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Nintendo Switch is a Runaway Success, but Third Party Devs are Struggling to Keep Up

It’s not even a full year since the Switch’s initial reveal, and yet it’d be fair to say that for the most part, Nintendo’s game-changing hybrid console very much echoes the successes found when the Japanese company first doubled down on motion controls some 10 years ago.

Since October of last year however, while gaming audiences have been ready for the ‘get up and go’ experience, there’s a key group of people that weren’t – third party developers.

Of course, this most likely isn’t through any fault of their own. Instead being another textbook example of Nintendo mismanaging their third party relations to such a degree that those interested in releasing their game on the Switch are unfortunately being forced to play catch up. This is somewhat of a problem when experiences that would be ripe for the picking on Nintendo’s platform, such as 64-bit throwback Yooka Laylee and more recently Rime, are forced to undergo a staggered release rather than being made available day and date with other competing consoles.

Not too long ago I expressed my concerns that the Switch seemed primed to take the place of Sony’s wildly mistreated handheld, the PlayStation Vita, a system devoid of any ambitious first party support which instead was left to rely on the generosities of indies and Eastern publishers like Atlus and NIS. It’s heartening to see then, that the likes of Capcom and Ubisoft have games in the pipeline, but the time to cook them is taking a little longer than is ideal.

The likely cause of staggered releases and unprepared third party support? Well, a mixture of things. While the onus would very much have been on Nintendo to secure strong third party partnerships outside of the company’s usual wheelhouse in order to keep releases regular and healthy, it seems very clear that the platform’s skyrocketing success was unexpected by all. You can’t blame developers for having trepidations following how much the Wii U underwhelmed in almost every aspect, and you have to assume that as a result, this made them a little harder to win over.

Had it not been for the fairly consistent drip feed of smaller yet dependable software experiences buffered further by the likes of Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the situation could’ve been much worse. We can only hope that video game publisher bigwigs such as Activision and EA have upped their Switch development schedules. One publisher that always makes the point of stomping the yard early on during the early days of a Nintendo console release cycle however, is Ubisoft.

The much rumoured (and pretty much guaranteed) Mario/Rabbids crossover game is a clear sign of Ubisoft’s willingness to experiment and test out the water, yet the execution – at least presently – seems misjudged. Looking at everything we know so far about the speculatively titled Mario x Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, the game simply oozes an ideology and approach reminiscent of the old Nintendo. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games anyone? Ubisoft seems to have missed the memo that Nintendo’s next console wouldn’t just be skewed for younger audiences, choosing to entirely hedge their bets on their kid-friendly IP that looks set to unknowingly disappoint anyone that doesn’t take joy from the frothy-mouthed Rayman spin-off creatures. We’ll of course know more when Ubisoft’s E3 conference rolls around on Monday, and hopefully I’ll be proven wrong.

Nintendo’s commercial successes so far, outside of limited unit availability, should be commended. For the first time in a long while they have created a console and product that not only gamers should (and do) believe in, but one that third party developers should too. Problem is, at present, it is getting the games, but just not at the time players will want to play them. Here’s hoping that when the Switch versions of Yooka Laylee and Rime do eventually roll round, I’ll be thinking to myself “worth the wait” rather than “too little too late”.

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