Those that follow the weekly Nintendo Download Updates will have seen a busy few weeks on the store. Last week brought 17 releases (download-only and retail) to the eShop in North America, and this week's update brought another 10 overall in the same region. What's exciting for many eager Switch owners is that a lot of the games are high quality and big name offerings, with this week including the likes of Stardew Valley, Axiom Verge, Oxenfree and more. It's bad for bank balances, of course.
The rush has obviously been in the works for a while, and even in quieter weeks it's common to see half a dozen or more Switch releases that are new each week, with only a minority (so far) of those being low quality efforts. Following the recent surge GamesIndustry.biz chatted to some developers to learn more about the Switch eShop 'gold rush'.
Shahid Ahmad, formerly a PlayStation Indie boss and now an independent developer and consultant himself, highlighted that Nintendo had done a good job harnessing early enthusiasm from smaller developers. He also made the point that, aside from the usual risks with releasing a game, being there early can be beneficial.
Nintendo has done well to court independent developers. The messaging isn't always perfect, with 'Nindies' implying a kind of ownership that is dissonant. That said, developers love them - I certainly do - and Nintendo has some really great people who just get it.
There's always going to be a window of opportunity for anyone competent launching a game early in the life of a device; it's high demand, low supply. Few mainstream consoles have had the foresight to capture the imagination of independent developers out of the gate though, I can only think of the PS4 and the Switch as examples of this phenomenon. This works because the big publishers are hesitant to commit when they don't know how well the device will sell, and the addressable market, no matter how good the numbers, is unlikely to provide a healthy ROI for the bigger publishers. This is when a platform often provides incentives to share some risk.
It's at the start of the life of a device that the pond is small and there are few fish where the chances of a breakaway hit are there. After the Switch's first Christmas, as sales of the device spike, the pond will be bigger, attracting bigger fish just as a lot more small fish are attracted to the growing pond.
As highlighted in recent weeks, early visibility and buzz on the eShop has brought some publishers and developers significant sales, eclipsing sales on more established systems. David D'Angelo from Yacht Club Games said this was even the case for his studio with Shovel Knight, though he hopes to see updates to the eShop itself.
Shovel Knight, which was almost 3 years old when the Switch launched, sold more units out of the gate than any other platform.
I believe many developers right now are experiencing the same phenomenon. At the moment, games definitely stand out when they launch and consumers are excited to purchase, but at this rate there will be an over-abundance of games. We hope Nintendo updates the eShop to make it easier to highlight and find new and old titles.
Some of the developers in the article caution that the window for making a big splash in the eShop won't be open to smaller studios forever, as the library - and competition - continues to grow. One even described the recent burst of releases as "amusing and frustrating in equal measure", though also suggested there are ongoing opportunities for quality games to do well. Shahid Ahmad also spoke out against 'scare stories' about the challenges ahead once the library fills out.
Developers, by and large, love Nintendo and it is a sensational device, so I expect them to keep trying even when the numbers aren't in their favour.
I do wish some people would drop the scare stories though. This isn't rocket science. The market gets tougher as the quality of software improves from both small and large developers as the addressable market also increases. So what? Saturation will be an issue, but that's hardly a surprise.
The whole point of easy access for a developer to a platform's digital store is not to guarantee sales, but to give them a shot, where once upon a time they didn't have that shot, at all. I do wish some of the doom-mongers would remember that.
Some of the wisest words were from Tom Tomaszewski of Crunching Koalas. Now that any notion of 'curation' has passed we're seeing a rapid influx of games, including a modest number that can politely be described as sub-par. He suggests that this won't necessarily pay off for developers and publishers seeking a quick buck from shoddy games, but that projects with a solid amount of effort have a chance.
There's definitely a rush, everyone wants to get their titles to the Switch as fast as possible, which in my opinion isn't in the best interest of Switch owners.
Some developers and publishers are releasing very unpolished builds - just look at the number of patches released on the eShop in recent weeks - or very un-complex titles that require a relatively small amount of work to be ported to Switch. I know that 18 titles were released this week, but how many of these have a true chance of succeeding? I think just a handful.
It's still not to late, but you can't release just about anything - there aren't many shooters or puzzle games. And if you're an indie bringing a game that's already on the market, on a different platform, definitely add some new content for the Switch; it'd make your marketing much easier, and maybe even the nice folks at Nintendo will help with your visibility.
The cream, as always, will rise to the top.
It's well worth checking out the full article at the link below; let us know what you think down in the comments.