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Nintendo Switch Won't Retain Third Party Support Without an Epic Launch Lineup

2017 in Preview: Nintendo's number-one way to ensure third parties will support the Switch is to ensure the system has a must-play launch lineup.

Article by Nadia Oxford, .

Whatever you think of the Nintendo Switch up to this point, we can all agree on one thing: It needs better support from third party developers than the sad dregs the Wii U garnered.

Granted, it won't be hard for the Switch to pull together more third party support than the Wii U, as "one" is still higher than "zero." Seriously though, Nintendo already has Skyrim Special Edition lined up, and the system's reveal video showed off NBA 2K17, so we may as well assume 2K Games is on board.

That's not a bad start. While it's true the Wii U seemingly had strong third party support behind it at launch, said parties mostly offered ports of games that were already over a year old. By contrast, NBA 2K17 and Skyrim Special Edition aren't exactly old games yet – and they carry the very alluring prospect of being fully portable.

In other words, even though we know little about the Switch's third party support at this time, it appears to be in a relatively healthy spot. Looking back on the Wii U's tumultuous history, however, offers a reminder of how seemingly robust support can turn sickly in no time. Studios have no problem delaying games, dropping exclusivity deals ASAP, or outright cancelling a game if things go south with the target system. Early Wii U adopters won’t soon forget being stung by Ubisoft's decision to go back on making sure Rayman Legends hit Nintendo's system first.

It's hard to fault game developers and publishers for thinking of the bottom line. Like all industries that revolve around creation, balancing expression with profitability is tricky. Even if they say otherwise as the Switch approaches its launch date, third parties aren't going to fully commit to Nintendo until they see solid proof that people are interested in sinking money into the Switch.

I want to know everything about this game. That's a good thing.

That's why Nintendo's first priority should be to ensure the Switch has a strong launch line-up. Interestingly, an early commitment to strong first party games will play the most vital role in ensuring third party support. If the Switch does indeed fly out of the gate with new entries from its biggest franchises – Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Mario Kart, to name a few – that'll be more than enough to make people sit up and open their wallets. After all, the Switch probably can't survive on first party titles alone, but Nintendo's franchises still have a heck of a lot of pull behind them.

What is The Nintendo Switch? Everything We Know About Nintendo's Next Console

All the news, rumors, and speculation surrounding the newest thing from Nintendo.

Both the Wii U and the GameCube had lukewarm launches, and both systems suffered for it down the road. New Super Mario Bros U is a decent game, but its close resemblance to 2009's New Super Mario Bros Wii probably didn't help sort out the Wii / Wii U confusion the public suffered on the Wii U's launch. If the Wii U debuted with the gorgeous Super Mario Bros 3D World or the intensely fun Mario Kart 8, maybe the Wii U would've been more prosperous.

That's not what happened, unfortunately – but sniffing around Switch rumors gives you the impression that Nintendo's learned some hard lessons from the Wii U's botched launch. Even the tiny snippet of the new Mario game we were treated to at the Switch reveal made sure to show off something we've never seen from the series, i.e. a town inspired by Mexico's Día de Muertos celebrations. That was enough to get people chattering about what Mario will be up to in his new adventure.

Now, one vital question remains: Will Mario, Link, et al actually be present at the Switch's launch, or will they join the system down the road? Strong rumors suggest we'll definitely see The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on day one, though it was a maybe, maybe-not scenario for a while. But as Kat pointed out the other day, the Switch doesn't necessarily need Breath of the Wild on day one: Listing it as a "launch window" game due out within the first few months of the Switch's new life isn't a disaster. People and developers tend to get antsy when a system's game release schedule shows little except dust and tumbleweeds across several months.

In other words, if the rumors are all true, Nintendo understands as much as anyone that its number-one job is to make games that will entice people to jump on the Switch as soon as possible. Nintendo likely knows third party support will follow accordingly. Nintendo isn't wrong.

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Comments 12

  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #1 donkeyintheforest 13 days ago
    I think second tier (and below) games are really where the third party is gonna be. If the switch is as powerful as a good 4-5 year old PC (and with skyrim, it looks like it), then it can support stardew valley, undertale, hyperlight drifter, hotline miami, shovel knight, and whatever future low-fi but incredibly popular games come in the next few years. I think they should really bank on having the Switch be THE place where people get these because it's the only real portable option and it won't have a compromised full screen experience. If they try and go for parity with xbone and ps4 its gonna be a wii/wiiu style losing race.
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  • Avatar for kevinbowyer34 #2 kevinbowyer34 13 days ago
    Gaming journalism has a part to play in this too; making sure 3rd party releases and special editions get proper reviews in a timely manner (Deus Ex: Human Revolution Wii U I believe never got a review on usgamer, at least a quick search here and on metacritic isn't showing it). It would also help tremendously if articles about Nintendo didn't have a sentence, typically in the first paragraph like "The Wii U has zero 3rd party games. Seriously though..." The sheer attitude towards the Wii U became a self burning event; gaming websites of all kinds (including Nintendo centric ones) have just added fuel to the fire. It led to a slowly building tower of indifference to bordering hatred against the brand.

    Stop using hyperbole within articles concerning the state of a gaming system. The Wii U did not have zero 3rd party titles. People read things like that at the very beginning of an opinion piece and it veers their thoughts towards defeatism.

    There has to be some optimism towards the brand, towards whatever Nintendo has ready for launch. It isn't going to be packed with every single game that is coming out on PS4/Xbox One in the next year. Don't make the first paragraph of your articles what ISN'T coming out and instead make it about what IS. Players need to enjoy what is there from the beginning so that we aren't stuck reading articles of "Developer A will put their game on this system if people show interest". How exactly DO you show interest? I have always been puzzled by these snippets of interviews from big AAA 3rd party developers about Wii U. How do I show you interest if you don't publish any games for the system?

    I believe it is up to everyone in the process, from Nintendo to 3rd parties and (especially) the gaming public at large; both sites and players. There needs to be support across each piece. People trying new experiences, sites endorsing them, developers putting out what people want to play on that system.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #3 MHWilliams 13 days ago
    @kevinbowyer34 We weren't around for Deus Ex: Human Revolution and had just started went Director's Cut came out, making it kind of hard to review it. Note, didn't review Director's Cut on any platform.Edited 2 times. Last edited 2 weeks ago by MHWilliams
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  • Avatar for kevinbowyer34 #4 kevinbowyer34 13 days ago
    @MHWilliams That would certainly explain it. I rescind that part of my comment! I still stick to my belief that the gaming public at large needs to open their arms a little bit with the upcoming Switch. Don't give it a pass, if the launch blows it blows. But don't check every box it DOESN'T hit and talk about them first. Our words feed back to the companies that produce this content just like our dollars do.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #5 MHWilliams 13 days ago
    @kevinbowyer34 Truth and it's always good to have an optimistic look at things!
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  • Avatar for Sturat #6 Sturat 13 days ago
    I don't think there has ever been a game system with fewer games announced 3 months before launch. If you don't count ports, the Virtual Boy had more games announced by now. Unless Nintendo announces multiple non-port, non-indie 3rd party games next week, it seems very likely that 3rd party support for the Switch will be as bad as N64 and GameCube, and probably worse.
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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #7 donkeyintheforest 13 days ago
    @Sturat haha it's tantric marketing! and GC 3rd party support was pretty good actually. i agree they're being weird about it though.
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  • Avatar for Merus #8 Merus 12 days ago
    Given the kind of lead time it takes to make games, if we were going to see strong third-party Switch support, we wouldn't be asking this question.

    The fact is, it's never been about the launch lineup, or the power of the consoles (from what I hear, Nintendo consoles make a lot of smart technical choices that make up for their underpowered hardware). The industry assumes that Nintendo will sell quite a lot of Switches, but it also assumes, like with most of Nintendo's systems, that the cost of developing on them will be too high for the return. Success on a platform is often a self-fulfilling prophecy, what in software development is called an ecosystem. Nintendo's had a strong ecosystem in handheld gaming for decades, with that only going away recently as more 3DS devs have jumped to mobile development. A strong ecosystem encourages developers to make it work.

    Nintendo has shown no interest in encouraging an ecosystem of developers; they were lucky that it more or less happened anyway on GBA/DS/3DS, with middleware tools to make things efficient. On consoles, Nintendo were up against Sony, who actively courted developers and built up a community of developers around Insomniac, Naughty Dog and Sucker Punch, and then Microsoft, who leveraged their decades of experience maintaining the Windows ecosystem to get third-parties to not just take the Xbox 360 seriously, but to prefer it. Third parties on Nintendo consoles are often also third-class citizens - on the Wii, only Nintendo were allowed to use Miis, a core part of the system's infrastructure, and most of the industry-preferred development tools are incompatible with the development hardware. From what I understand, Nintendo's development tools are as shoddy as their firmware.

    The big problem with the Switch is that it seems to be combining the graphical weakness of Nintendo's handhelds with the non-existent ecosystem of Nintendo's consoles. I'm still buying the system, gotta get that sweet Zelda, but I expect Sony to have no problem maintaining developer faith in the PS4.Edited 2 weeks ago by Merus
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  • Avatar for Sturat #9 Sturat 12 days ago
    @donkeyintheforest I agree that the GameCube's third party support was better than Wii U, (which basically consisted of Wonderful 101, Bayonetta 2, Sonic Lost World, and some multiplatform games,) and I will be pleasantly surprised if Nintendo could return to the GameCube's level of support with the Switch, but most people will agree that 3rd party support was better on the Dreamcast and Xbox than on the Gamecube. If you filter out the multiplatform games, (which I will admit were usually best on Gamecube,) you're only left with a small handful of good 3rd-party exclusives, and I would say the selection was well below average for a major console.
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  • Avatar for Sandman83 #10 Sandman83 12 days ago
    Well yes and no. A epic launch lineup with it according to rumors seems to have will bost sales. Third party support durring it's lifetime is basically depending on sales. If it sales a lot third party will come. But yeah it still got by far the best first party lineup whit games like Xenoblade Chronicles, Fire Emblem, Zelda, Metroid, Mario, Pikmin etc.
    But third party wouldn't be all that bad, Mass Effect or ff 15 on the go would for example be pretty cool.
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  • Avatar for touchofkiel #11 touchofkiel 12 days ago
    If this is meant to (eventually?) replace Nintendo's handhelds as well, then they need to hit hard with some of the bigger games and series from that console: Monster Hunter, Yokai Watch, Pokemon (not third party, but still), etc. If we longer have a traditional handheld console, I think Nintendo should be worried about their biggest 3rd party franchises jumping ship to mobile (as they've been doing...). Who's to say Capcom wouldn't put their next Monster Hunter game on PS4 if the Switch has a rocky start?

    (Though actually, I would love for a full-blown MH games on a beefier console...)
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  • Avatar for docexe #12 docexe 12 days ago
    Honestly, I don’t really see much support coming from the major Western developers for the Switch. At best, I expect some iterations of the major sports franchises from EA and 2K, some ports of older games (like Skyrim from Bethesda), and some family friendly games from the likes of Ubisoft, Warner and Activision. But beyond that, I don’t see them bringing any of their big guns to the Switch, even if it actually manages to get a decent install base.

    It’s probably inevitable, in part because of the underpowered nature of the console, in part because of what@Merus mentions about Nintendo just not being friendly enough to third party developers in general, in part because M rated AAA games just don’t sell that well on Nintendo consoles barring very few exceptions.

    If anything, I expect the Japanese developers (especially Namco, Koei-Tecmo, Sega and Atlus, as Nintendo has collaborated closely with them lately) and indie developers to provide most of the 3rd party support for the Switch, but that will be entirely contingent on the console getting good sales, especially in Japan.

    In any case, I at least hope that the first party launch line-up will be strong. Considering how scarce Nintendo’s releases have been on the past year and a half (and how unpolished some of those games were), you have to assume they migrated most of their development resources to the Switch, so hopefully the pay-off from that will be good.Edited 2 weeks ago by docexe
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