While it might seem unfair to criticise the potential of a platform so soon after its initial launch, with regards to the Nintendo Switch the gauntlet has been thrown.
It’s no secret that it’s already off to a great start, but already there are concerns that the hybrid handheld/console is on the path to becoming the go-to “indie machine”. And if that ends up being the case, it’ll be an incredible waste.
Already, the majority of the system’s eShop catalogue currently consists of 8 or 16-bit remakes, re-releases, or re-issues. While they at least fill out the Switch’s repertoire until more titles become available, they can only whet an appetite for so long. The obvious argument at the moment is the fact that there’s this little game called Breath of the Wild out currently, providing more than enough content to keep people motivated and excited for anywhere up to two hundred hours. And while the calibre of that experience is undeniably high, the Nintendo Switch remains closed off to gamers who don’t necessarily enjoy its style of gameplay.
I typically wouldn’t be this worried so early into a gaming console’s life cycle had it not been for a few slightly troublesome canaries in the coal mine. Yes, this drought of first party software was something we were all anticipating. Sure, the likes of Blast Master Zero, Shovel Knight and Voez are all great experiences, and perhaps most excitingly, the Switch is selling very well regardless of exclusives. What’s already proving problematic however, is the AAA third party support.
At the time of writing, the Switch version of LEGO City Undercover is about to release, but there have already been a number of reports stating that the game is running poor technically on Nintendo’s new console. Usually this type of lazy porting would be expected for a game re-released so late after release – it’s usually a sign of the publisher looking to make a quick buck. A lot more is riding on LEGO City Undercover however, as it’s one of the first “big” releases from a third party, automatically setting the precedent for what’s to come from third parties.
For the Nintendo Switch to continue to thrive, it needs to be more than just an indie machine with just the occasional sprinkling of first party gold. We saw how this series of events played out for the Vita, Sony’s severely underrated handheld – but granted, that system didn’t have an exclusive currently regarded by many as one of the best games of all time. It could also be argued that it was a lack of third party support that sent the Wii U to its early demise, and it would be a shame to imagine the Switch could end up going the same way.
There’s nothing wrong with populating your online store with indie games as long as they’re high quality. Unfortunately, after only being on the market for just over a month, the Switch’s eShop is severely overwhelmed by Neo Geo ports. We can only hope that this outpacing isn’t a permanent mainstay for the platform, with Nintendo’s showing at E3 being the closest indication of what we can expect for first and third party software going forward and if they plan on remedying this issue.
I love my Switch, but I also loved my Vita. I want the Nintendo Switch to ride this wave of success correctly and for third party devs to not rest on their laurels. Even if it does end up being little more than an ‘indie machine’, I’ll still love it; I just want it to be more. Part of the way in solving this will be by making sure that any third party ports deliver in terms of performance, and ensuring that the dedicated eShop showcases the kinds of experiences that will get people excited and draw more people in. I feel like if these early hold-ups aren’t resolved sooner rather than later, it’s highly likely that they’ll never be.