Since its release in March last year, the Nintendo Switch has gone from strength to strength.
At launch, however, there was only one title that you’d consider to be a system seller: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and other game releases were few and far between.
At some point though, the floodgates opened, with the Switch’s eShop constantly on the receiving end of quality titles week after week, many of them from indies. The problem is, however, that many of them you can play elsewhere. A huge number of the Switch’s library is made up of ports.
It’s to be expected. With the release of any new hardware comes the demand for software, and if it’s not too strenuous a task to get your title up and running, why not take advantage of the opportunity? The Nintendo Switch has been kind to developers, too, with sales of many titles drastically outmatching those on other market places. Eventually though, the bubble is bound to burst, and unless the Switch has enough new games, preferably exclusive, to keep gamers reaching for it in their moments of downtime, it may find itself on a downward spiral.
In the last few months, for example, alongside indie hits such as Enter the Gungeon, the Nintendo Switch has been privy to ports of DOOM and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Today it has been announced that a remastered version of Dark Souls is coming too. To be honest though, I’ve already played all of those game on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, where they look, sound and perform better. It’s nice to be able to play them on the go, sure, but £40-£50 is a tough pill to swallow for the privilege.
To me, it would seem like the Nintendo Switch is still in the honeymoon phase with many of its owners. They’ve found out a lot about it, taken the plunge and are now getting into the nitty gritty of the relationship. As such, I suspect the novelty of being able to play other console’s AAA releases on it to wear off soon as they settle down with it. I mean, it truly is incredible that you can play Skyrim on Switch, but is that what you’ve truly bought one for?
Going forward, Nintendo really needs to court third-party developers, leveraging on the success on their hardware to secure new, exclusive, releases. The Nintendo Switch isn’t going to be able to run Far Cry 5, for example, and even if by some magic Ubisoft was able to get it working, I wouldn’t want to play a compromised version on the Switch. A new Far Cry made just for the Switch, however, I could get behind.
If third party support beyond ports doesn’t happen, the Nintendo Switch is at least fortunate enough to probably get by due to the strength of Nintendo’s first party efforts alone. Again though, many of them are simply ports at the moment. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze are great games to have on Nintendo Switch if you’ve never owned a WiiU, but otherwise you’re not to go wild over them.
The question ‘is Nintendo Switch being swamped with too many ports?’ is a hard one to objectively answer then. The Nintendo Switch’s library may indeed be bursting at the seams with titles that can be played elsewhere, but its versatility makes it the best place to play many of them. Being able to play to play Yooka Laylee on the train, for example, is a big win, and its visual stylings hide most of the concessions made to make it work on what is a essentially a hand-held device. In the long-run, however, it would be much better if the Switch became known for the experiences that you can’t get anywhere else.
Perhaps the current swarm of ports is simply a stepping stone to that happening. Maybe it’s a way for many developers and publishers to dip their toes into the water, so to speak, before fully jumping into the system’s depths. If that’s the case then so be it, but with so many games currently vying for Nintendo Switch owners’ disposable income, it may not be the best measure of success.