Shiver Entertainment
Image: Nintendo Life

You could be forgiven for thinking, 'Another day, another video game company acquisition,' but Nintendo's announcement that it is buying Shiver Entertainment and making the port specialists a wholly-owned subsidiary isn't business as usual for the Japanese firm.

Nintendo is, historically, extremely cautious when it comes to acquiring outside developers, preferring strategic partnerships rather than introducing financial risk by having more teams come under the first-party umbrella. Nintendo's coffers have been spilling over throughout the Switch's cycle and it could have easily gone on an Embracer-style spending spree during the COVID boom years, but that's not its style. With Embracer Group now restructuring, the Swedish company's loss is Nintendo's gain.

But why Shiver Entertainment? Out of all the talented teams across the industry, what is it about this Florida-based firm that has piqued Nintendo's interest enough to bring them into the first-party fold? Let's take a look.

Shiver Entertainment - A Brief History

Founded at the very end of 2012, Shiver describes itself as a "boutique game developer based in warm and sunny Miami, Florida. Our small team is made up of highly talented individuals who enjoy working together to make great games."

From Shiver's website:

Our goal is to create the world’s best games and have fun while we’re at it. Part of the allure of our boutique-sized studio is that you work on many different facets of the game – coupling your interests with the needs of the project. You won’t be a cog in a wheel here, hoping to work on the fun areas of the game – you’ll be doing that from day one, while working alongside some of the most talented folks in the industry.

Started by John Schappert, Jason Andersen (two co-founders of Tiburon Entertainment), and Jon Osvald (who was Zynga's Senior Vice President of Games and oversaw the Ville games) with investment from Nexon, Shiver initially had a mobile, free-to-play focus which has since shifted to a focus on "console (PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch) and PC development for both contract work on high profile titles and original IP."

Mobile RTS Beasts vs Bots was announced in 2015, although we struggled to find evidence of it beyond a handful of videos and some dead store links. From what we gather, it may have never actually launched. In any case, it seems Shiver turned away from mobile towards console development, channelling its technical know-how into port work in partnership with other studios, specifically Warner Bros.

In 2021, Embracer Group acquired the studio under Saber Interactive, that was until Saber itself was un-Embraced in March 2024 after which Shiver remained in Embracer's portfolio until Nintendo picked it up.

Shiver Entertainment - Gameography

So what games has Shiver worked on that definitely launched? Here's a round-up of all the games Shiver has support and Switch port credits on:

Okay, so there are some big names there, but it's hardly the sparkling CV you might assume would attract Nintendo's attention, even with the port expertise on display. Mortal Kombat 11 was fine, and by all accounts Hogwarts performs admirably on Switch, but Mortal Kombat 1? That's pretty nasty on Nintendo's system.

Perhaps Warner Bros. gave Shiver an impossible task in bringing the game to Switch, and that it runs in any state at all is a minor miracle. Regardless, Nintendo must be seeing something beyond the credits. It was only after many years of close and exclusive partnership that Canada's Next Level Games (Luigi's Mansion 3, Mario Strikers: Battle League) was made a first-party studio in 2021. SRD was a Nintendo partner for nearly 40 years before finally becoming a first-party subsidiary in 2022, because the arrangement they had worked just fine. What makes Shiver worth acquiring out of the blue?

Why did Nintendo buy Shiver, then?

Shiver Entertainment
Image: Shiver Entertainment

Shiver Entertainment's CEO, John Schappert, is an industry veteran who's worked for some of the biggest firms in the business. Having worked at Visual Concepts in the early '90s, the software programmer co-founded Tiburon Entertainment in 1994 ('tiburón' is Spanish for shark, and 'shiver' is the collective noun for the teeth-y fish — if the fins in the water of the logo didn't clue you in on the connection) and worked closely with EA on games like the Madden series.

EA acquired Tiburon in 1998, and in 2002 Schappert migrated to EA, eventually making his way to becoming Executive Vice President for a brief period before a move to oversee Xbox Live at Microsoft Game Studios. He returned to EA as COO for nearly two years before a stint at Zynga in the same role. Since 2012, he's held some Chairman positions and has been CEO of Shiver since 2013.

Why is this all relevant? Schappert is a serious person with industry credentials and knowledge of game development from both the trenches and the boardroom. Far from some hotshot indie startup, Shiver is being steered by someone who will prove reassuringly professional and experienced to Nintendo's higher-ups.

Nintendo Shiver

Schappert also has more personal associations and links to Nintendo. When DICE awarded Satoru Iwata a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award, Schappert presented the award (to Reggie Fils-Aimé) and spoke of the former Nintendo president's generosity. "Mr. Iwata left an indelible mark on the industry. He made gaming bigger and better," he said.

“My friendship, admiration, and respect for Mr. Iwata is so great. He was not a normal video game executive. He was a game maker, designer… His passion and dedication are deeply missed. So please, make every game count.”

Add in his company's technical expertise with modest, if not 'withered', tech and his valuable contacts and connections to other studios across the industry, and the acquisition starts to make more sense.

And let's not forget that this "will have only a minor effect on Nintendo’s results for this fiscal year." A small studio in Florida is a relatively cheap buy, especially compared to the enormous sums other firms are paying for vast studios and their IP. The announcement lists the Shiver's "Capital stock" as "USD 10" (which would be a very good deal indeed) although the actual price will be the undisclosed debt Nintendo assumes along with the sale.

Nintendo has very full, very deep pockets, but they don't stay full by spending willy-nilly. You can be sure Nintendo got a good deal on this one.

Switch is the future

Nintendo Switch OLED
Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

There's also potential here for Shiver to be deployed as a support team to third parties who need help bringing their game to Nintendo's platform. As you can see from its credits, the studio is no stranger to plugging into existing pipelines alongside other companies, and having a first-party team on hand to help with the technical nitty-gritty could help ensure the next Switch gets the third-party support it needs. It's easy to say that Nintendo games sell Nintendo platforms — and it's true — but the current console's broad appeal has included core gamers looking to take the biggest titles on the go. With other portable devices such as Steam Deck now available, having a team dedicated to ensuring ongoing support for exciting non-Nintendo titles makes sense.

In its announcement, Nintendo broadly outlined its intentions going forward:

Shiver’s focus will remain the same, continuing commissions that port and develop software for multiple platforms including Nintendo Switch.

The acquisition of Shiver Entertainment may have come as a surprise, then, but looking at the developer's acumen and the kind of expertise Nintendo thinks will be valuable enough to bring in-house, it seems like a canny buy. As per Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa, all signs point to 'Switch 2' being an interactive update on the current system's hybrid concept, continuing down a similar path with third-party games still more than welcome on the upgraded platform. It's not impossible Shiver's support-team specialism will be put to use on first-party games, either, as the team certainly has talents that could be employed on internal projects.

Whatever the exact game plan is, with Shiver as part of Nintendo, finding optimisation solutions, easing mobile chipset bottlenecks, and transitioning games to the next platform should be that much easier.