There's little doubt that, aside from occasional exceptions, Nintendo hardware in the DS / Wii and 3DS / Wii U generations was seen as mostly family friendly, offering colourful and safe gaming experiences. There were some mature games, of course, but far less than you'd see on other gaming platforms; games like The Binding of Isaac were blocked for a time, as an example, though policies started softening a couple of years ago.
It's been clear from day one that Nintendo has shifted up its marketing with Switch, which surely helped contribute to early success. Commercials and marketing has often featured older photogenic types in their late teens and 20s, a contrast to the consistent focus on children in promotional materials in past years. There are exceptions, of course, but from the first teaser trailer last October to the eSports-centric marketing around games like ARMS and Splatoon 2, Nintendo is seeking a different image for its latest system.
A Wall Street Journal report (paywall) explores this angle from the perspective of publishers and developers in Japan. When discussing the upcoming release of Gal Gun 2, Takuya Aizu - chief executive of Inti Creates - stated surprise that the pitch was welcomed by Nintendo.
I thought it wouldn’t be possible to release such a game for the Switch, but surprisingly, Nintendo gave me positive feedback.
An unnamed executive says that Nintendo was 'passive' towards more mature content in the past, but has now changed gear and is more open. We also have DOOM to look forward to soon along with Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, as two examples, while even in the Indie space we can see that 18 ratings and edgier content are no obstacle to publication.
Some, understandably, are cautious around all of this and whether it could affect Nintendo's family friendly image. Of course, Nintendo couldn't do much more in terms of parental control options on the system, including the smart device app that gives guardians full control over the system. The goal will no doubt be to project that same family friendly stance, while also having the sort of content that'll appeal to a wide range of older gamers.
The test, of course, will be in how 18+ content sells on the hardware, and whether publishers encouraged by Nintendo right now will feel inclined to come back with more games in the future.