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

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.

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.

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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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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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