The relationship that many third-party publishers have had with Nintendo in the past 20 years or so was, and is, always an interesting topic. When did Nintendo start making mistakes to the point that they lost the trust and support from these companies? Why do some of these publishers insist on not porting their games to Nintendo consoles, even when their games can run decently on the console? And most important of all: what would it take for these companies to come back to Nintendo? For as interesting as a topic it is, I wont be discussing about any of them here. At least not directly. What I would like, however, is to discuss the current relationship Nintendo has with those companies in the context of the Switch.
The Other Guys
I’ll get directly to the point. Does the Switch needs third parties? The simple answer is no. At least not the big AAA titles, and not for now. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to have third parties to either help sell your system, or to pacify gamers until the next big first-party game.But for the Switch, it’s a bit different than what usually goes down when a company launches a console. When Sony and Microsoft released their eight generation consoles, they didn’t have any big, high quality first party title to carry the momentum.
So in order to fill that launch window and the gap until either a heavy hitter comes, either from a Sony owned internal studio or from another partner of them, they bombarded their system with third-party games. These were either ports or “remasters” of the past generation, enhanced in one way or another, or smaller games that are fast enough to make so that independent companies can make it in time for the launch or the first six to twelve months of the release. Outside of having a good console and concept, they compensated the lack of a compelling game to sell the console with a sheer quantity of releases from a myriad of developers.
Doing it Themselves
The Switch, on the other hand, doesn’t have the luxury of having that big support from other publishers at the start of its lifecycle. But you know what? It doesn’t really need it. Why? Because Zelda. Or to be a more specific: a high quality game. For what Nintendo lacks in quantity, it simply compensates in quality. And that will remain to be true for the upcoming months. It’s not simply the great decision of balancing the releases through the year that is helping sell the console, its also the fact that every single game they release, is a high quality work that is translated into hype, which in turn is translated into sales.
Zelda did that job for the first two months, and now it’s time for MarioKart to do its part. It’s already the fastest selling Mario Kart game of all time! By the time June comes, Arms will be the one that will need to do the heavy lifting, and even if it dosen’t perform as expected, E3 will be right there with exciting game reveals to compensate for it. After that it will have Splatoon 2, then Xenoblade Chronicles 2, then Fire Emblem Warriors, and finally to finish the year with style, Super Mario Oddysey. And for the gamers that still need a bit more to play between big releases, there is the excellent indie support that the Switch is getting, with at least one release per week.
The whole point is: Nintendo doesn’t need to earn back the trust of everyone at the same time. It can do that in parts. Along the end of the life of the Wii U and the 3DS, Nintendo managed to form a great relationship with indie developers, to the point that, now with the Switch released, I would go as far as to say that its indie support is as good as the PS4, maybe even better. Not only that, but the Switch is also bound to get all support from the A and AA Japanese developers, the same ones that used to develop games for the Vita.
We are already starting to see the gears turning, as some games from that sector are starting to be announced for it, with Nights of Azure 2, Fate/Excelle and a new Senran Kagura (with HD rumble) being some of them. Not only that, but there are currently 20 Unreal Engine 4 titles being developed for the Switch in Japan alone. In my opinion, I fully expect that we will start to see more games being unveiled for it between E3 and Tokyo Games Show.
It Can Still Get Those AAA Releases
Trust is something that you have to fight for to get, and that doesn’t happen overnight. Companies understand one and only one language: money. And as long as Nintendo keeps playing their cards right and keeps the Switch’s incredible momentum going, it will receive more support. Now, I don’t expect a lot of support from the big western studios, and expect even less ports of the big AAA western games. But if Nintendo manages to get and maintain strong support from indie and Japanese developers, on top of high quality first party titles, I think that the Switch will be an incredible machine, one that third-party publishers won’t be able to ignore, and one hell of an experience to be a part of.
Nintendo doesn’t need to win all battles in a few years. If the Switch does end up being a success, the west will be more than willing to lend an ear when Nintendo launches its next console.