One reason the Nintendo Switch is doing well: 3 times as many games out in first year


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/02/06/one-reason-the-nintendo-switch.html


#2

A major factor to consider is that the Switch has been able to effectively cannibalize the Wii U, taking some of it’s best games and porting them over. They’re not “new” games, but they might as well be to most system owners. Since the best games on a Nintendo system tend to be 1st party, this has really concentrated their release schedule with some high quality games.

This is how they were able to get Mario Kart, a regular Mario game, and Zelda all out in the same year, as two of those titles are also Wii U games. Splatoon 2 is, by and large, just a slightly upgraded version of it’s Wii U edition. They’ll also drop a Donkey Kong next year, in addition to a new Metroid game, and one of those is a port from the Wii U.


#3

It is my vague impression that the switch is also acting an alternative to nintendo’s DS line, and getting a lot of game ports from there.


#4

You know what I really love about all of the articles extolling the virtue and genius of Nintendo? They’re by the same people who have spent the last seven or so years saying that Nintendo would never have another successful console, that portable gaming systems were dead, and they’d just do best to “focus on what they’re good at” which is, at least according to the press until very recently, making games with Nintendo characters in them and nothing else.

I’m not calling Rob out on that, but the gaming press in general is overwhelmingly guilty. There is almost never “normal” coverage of Nintendo. It’s either about how they’re just goddamned stonking brilliant, or it’s about how some thing or another is totally, definitely going to be it this time. I don’t even care that much about Nintendo, I’m just sick of the combination of near-worshipful praise and being absolutely certain that it’s all up for Nintendo definitely, for real this time! So far those predictions are tied with that of all of those evangelical doomsday prophets that keep claiming they forgot to carry a one when the day comes and goes without incident, so maybe the gaming press should just report on what is instead of clawing over each other to be the first one to make the same kinds of stupid baseless predictions that we make fun of 90’s gaming magazines for now. Seriously, in the last 15 years I’ve heard that the Gamecube, Wii, WiiU, DS, 3DS, and Switch were all going to be the thing that kills Nintendo. Four out of six of those things were commercial successes, and three of them were so massively successful that they basically printed money.

It’s not just Nintendo, the same kinds of short-sighted under-informed predictions have been applied to virtually everyone in the industry. The Xbox was a short, dark chapter in Microsoft’s history, the hubris of the PS3 launch will hurt sales of the PS4, nobody wants incrementally upgraded consoles, and PC gaming has been dead since the early 00’s, it just hasn’t stopped moving yet.

I realize that literally none of this really matters, but bad journalism is bad journalism regardless of what its reporting on and that irks me.


#5

I assumed one of the reasons why Nintendo was having a rough time with the WiiU was that they were the last ones to really support two in house gaming platforms. Sony eventually dropped the Vita after they saw its writing on the wall with how it was neglected.


#6

There are presently at least 121 Vita releases scheduled for this year.

The Vita is far from dead, it just appeals to a different demographic than the 3DS. It gets a ton of indie ports, as well as considerable amount support from Japanese developers, so while it seems likely that Sony isn’t going to develop another handheld (at least not a conventional one) it isn’t really fair to say that Sony “dropped” the Vita. It’s more that Sony stopped dumping money into marketing it in the West where it failed to get as much traction.


#7

The topic du jour is of course the Labo, which has spawned endless discussion along the lines of “haha they’re charging for cardboard those idiots have really done it this time”.


I agree, it is all very tiresome. Nintendo needs to find a way to monetize the tendency of people to think they know what Nintendo needs to do, ayup.

Anyway, isn’t a large proportion of these games on the Switch just ports of indie games that can be had for a fraction of the cost on Steam? I suppose Nintendo can at least be lauded for marketing a practical, comfortable portable device to which such games can be readily ported.


#8

As far as Labo, I’ve seen everything ranging from “ha ha ha, they’re selling cardboard, that’s so stupid!” to “ha ha ha! they’re selling cardboard and it’s fucking brilliant!”

As for the store offerings, I don’t have one so I couldn’t tell you offhand, but that doesn’t really matter as much as you’d think anyway, and in some cases that crossover ends up resulting in a second sale. If people are buying those games on the Switch, they’re likely to play them on the Switch and Nintendo still makes money. It’s not really a question of whether or not the experiences are unique to the Switch, but whether or not there are enough good experiences to keep people’s eyes glued to the thing. If a person has the choice of multiple platforms upon which to buy a game, they tend to subconsciously prefer whatever platform they’ve been using most at the time, so as long as Nintendo can keep people glued to the Switch, people will continue buying things for it even if they could buy them for cheaper on other platforms.

Another thing to consider is second sales. Along with the affinity that people tend to feel for whatever thing they’re playing the most at the time, people also have a surprising amount of willingness to buy the same games more than once on different platforms because of some real or perceived difference. A personal example, I bought Axiom Verge for PC during a Steam sale, liked it, and ended up buying it again on PSN so that I could play it on my Vita while traveling. If I owned a Switch and was playing it regularly, I would have probably bought it for that instead.

(This is a different phenomenon than the behavioral quirks that fuel stupid platform superiority bickering, although it probably contributes. That behavior is more the result of susceptibility to marketing, and the subconscious need to justify one’s chosen “side” over the options not chosen. The fact that video game consoles are relatively expensive “luxury” items makes people feel more self conscious about making the “wrong” choice. That’s something of a coarse generalization, there are a lot of contributing factors but if you look at it from a “big picture” behavioral perspective, several permutations of that general pattern of behavior bundle together and help explain what I feel is is one of the most absurd sources of conflict humans presently have.)

Edit: One last thing “to which such games can be readily ported” is much closer to the mark than you might have realized. One of the problems that Nintendo has faced has been that they are exclusively a games company, and one that has a history of doing a lot of things in-house, not always for the better. One of the effects of that is Nintendo’s development ecosystem has borne more similarity to how development was done in the old days, when basically your entire toolchain was developed by the console maker themselves, than it should have. Modern games are many orders of magnitude harder and more expensive to make than they were when that model worked. By moving away from their custom PPC/AMD hardware that Nintendo used from the Gamecube up through the WiiU, they made porting things much simpler, and opened the door to using far fewer manufacturer-specific tools. When the list of third party developers came out, a lot of people were very excited, but most of them overlooked the reason why Nintendo had suddenly gotten all of these companies that had no interest in the Wii or WiiU to start porting games and it’s basically because Nintendo moved to a platform that made it possible to port games to the console without having a large, entirely separate team solely to support one console. Nintendo made it cheap enough for developers/publishers to justify the cost of building a port, which is a factor that played a much bigger role in deterring third parties from their consoles than system specs did. (Although that was certainly also a factor)


#9

There is one thing Nintendo should be mocked about, repeatedly. There is no way to backup save data on the Switch, and no plans to add the feature.


#10

Thats what did it for me. I had no intention whatsoever of buying a WiiU, but the oversized DS nature of the switch? I was sold. I’m very happy with it so far.

Has a very nice indie scene too, The fact i could get stardew valley on a handheld was one of the reasons helping my purchase of the Switch along :wink:


#11

There are a lot of games, but a lot of them are not awesome. This hasn’t stopped from me from seemingly trying virtually every damn one of them in case they are amazing. Sometimes, they are. The $4.50 Earth Wars is a freaking blast, with random item drops, customization, fun combat, and lots of replayability.


#12

I feel like another part of it is that the switch seems to be much closer to a conventional console. So proviso in that I dont own one. But many friends do, I’ve used it and I recently got the new Zelda playable on emulation.

Now with breath of the wild your emulating the Wii u version of the game but I think it still works as an example of what I’m getting at. The previous Zelda game is apparently pointless to impossible to emulate, as you basically need the original controller/input hardware to make it playable. The new one, even though there are still motion controls and 2 screens there’s really nothing there that can’t be easily emulated with the standard PC inputs and some remarkably simple software tricks with an Android device for motion. Those more complicated additional bits are only neccisary if you want to hit every shrine, And care about amiibo. All the important gameplay functions essentially identical to any other system.

So from a design standpoint the game is far, far less focused on Nintendo’s hardware gimmicks than headline games for the previous 2 systems. And there are design elements built off competing open world games. A “zoned” world with escalating difficulty, maps unlocked by climbing towers. Crafting, equipment/loot, And progression systems much more similar to western rpgs and open world games.

From what I’ve seen and experienced of the system as a whole and some of the other games that’s much more broadly the case than with either Wii or Wii u. It should be a system that fits better with what the bulk of the market sees as “gaming”. And it should be less effected by any rise of fall in interest in its central gimmick. Which is an easier push to begin with. It’s a full powered portable you can plug into your TV.

There’s a general sort of “it’s all dying!” apocalyptic tick to video game press over all.

But the coverage of Nintendo over the last few years was prompted by some legitimate problems. Falling stock prices. Financial loses stemming from the Wii u. It was never particularly plausible that Nintendo was gonna OH MY GOD COLLAPSE. But the Game Cube never had a deep catalog of quality games. And struggled at various points. Wii had some trouble once the initial wow of motion controls wore off. And 3rd party/cross platform started to dominate. With a couple periods where it looked like a sink in Nintendo’s profits. Wii u was short lived mostly a failure, And seemed to lose money for some pretty big chunks of time. So there was a clear trend there. It’s just that Nintendo was profitable over all due to other things. The DS primarily. Later amiibo. Things like the classic consoles and Pokemon go more recently.

There was always something to offset, or out sell the seeming failures, even when they turned out to be actual failures. Nintendo’s got a fairly risky approach to individual consoles. The focus on first party, limited game catalogs. And innovative inputs/tech what have that can often just come off as gimmicks. While limiting longevity, backwards compatibilty, And portability of their software. Well it means when things hit they’re very profitable. But when they don’t. Or fade fast. It looks pretty bad money wise. Thus far there’s been something to cover all that. And I think the big successes currently point to that. Switch is building off the way portables covered the rough patches in their consoles. The collectibles bring us amiibo and classic consoles. And mobile games to acknowledge the fact that mobile kind of ate portables.

The overall sky is falling tone of much of it, till the successes come. Is sadly typical of media coverage of gaming as a whole.

Just look at coverage of PC games over the last. I dunno 20 years. Your favorite genre is dead. Single player is dead. PC gaming as a whole is dying. It’s all about to end. Console, software as service, micropayments, multi-player, loot boxes, mobile, are going to destroy/replace x, y, or z.

But during the worst of it PC sales in dollar amounts were almost always about as big as any one of the consoles. And a lot of the time represented a full 3rd of the market. With consoles splitting the remaining 2/3rds among themselves in various ways. (mobile turning out to be sort of a separate but huge market). Even as PC sales over all tapered. Gaming PCs and equipment continued to grow. The Indy market, exports, digital distribution, And graphic development were driven by PC. And not mobile or console. And the consoles have increasingly become just highly specialised PCs.

So as this was all going on. PC as a venue for video games was DYING it was the death of the PC! PC is ending y’all! And that story was pushed primarily by the PC industry and PC games media. Until suddenly “It’s a PC revolution!”. But like I said PC never seemed in danger from a money or numbers perspective. And there was a fairly clear trend towards a better more stable platform. Innovation. And identifiable growth. The entire time. That “boom” had clearly been going for years before press started to comment on it.


#13

Nintendo has done a lot of courting of indie developers over the last few years, pretty much starting with Shovel Knight, which was the first indie title to recieve an amiibo (little plastic statuettes with NFC chips in them). The “nindies” have been a big part of the push in the Switch and, for the reasons you mentioned, it seems to be going very well. They made a big push to decrease the cost of development kits (I’ve heard quotes as low as $350, vs normally high hundreds if not thousands) and they market them heavily.

It seems to be paying off handsomely for both, with the Switch getting a reputation as the best console for indie games and, when indie developers talk about how their sales go, the Switch is often the biggest platform period or just behind PC. There’s a lot of value in being able to take those little indie games portably.


#14

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