Welcome to Save Point, an opinion column discussing games, gamers, and the industry. Nearly a week has gone by since the Nintendo Switch was announced and naturally, people are feeling a mixture of excitement and curiosity. As time’s gone on, some of that curiosity has turned to skepticism. Battery life, component quality, and third party support are questions being raised by more than a few.
Of these, sustained and quality third party support is a big one, because many in the industry view the lack of developer support, and thus a relative lack of games, a reason the Wii U failed. Will the Switch see a similar fate?
Around the time of Nintendo’s reveal trailer this image was also released that got people very excited.
Given that the new console appears, at first glance, to share more similarities with other current consoles than the Wii U did, it does seem more likely that developers will have an easier time crafting games for it.
However, was that really the Wii U’s biggest issue? I posit that having more support for popular games like Madden, Call of Duty and other annualized series would have made very little difference. Many of the industries top selling games have established bases of fans on either Xbox or PlayStation. With their smarter account systems and ease of playing with friends, I don’t see any reason why even the best selling games, especially the annualized one, would have moved the needle much on the Wii U.
What the last Nintendo system required more was quality games from third party developers made specifically for the Wii U. Games like ZombiU, but with slightly more effort put in. With the Switch, we will hopefully see a good mixture of both, along with Nintendo’s bread and butter, first party support. And it’s that first party support I’m most curious about.
Let’s speculate for the moment. Say developers decide they aren’t as interested in the Nintendo Switch as it appears. In this hypothetical world, Nintendo releases yet another system mostly comprised of first party support. Would that spell doom for one of the greatest video game companies ever!?
I certainly don’t think so. Besides just speculating about the consequences of the Switch lacking third party games, for this column, I will also be operating under the assumption that Nintendo is going to use the Switch to consolidate their handheld and home markets under one console. Many 3DS fans will cry foul at this and Nintendo will even claim that the 3DS will remain as an important pillar post-Switch, but they said the same thing about the Game Boy Advance and I don’t see many of them around today so make of that what you will.
Come join me in this version of 2017. Many of us bought the Nintendo Switch on the promise of a on-the-go and at-home console with solid third party support, but now developers are nowhere to be see. Whatever will we do? How about play a bunch of new games!
See, I did some research. While the industry talks a lot about quality first party titles, especially from Nintendo, it’s actually pretty amazing how many they release each year. I went through a list of every game published by Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, and narrowed that down to just games made by first party developers. Systems included were the Wii U and 3DS, the Playstation 4 and Vita, and the Xbox One.
What I found, when taking the average number of first party title by company, is that Microsoft releases an average of 2 first party titles per year since the Xbox One launched. Sony came in second with an average of 5 titles per year. Nintendo’s first party output, and by the way, this does not include any Pokemon games, clocked in at an average of 15 titles per year, across both Wii U and 3DS.
Fifteen games! While that number may not seem like much to the dedicated gamer, it’s more than some consumers buy in an entire year. Here’s the reason why that’s important. If Nintendo were to consolidate their handheld and home console markets, that would mean these 15 titles per year would be going to one system, not split between two. Couple this with even a modest amount of third party support and lack of games would not be an issue on the Nintendo Switch.
While some gamers may not be terribly interested in a dedicated console mainly for Nintendo games, we see that the audience is actually there. The 3DS, over the last few months, has sold exceptionally well given that it’s the system that’s been out in the current market the longest. People do want Nintendo games, on a Nintendo system, as long as that system is fun.
Of course, we hope that Nintendo gets that third party love over the lifetime of the Switch. However, if the worst were to happen, the house that Mario built could be on fine footing by continuing to make high quality titles themselves. Either way, if the speculation is correct and the Switch does bridge handheld with home console, we can at least prepare for a decent backlog.