is mostly meant to reassure the Switch faithful and those on the fence that while it looks bad on the surface so many developers not bringing their big titles to the system, keep in mind it takes 2-3 years to make a new game and most of those games were in development years before the Switch was finalized. The ones that could run or be made to run on the hardware and that would appeal to the Nintendo audience, will find their way on the system. Those that can’t be done without compromising the games just won’t, and shouldn’t, be ported. I say this as someone who had, and LOVED, the Gamecube, bringing half-baked ports that cut features, severely limiting the appeal and remove key components of the game, are NOT going to sell anyways so it’s just a waste of time bringing them over. I would rather get a Nintendo-style port of a game catered to the hardware, than a watered down port that has to cut features. Some argue that is splitting hairs, after all if they have to cater it to the hardware isn’t that the same as watering it down? Not if done right.
Hand held versions of games, especially on Nintendo consoles, have typically been built from the ground up to utilize the platform’s unique features anyways, so handheld gamers have come to expect that a Call of Duty that does get released on their machine is going to be built to run on that hardware. Does that mean there is hope for WWII coming to Switch? No, Activision already said so. But there is a chance they will find a way to port next years game to the console, or create a specific game tailored for the Switch hardware and catered to that audience. In other words, it’s going to be DS/Wii all over again, but this time the hardware is closer and has fewer hurdles to over come. You won’t get a PS4 game on Switch but you CAN and likely will get last gen PS3 style ports that make use of the unique features of the Switch and, best of all, can be played on the go in full HD console style graphics. In other words a portable PS3 is NOT a bad console to be making games for.
I love my PS3 and while I do want my big budget AAA games, I will get those on my PS4 and be happy with that, sell me games made for the Switch that make use of it’s features or at least give me PS3 quality games I can take on the go and I will be happy. Also, unlike PS2-Wii ports, where the leap from PS2 to PS3 was very obvious, many gamers continue to say the leap from PS3 to PS4 was so minimal it’s barely noticable anyways, getting a ton of late PS3 ports and PS3 “remasters” isn’t going to be bad for Nintendo gamers that stuck to Wii and missed out on those games, even the tiny percentage that migrated to Wii U are still going to find a ton of games they missed out on. For example, I did stick with Wii clear into 2008. I went full PC only until about 2013 when I picked up both a PS3 and a Wii U and I had no trouble going back through the PS3 library and finding tons of great games that never made it to Wii, those gamers, also likely the ones gobbling up all the Switches at the moment, like myself, are probably going to be just as happy playing Skyrim in 2017 on Switch as their friends were who played it when it was new. Think of it as new to you games.
Nintendo gamers are fully accustomed to that mentality and unlike Wii U where development was hindered, Switch at least is easier to make games for, has features people want, is priced fair for what you get, and once game developers get into their groove, late 2018 and beyond the Switch is going to be a gaming behemoth. It’s going to have a short lifespan, sure, but it will be a great 5 years and then Switch 2.0 will be gearing up by then anyways. I know this ran a little long but there was a lot that had to be said.
I remain optimistic that Switch will