Feature: Nindies and Nintendo Switch - Developers Reflect on the New Console

"It's a compelling and unique message in the console gaming market"

It's been a little while since the major Nintendo Switch unveiling, with a clearer picture now on the system's capabilities, games and prospects. Much is still up for debate, of course, but with its release a little over a month away opinions and thoughts on the new system are starting to take shape.

Last year we asked some Nindies for their thoughts on the system, and since the Presentation in Tokyo we've been doing that once again. We posed the same set of questions to multiple studios - some of them are working on Switch games and are relatively careful with their words, others are yet to begin projects and share broader thoughts. Topics included the Presentation, the confirmed library of games, the public reaction to the system, hopes for the eShop and more.

This time around the contributors are Atooi's Jools Watsham (Chicken Wiggle), Yacht Club Games' David D'Angelo (Shovel Knight), Drinkbox Studios' Graham Smith (SEVERED), Image & Form's Julius Guldbog (SteamWorld Heist) and Choice Provisions' Dant Rambo (Runner 2).

What was the general reaction of you and your team to the Nintendo Switch Presentation in Tokyo?

Jools Watsham: I came away from the Switch presentation with very mixed feelings. I was already sold on the console from the excellent trailer Nintendo released in October, 2016. For me, January's presentation was an opportunity to carry the vibe of the reveal trailer into a more informative and glitzy presentation that was focused on games and previously unannounced hardware features. Technically speaking, Nintendo did address those aspects, but in a very awkward and unimpressive way.

David D'Angelo: Great! It was really nice to see Nintendo go more in depth on the console's features. And of course, it's always a blast to see Nintendo's new games!

Julius Guldbog: The fact most of us are getting the system and Zelda at launch speaks volumes, I believe! (laughs)

Dant Rambo: It was definitely positive! We weren't in the same room when it was airing, but we were all exchanging excited texts over the course of the presentation. It probably comes as no surprise we're a bunch of Nintendo fanboys over here, so this was pretty much Christmas for us.

From your perspective, how positively or otherwise did you feel the reaction was online?

Jools Watsham: My Twitter timeline was full of largely positive comments during the presentation and shortly after. As time passed, though, I started to see more negative comments regarding the presentation and the aspects people were worried about, such as console price, paid on-line service, and day one launch titles.

David D'Angelo: Unfortunately, we haven't had much time to check out the reaction!

Julius Guldbog: It's always a mixed bag, isn't it? But from what I've seen and heard from the press, gamers and the general public, I've reason to believe there's a consensus out there that Nintendo Switch will be a soaring success. At least initially.

Dant Rambo: It's always hard to discern what the reaction to something is like outside your own social media bubble, but my timeline was extremely positive overall in regards to the Switch.

In your opinion, what was the best thing about the Presentation / reveal?

Jools Watsham: Zelda! Confirming Zelda is a day one launch title was excellent, and I really liked the potential of the HD Rumble and motion detection camera.

David D'Angelo: We've all wanted a 3D mario close to Mario 64 for a long time. That was such a shock to hear!

Graham Smith: For me, getting to see more announcements of new Switch games coming from Nintendo and 3rd Parties was the best thing about the reveal. I was also excited to see more footage of the upcoming Zelda and Mario titles. Zelda:BotW is looking pretty incredible!

Julius Guldbog: The games. I was drooling the whole time to be honest. The presentation was in typical Nintendo fashion cringy, cozy, fun, mind-blowing and delightful (in my opinion)! Seeing Mr. Kimishima on stage for the first time was also interesting.

Dant Rambo: In terms of specific reveals, I'm extremely excited for Super Mario Odyssey. I know some people are weirded out by the notion of seeing Mario interacting with realistically proportioned human beings, but I'm on board with whatever they have in store for us.

Overall, though, the playful tone of the presentation was what stood out to me the most. Nintendo seems to really believe in what they're doing with the Switch, and it's hard to not get caught up in the excitement of that.

Also, what was the weakest area of the Presentation, in your opinion?

Jools Watsham: The overall style of the presentation felt very amateur and awkward, compared to the slicker Nintendo Directs that Nintendo has presented in the past. Also, spending so much time on 1-2-Switch and Arms felt odd. If those games were the Switch's equivalent of Wii Sports I could understand the focus, but sadly they're not – despite both games looking very fun and interesting.

David D'Angelo: Of course, hearing about more Nintendo games would always be better. It seems they like to hold their cards very close to their chest!

Graham Smith: There were a couple of game announcements by third party Japanese game developers that were very light on details and about IPs that I'm not familiar at with that weren't that exciting to me personally.

Julius Guldbog: That Reggie chose to play the new Zelda trailer instead of revealing SteamWorld Project 2017. It's not as fake as it sounds, actually. Or maybe it is? You'll never know! Jokes aside I'm not a big fan of the overdubbed translations. I would've preferred subtitles.

Dant Rambo: I saw a few complaints that they didn't announce enough games, but I don't know how much I agree with that. Then again, my opinion has been altered by the fact that quite a few more games have been announced since the presentation.

Can you consider where the Switch fits in the current games market? Is it a competitor in the home console space, the portable area, or is it attempting to essentially create its own 'category' in the industry?

I feel as though Nintendo is trying to create its own category with the Switch, which is a lot more interesting than directly competing with any current markets.

Jools Watsham: I feel as though Nintendo is trying to create its own category with the Switch, which is a lot more interesting than directly competing with any current markets. It is the only move Nintendo can make at this stage, really, and they're uniquely qualified and equipped to pull it off better than anyone else.

David D'Angelo: It's hard to know! We are all wondering the same question over here.

Graham Smith: For me, the main attraction of the Switch is that it appears to satisfy both console and handheld gaming needs. With the exception of some PS4/Vita games that support cross-save, I typically have to play different games at home than I do when travelling. I really like the additional flexibility that the portability of the Switch offers.

Julius Guldbog: I think there's untapped potential in the "in-between" market. There are so many times I WISH I could've played my 3DS games in HD and vice versa. Who knows if they aim for Switch to replace their dedicated handhelds or if we'll see a new mobile device down the line? I personally see Switch as an immediate Wii U replacement and an eventual 3DS successor.

Dant Rambo: In a way, I think this really depends on the gaming habits of the purchaser. For me, I will be using the Switch primarily as a home console, whereas some people will probably use it mostly as a portable.

I suspect Nintendo is not necessarily trying to go head-to-head with the PS4 and Xbox One. Not because they couldn't, but rather they've just very much carved out their own niche ever since the Wii and are doing their own thing at this point.

Nintendo is yet to go into a great deal of detail on the Switch eShop; what do you hope to see from the store, and what should it do better than the existing Wii U and 3DS stores?

Jools Watsham: Yes, I was disappointed that the eShop was not mentioned in the presentation. I was hoping for a bigger focus on the eShop with the Switch, but it looks like Nintendo will continue to rely on retail revenue over digital based on the information they have released so far. This could change, though – and, I hope it does.

Personally, I am very fond of the Wii U and 3DS eShops. I just wish they got more attention and exposure to the general public. It feels as though the eShop is a secret that only Nintendo's most avid fans know about and frequent.

David D'Angelo: We hope it makes it easy to find, feature, and buy games. That's all it needs to do!

Julius Guldbog: Nintendo eShop on Nintendo Switch will be great! They're very aware of what gamers expect and I think it's no secret that they've taken a few pages out of Steam's and Apple's books. Look forward to it!

I would personally love to see a more active and community-driven eShop with more curated lists, featured games, recommendations and a revamped review system. Something like the Steam community features would rock!

Dant Rambo: As a developer, visibility is pretty much the #1 thing we think about when it comes to marketplaces. If your game is going to be buried and never given any sort of placement, it's (usually) dead in the water. There was a slight double-edged sword to how the Wii U and 3DS stores were structured. There were quite a few different categories (Games Under $5, etc.), which meant the homepage could feel a little scattered at times. Then again, it also meant there were more places in which our games could appear, so it's hard to complain about it too much.

Of the confirmed Nintendo Switch features, which (as a developer and gamer) interest you the most?

I'm constantly looking for fun games to play locally with friends, and I feel like the Switch will make this a much easier task.

Jools Watsham: Being a handheld gamer fan myself, the ability to take console gaming on the go is very cool. I really like that the Switch automatically comes with two controllers, so impromptu multiplayer gaming is possible in the wild. A perfect fit for Treasurenauts, in fact!

David D'Angelo: I personally love having two controllers be standard with the device. What was the last system that came with two controllers!

Graham Smith: The console/handheld aspects of the console are the most interesting to me. In addition to this, I really like the co-op play the detachable joy-con controllers offers. I'm picturing playing co-op or competitive multiplayer games on plane trips, and that seems pretty cool! I'm also curious about the HD Rumble feature, which I've yet to experience myself.

Julius Guldbog: The Joy-Cons! And the fact that I'll be able to bring my favorite games with me wherever I go. It's slick, easy to understand and compelling like nothing Nintendo's produced since the Wii.

Dant Rambo: Although we haven't announced anything for Switch at this time, we've talked quite a bit around the office about how neat the HD Rumble looks, and I'm personally super excited about Nintendo focusing on local co-op as much as they are. I'm constantly looking for fun games to play locally with friends, and I feel like the Switch will make this a much easier task.

How would you summarise your own working experience with the Switch, so far?

David D'Angelo: It's been great. A really smooth, easy process.

Julius Guldbog: We're working on an unannounced SteamWorld game for Nintendo Switch. It's been smooth sailing and I hear similar stories from other companies daily. No complaints!

Dant Rambo: We have nothing to announce at the moment! Stay tuned…

What do you think of the confirmed line-up of games, first- and third-party?

Jools Watsham: It's going to be a good year for Nintendo gaming! The majority of Nintendo's first-party games for 2017 is very impressive. Starting off with Zelda, moving onto Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, then Splatoon 2, and finishing up with Mario Odyssey is a great launch year – and that isn't even including Nintendo's other games or the many excellent third-party titles announced for 2017.

David D'Angelo: I'm really excited for Arms, Splatoon 2, Super Mario Odyssey, Snipperclips...pretty much everything!

Graham Smith: With first party games coming for most of Nintendo's top IPs, and a number of interesting 3rd party games, I think the list looks pretty strong. The only thing I'm missing personally is a Metroid game in the list!

Julius Guldbog: I think it's a great launch window line-up and I'm sure there will be many more games revealed pretty soon. It's easy to underestimate how far they're reaching with the launch day titles. With Zelda, 1-2-Switch, Skylanders, Just Dance, Bomberman, I am Setsuna and more they've pretty much covered most types of gamers. Something I don't feel they did as well with the 3DS and Wii U launches.

Dant Rambo: I'm pretty excited about what's been announced so far. I want to play pretty much every game they announced in the presentation, and lots of other great games have been announced since then. Now I'm just hoping that Super Mario Maker makes the transition over. I'd take an enhanced rerelease (a la Mario Kart 8 Deluxe) or a sequel (a la Splatoon 2). Please just make it happen!

I think Nintendo learned a lot of lessons from the Wii U, and I imagine those lessons will influence how they handle the Switch over the course of its entire existence.

Do you have any major concerns about the Switch at this stage?

Jools Watsham: I hope the price of the console reduces for the Christmas season, maybe going down from $299 to $279 or even $249. I also hope there are some bundles available at that time at a price of $299 or slightly above, so families can make a single purchase and have a game or two to enjoy with their new Switch.

David D'Angelo: The biggest concern is just if people will buy it! It'd be great to see another Nintendo console do extremely well.

Graham Smith: I'm not feeling any concerns currently.

Julius Guldbog: No major concerns, actually. In my experience the battery life of the Switch is great, for instance. It all comes down to how well Nintendo supports the system. It'll be interesting to hear more about their online services.

Dant Rambo: My answer could change down the road, but it's a little too early on for me to have any major concerns about the system yet! I think Nintendo learned a lot of lessons from the Wii U, and I imagine those lessons will influence how they handle the Switch over the course of its entire existence. I'm eager to see how things are with it a few years out from now.

How optimistic or otherwise are you that the Nintendo Switch will be a success?

Jools Watsham: The message is clear with Switch: you can play Switch at home and on the go. That is a compelling and unique message in the console gaming market. I think it is safe to say that the Switch will be more successful than the Wii U. Sadly, that isn't a tall order. I don't think Switch is something that can come close to the success of the Wii, but nevertheless, the Switch will be considered an overall success for Nintendo.

David D'Angelo: It's hard to say! If Nintendo can deliver great game experiences at a frequent pace, it will definitely find success.

Graham Smith: I'm feeling very optimistic about the Nintendo Switch. Personally I can't wait to get my hands on one.

Julius Guldbog: I'm sure it'll surpass the install bases of both the GameCube and Wii U fairly quickly. But after that it's hard to estimate. When Pokémon, Monster Hunter and Animal Crossing hits the platform (which they surely will!) I'm sure it'll take off for real. Even my grandparents called me and asked about Nintendo Switch. If that isn't mainstream I don't know what is.

Dant Rambo: It's a pretty wild time for video games right now, so it's hard to predict anything with too much certainty. I do feel confident about the Switch and think it has the potential to do really well for Nintendo, but I'm hesitant to say anything more definitive than that!


We'd like to thank all of these developers for their time.