The Nintendo Switch is now over two years old, and in that time it has seen a staggering number of games. The vast majority of these are digital titles released on the console's eShop, and as the Switch's install base has ballooned over the past two years, so two has the volume of digital content released on it each week.
For anyone who stood by Nintendo during the Wii U era, this is a welcome change. There were some weeks when only a couple of titles would be released on the Wii U eShop, but now, it's normal to see as many as 30 new titles arrive in each download update, if not more. A well-stocked digital storefront is the sign of a healthy platform, and choice is always a good thing if you're a consumer. However, if you're a developer of one of those many games, is such a large volume of releases a benefit or a hindrance?
How do games perform on Switch when compared to other platforms, and is the 'Switch goldrush' slowly coming to an end as the eShop reaches saturation point? What can Nintendo do to make sure games don't vanish without trace due to poor discoverability? Keen for answers, we spoke to a wide range of indie developers to get their perspective on the state of the eShop in 2019.
Here's who we spoke to:
- Dan Muir – Hound Picked Games – (Battle Princess Madelyn, NAIRI: Tower of Shirin)
- Chris Obritsch – Causal Bit Games – (Battle Princess Madelyn)
- Joshua van Kuilenburg – HomeBearStudio – (NAIRI: Tower of Shirin)
- Dugan Jackson – Tikipod – (Iron Crypticle, Aqua Kitty UDX)
- Thomas Whitehead – CIRCLE Entertainment – (Kamiko, Mercenaries Saga Chronicles, World Conqueror X)
- Michael Heald – Fully Illustrated – (Wulverblade)
- Andy Pearson – PQube – (Our World is Ended, Cat Quest, Nippon Marathon)
- Nik Makin – Makin Games –(Raging Justice)
- Mike Daw – Infinite State Games – (Rogue Aces, Don't Die Mr Robot! DX)
- Thomas Kern – FDG Entertainment – (Oceanhorn, Blossom Tales, Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom)
What's your experience been like with the Switch eShop so far?
Dan Muir (Hound Picked Games): Pretty good, though I do feel it would make sense for titles, or developers, to be assigned an account manager, who is your total point of contact for everything. It does get somewhat confusing when you’re passed pillar to post when you’re in need of assistance. The visibility on the store is something that needs to be addressed, especially with the sheer volume of titles being released now.
Chris Obritsch (Causal Bit Games): Largely favourable, but like with the other stores, hiccups do happen, from a dev point of view. Communication with support could be slightly pacier, but they’re generally very nice to deal with, and utterly professional.
Joshua van Kuilenburg (HomeBearStudio): With NAIRI: Tower of Shirin being our first game, we have little frame of reference for now. That said, we're quite happy with how smooth the experience has been for us releasing on the eShop.
Dugan Jackson (Tikipod): Very positive, and we have so far only been re-releasing titles with enhancements (such as Iron Crypticle and Aqua Kitty UDX). It will be interesting to see how an all-new game will fair for us on Switch.
Thomas Whitehead (CIRCLE Entertainment): Both CIRCLE and Flyhigh Works have been very active on the Switch eShop since day one, from the early boom period to the current crowded marketplace. Those descriptions sum up the progression, really. In the first 6-12 months the release slate was quieter, so if you got traction a game could go big even if that was ultimately a surprise. Of course, the success of the system attracted more and bigger companies, and I don’t just mean corporate behemoths but also more ‘big Indies’ and download-centric publishers, ie: the likes of Devolver Digital, Team17 and so on. So in terms of how it’s been for us, well, it’s a big part of what we do, with pretty much all of our games coming to Switch and only some also (currently) getting releases on the likes of Steam and PS4. So the Switch eShop is valuable and is the core of the business, and Nintendo is also very supportive and eager to encourage download games on the system.
Michael Heald (Fully Illustrated): We got Wulverblade onto the Switch fairly early on when there were around 200 games on there, and while we did ok, once we were off the new release list and ended up in the long normal list, sales dropped very steadily. Now with over 1000 games on there, finding our game is very challenging.
Andy Pearson (PQube): Very positive so far. There’s no doubt it has helped invigorate the digital landscape.
Nik Makin (Makin Games): The experience was great. Raging Justice was in the top 10 (UK) for a few weeks after launch and had great initial visibility.
Mike Daw (Infinite State Games): Really good! It's quick to load, shows a nice number of games at once, game's individual pages load very quickly and have a nice layout, the search function is quick, too.
Thomas Kern (FDG Entertainment): It’s been great! We’ve now released three games on the eShop: Oceanhorn, Blossom Tales and Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom. It was a very smooth process every time. We like how every game page can have its own colour scheme on the eShop and how quickly it is to access game pages and the store overall. It loads really fast.
What have sales been like compared to other digital stores?
Dan Muir: Both of the games we’ve co-published have largely outperformed other stores quite significantly.
Chris Obritsch: Good! As we expected, depending on the day and marketing it's anywhere from 4:1 to 8:1 sales-wise between Switch and other consoles.
Joshua van Kuilenburg: Overall, Switch sales have been most successful as of right now. This is due to the system's popularity and the fact that Switch players match our target audience a bit better. The Switch version also has additional control features and, of course, handheld mode, which may have pushed potential Steam customers to the Switch.
Thomas Whitehead: There have been different ‘phases’ of the eShop, especially for companies of our size. Focusing on the more recent and relevant period some games – for example, sequels or those from developers we’re partnered with that are well known – can maintain solid results nowadays that aren’t necessarily too far off equivalent sales from earlier in the Switch lifecycle. With others though it’s undeniably tougher, especially if the scheduling Gods are cruel. You can plan ahead, look at the publicly-released schedules and so on, but sometimes release day comes and the store is swamped, and getting noticed above the crowd can be a challenge. From my understanding, though, Switch is still a really strong market for games like ours compared to Steam and PS4. With PS4 the download scene in Japan, particularly, is relatively weak for smaller games, and from a ‘Western’ perspective I don’t really feel like download-specific games are pushed at me when I pop on the PS Store. And no wonder, because the system is crammed with retail titles. As for Steam, well it’s a madhouse of course! If you go big on Steam it’s wonderful, but it’s so full of games that’s easier said than done. In summary, Switch is still a good storefront for us.
Michael Heald: Sales on Switch are, to date, much higher than all the other platforms combined. But now that things have levelled out, I’d say they’re on par with the other console platforms.
Andy Pearson: We found that Switch is growing and actually exceeding sales of other platforms on certain titles. There have been games where the natural assumption was that Steam would be the lead platform, but we’ve found Switch to be significantly ahead in terms of sales in many cases.
Nik Makin: Sales of Raging Justice have been very good on Switch, though I can't give direct comparisons, we are more than happy with how we've sold on Switch through the eShop.
Mike Daw: It's much better when you appear in the 'new releases' section, then tapers off much quicker than other stores once you fall outside that. The amount of releases is increasing rapidly though, so it will be interesting to see if that's still the case going forward.
Thomas Kern: All games sold better on Switch compared to other consoles or Steam. In some cases, it’s an insane difference, rather unbelievable to be honest. Blossom Tales, for example, sold 20 times more on Nintendo Switch than on Steam, even though it launched on Steam first and one year before Switch. On a side note, the eShop turned Blossom Tales around and saved the development studio from shutting down. As for Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, it’s once again an extreme ratio. Nintendo Switch sales vs. PS4 and Xbox One combined is 8:1!
Having developer “store front” might be interesting
I personally don't have trouble finding the games I'm interested in on the eShop but I check the new releases, coming soon section, sales and my watch list much more regularly than the average consumer would. Visibility is certainly an area that Nintendo should continue to work on with more and more games hitting the eShop each week.
Good (but not surprising) to hear that so many of the developers are having more success on the Switch than other systems in terms of sales. It's such a brilliant system to play indie games on and my library is up to nearly 300 games already as a result.
Like many others, I use the Wish List feature heavily. I browse the Coming Soon section often, and putting the games in which you're interested into your Wish List really helps you to not forget about them, especially if you can't buy them right away. It's a very simple, basic idea, but it really does help. I would agree, though, that visibility for games can be an issue with the volume of releases these days.
The good is some of eshop only games will have a physical release in the future, something that will NEVER happened on Steam version if the eshop games was from Steam.
Very glad the Switch eShop is performing so well. Seeing sale ratios at 8:1 or even 20:1 really gives a great example on how things are going for the console.
I know it seems disconnected but one of the things holding me back somewhat from eShop purchases is not the shop itself – but lacking folders on the Switch to organise my purchases well.
It's becoming a very weird omission at this stage.
The Nintendo eShop gets a lot of flak, but it's really no worse than any other digital storefront. They're all cluttered and cumbersome to one degree or another.
I'm just glad to see Nintendo be a haven for third parties for what seems like the first time since SNES.
@Thomasbw84 We miss you!
The only thing it really needs is frequent sales.
@Fake-E-Lee for sure. I really miss that band.
It's a question of sorting the wheat from the chaff. And there is a lot more below average games than their are good value for money ones.
The eshop has become a dumping ground for any and all games.
agreed. i do wish they would update the UI for things like that.
The Eshop is becoming nothing but a place for Shovelware and a very few good games indie games and nintendo games. But I still use the eshop adding games to my wish list that interest me so they won't get lost in the abyss of Shovelware.
I'd like more curation tools on the eshop. It's too difficult to find stuff, and, even with the incredibly engaged player base that eats up indies and third party titles, once something is off the main page or isn't on sale, it has lost visibility (which is likely why there is a class of games that's pretty much permanently on sale: it allows their game to stay somewhat visible).
Still better than the way PSN is laid out on PS4, though. What a nightmare!
@Ralizah Spot on about those games constantly on sale. And eventually those sales lose the intended effect: they stop being atractive.
Lots of really good news with developers seeing success and planning on bringing more games to the platform. I do think the eshop could definitely use an overhaul to make finding games a little easier for users. Still the switch is such a great system with so much to offer.
Wow you interviewed the producers from a lot of absolute rubbish games, Monsterboy kind of being the only exception.
Once I read the roster, I didn't even bother reading the rest of the article. A lot of that is shovelware, and I don't give a rat's ash what shovelware makers think. Just as they probably won't care what a muppet/Bowie hybrid thinks.
I definitely think Nintendo should take a look at what some competitors are doing with their digital storefronts. Steam, specifically, is a good one with a lot of useful features to borrow. Features that were made for a platform with an even bigger library than the Switch Eshop.
I mean, even something like Steam's personalized recommendations would do wonders on its own. I also wouldn't mind the review system they briefly added and removed either.
"With PS4 the download scene in Japan, particularly, is relatively weak for smaller games, and from a ‘Western’ perspective I don’t really feel like download-specific games are pushed at me when I pop on the PS Store. And no wonder, because the system is crammed with retail titles. "
Yup, that's basically it. Everytime I load up the Nintendo store it feels like I'm browsing the menu of those 9999-games-in-1 carts from the NES and Gameboy days. So much games, but barely anything is interesting.
Nothing surprising in any of this
You're right, that is disconnected.
@TheGerudoKing And that's why I made the caveat. I have no issue with the store – so I thought it might be worth sharing what is starting to hold me back re. eStore purchases – and that is finding my games post purchase.
Release better games, do occasionial discounts, minor updates or DLC's to raise awareness. The Switch does not have a huge amount of fresh AAA that are anywhere frequent. Any indie channel will always get a fair amount of sub par releases, the eshop is no different to something like Amazon - when they started pushing e publishing ebooks. I think some of these indie dev's should acknowledge that competing with bigger outfits is always going to be a challenge. If I was an indie dev, I'd ditch the easy trope of retro gaming and go for sims and strategy games that have typically been shunned by consoles in the past.
One thing I've noticed is the coming soon games on Xbox and PS only show a select few, mainly retail titles. And maybe a few Indies.
The Switch shows you basically everything about to release. There's a lot less of a filter. I'm usually more aware of the smaller indie titles when I search for games on the Switch, so it helps for those. But, at the same time, there are so many other uninteresting mobile port looking games put there by companies who just want a quick buck or whatever that it can be bothersome sometimes.
The featured section is the best place to be. Nintendo does a really good job there. It's different from the other two store fronts where the big retail titles get like 90% of the attention above all else. I saw those multiple Final Fantasy games getting exposure on the Switch right there. That's awesome.
I demand customer ratings on the eshop. I miss the little stars of last gen. Then, a way to sort by rating.
And maybe a “similar to games you enjoy” type thing based on the games you’ve played/rated?
I suppose there could be improvements. A “recommended for you” tab would be nice. Personally I like how how clean it looks and how unflashly it is compared to the competition.
Please Nintendo, no matter what anyone says,we don’t need any Wii style elevator/lounge music in the menus.
I wish you could clear the shovelware away by having the ability to flag games to not appear on your own eshop in the future. Every time I go to the eshop I get so overwhelmed by all the junk and nonsese I end up buying nothing. Even the offers page can take an age to get through.
A 'don't show me this game again' option would be great. You could also take away the games you already own.
Browsing is a pain. Especially when in handheld mode. The writing for lots of the games is so small or in a weird font when flicking through the selection, so you actually have to click on the little picture window to see what the game actually is a lot of the time. Then theres the sales section ... theres frequently too many and getting to the bottom is a slog. ... it really needs to be sorted into categories.
The eShop has had its fair share of good to great Indie games, but it's come at a high cost. Users have to wade through a ridiculous amount of garbage to find those games, partly because of the eShop's clunky organization and partly because there are simply so many titles pouring into the catalog every week that everything gets pushed "below the fold" very quickly. And the legacy collections from previous Nintendo and other platforms that used to be associated with the Virtual Console are long gone (though at least several compilations such as Sega's, Atari's, and SNK's have helped to ease that pain to some degree).
Basically Nintendo's strategy with the eShop boils down to "throw everything at the wall and see what manages to stick". They'll tout the number of Nindie publishers and titles offered and how many of a given game sell on the Switch compared to rival platforms, but at the end of the day I suspect most Switch users would rather have fewer games with higher quality standards and production values than countless games that are, for lack of a more flattering term, junk.
I like the EShop look and by visiting each week and adding stuff I'm interested in to my watch list, works for me!
It does me good to see Tom Whitehead's name back on Nintendolife. Makes me nostalgic for the golden days on this site.
I liked the way of thinking of Thomas Whitehead the most. Disillusioned yet proactive.
I also think that Nintendo definitely needs to re-design their e-shop now that they seem to be throwing everything but the kitchen sink towards their clientele.
Then again, I'm not sure how they should do it... I mean, obviously there's a lot of what folks call 'shovelware' round there - but then again I downloaded the likes of "Frederic: Resurrection of Music" recently for only Euro 0,50 and I enjoyed that particular rhythm game much more than the likes of Voez or Deemo.
Basically talked to a bunch of studios that again are niche at best. Lets expand the scope.
That this is the level of work dominating the eShop is by far the biggest problem.
I doubt anyone who has used the eshop would call it "perfect". It does indeed, need a rating system and perhaps as one developer said; time played in average as well as a download count so we could see how it shapes up. Cleverly done and a quick glance could let you know if it's a good game. Right now I rarely bother checking the store unless to search specifically. When i first got my switch i had to look at screenshots then if unsure check a trailer or yt video if there wasn't one.
It's basically the same when it comes to PSVR... I mean, I got my PS4 Pro only for the VR thing, because I refuse to pay the ridiculous amount of money for a high-level PC with HTC Vibe and stuff.
@Agramonte: What are you even talking about??? They've been talking to folks who have actually done amazing things. Those studios are made of people who apparently care for that they do! I've been working in the IT field for more than 20 years and just by reading their comments, I can just bow my head due to their commitment towards their customers.
Tell me 'Agramonte': When was the last time you made a customer or a client really happy?
I did so last Wednesday. I was absolutely fed up with the s*** hitting the fan, but when I got a call from someone completely lost, I did my best to help.... and it turned out right.
And it felt great!!
Try this for a change, ok?!
I just want folders.
Not having folders makes it less appealing to buy more digital games, because I already have 200+ games in my game list. I’m not looking forward to the day I have 500+
We need folders
Why is such a basic tool so hard and such a struggle to get from Nintendo
The E-Shop needs a rating system (only for actual purchasers of the game though), and the ability to browse by rating. When shovelware-makers start seeing their sales disappear because they are getting downvoted, they'll up the quality in time.
Always nice to see Thomas on the site!
There does need to be some more discoverability for games.
Once a game drops out of view from the main pages, it gets buried by everything else. Unless you happen to know its name already (which means you've already heard of it), you have to trawl through the entire list of games to try and find it.
And all you have to recognise it among everything else is the tiny little banner, compared to the 3DS where the banner took up a whole screen.
It'd be nice if you could search using the 'large banner, small text beneath' style the other tabs use.
Looking through the entire list again and again for things gets tiring, so I mainly stick to just looking through one or two genres, or the sales list.
With one game I was looking for, but couldn't remember the name of, I thought I'd imagined a Switch port until I found it weeks later looking through the Strategy genre...
So I'd like to see a 'multiselect' genre search like the Wii U had, personally.
I'd like it to have the Wii U/3DS style tabs on the main page to take you to certain content. I just found those eShops much more friendly feeling than other stores.
The eShop works ok for me though, I check New Releases, Great Deals, Coming Soon and the Featured games each week and I'm more likely to notice indie games on there than I am on the Xbox store.
I only browse the Offers page by default, but keep an eye on the New page and Coming Soon. So I don't really consider there too be much of a problem.
But yes, as @Old-Red suggested, the ability to permanently hide games you have no interest in would be nice.
I'd also like there to be a minimum percentage you can offer for a discount. What is the point in games offering 10% off? That is not a saving that's going to push me over the Purchase line. Get those jokers off the Offers page until they're offering a 33% saving or more.
Reviews from trusted sites like this help. Marketing savvy is something that will help devs cut through the clutter . You don’t need EA budgets to do this if smart and nimble . It’s down to imaginative power and the ability to take risks which indies should have no problem with.
@Andy3004 And that is all great. But we have been here before. We've seen these stories and people before. They been recruited by the most part (again, great!... good job Nintendo!)
I work in Advertising and Design in NYC. So basically I need to make clients happy all the time. And I need to do it with NEW ideas (I cant rehash my old concept every 2 years and sell them again)
When I go to my yearly reviews I get judged by how I made our Big clients happy. And I get it - Big clients success attract new big clients - and those attract big new talent to the studio who bring big clients with them.
Lets make this same article and talk to the multi-million dollar studios now. What do they want from Nintendo and the eShop.
N just needs to do a better job of not letting junk games through, like they said they were going to do..but they are not, they said they were NOT going to let all the shovel-ware through like they did on the Wii & Wii U, but here we are again all they do is see the $$ and woosh all the crapware is here again.. I'm still bewildered on how any game is let through that does NOT have touchscreen capabilities, really is this not like the MAIN selling point of the switch, let alone Joy Con support.. If your game doesn't meet certain criteria it shouldn't be on the e-shop period, go back and make it right, not with a patch make it right the first time..
Hmm... mayhaps I've misjudged you...
Perhaps it is due to the fact that you work in advertising and I work in software architecture... (in fact you would be surprised by the amount of legacy stuff being written more than 40 years from today).
No hard feelings.... Sorry if I have been sounding too harsh... Ok?!
It's nice to see them doing rather well. To me, availability is great. It's the findability that's the problem.
I want to find my biggest gems. It doesn't happen in the eshop, that's for sure...
One basic thing that could improve the eshop is the ability to sort alphabetically. It's weird to see that when using the eshop on the switch you're unable to do this. I'm shocked that after 2 years Nintendo has yet to implement such a basic feature.
@BenAV I am with you. I honestly don't understand what all the frustration is about. I check the upcoming and recent releases, every Thursday. I am proficient in Youtube for games I don't know anything about and know how to add games that intrest me to my wishlist.
For people just getting a Switch the search with filters isn't that hard.
The only thing I miss is user reviews.
@Andy3004 No, I hear you - and I got where you were coming from. Why I had to expand my point and make it more clear
Well legacy or not - in the back-end - I am still amazed at what software engineers in general are able to create. It is like magic.
@Rinari there is a difference between retail physical and make your own back up with collectors. I did not know you could make your own physical copies of Steam games though. That is kind of cool.
There's no magic. Just hard work.
Thank you & 気を付けて
Oh no, Tom turned into Reggie!
Having the option to click on a publisher to see what else they’ve got to offer is one of eShop’s no#1 strengths. Also, it runs better than the other console shops.
Wishlist is my friend but I wish it would auto remove games as you buy them and have more than a 200 entry limit.
Categories and sub categories would be good, and sales rankings for each month, or for a category, would help you explored games that might interest you. The use of discounts, even just 20% off, is the best way for developers to get older games visible again. Otherwise, it works well and is efficient. I'm not really sure major changes could be made that would add too much complexity to the store, and you wouldn't want that.
Oh man, so many things could be done to improve the eShop. It's got to the point where I don't even bother looking anymore. But for a start:
And that's a quick list off the top of my head...
That's a great article nintendolife. Thank you for that.
I found some of the ideas of eshop improvements to be very good. Personally I would love a star rating system from other players. I would not be opposed to a “recommended based on previous purchases “ curated list. I find that I check the eshop weekly to check out new titles, sales, and upcoming games and anything I find interesting goes to my wish list- sometimes I pick them up on sale... sometimes Shovel Knight just lives in the wish list for 2 years.
Good read thanks.
Nintendo have been very clever going after the indie market with such enthusiasm and its working well for them.
Don’t get the complaints about the shop myself. There are lots of other ways to figure out what’s good and what isn’t, when I go to the shop it’s to buy something and I just want it to be quick and easy (same on PS, XBox, PC etc).
Good read NL. The wishlist is my best friend. I currently have over a hundred in my wishlist. Plus I search by genre to find a title that I vaguely remember. It’s fast, it’s clean, I like it in spite of its flaws.
In my view the presence of so much showelware is a good sign and makes me laugh. We are getting so many quality indies titles amongst the showelware and of course we have sites like this to inform us on what’s actually good. The showelware is a negligible unwanted side effect of popularity in my opinion. Viva la eShop!
I love the eshop and I am so happy that indie games are selling great on the Switch. I love indie games myself. Hollowknight and Dead Cells are my 2 favorites.
The switch is my indie platform, I can't imagine going back to steam for indies. But I do wish Nintendo would add a Indie Highlights page to the store. All the rubbish mobile ports are hiding the jems and unless I spend a few hours looking on line fore for indie recommendations it really hard now to find worthwhile new games.
visibility and discoverability on the eshop is the main, obvious problem here. Nintendo allows it to be flooded by phone shovelware and has no method to find the gems in the muck.
Why are there no promotions like Xbox Live's old Summer of Arcade? It should be Nintendo's job to highlight the best of the best Indies.
You know... giving devs their own little page of games sounds like a SUPER good idea!
"It would also be great to see them make use of the 'time played' metric they are collecting for friends list so people can see the games people spend the most time playing, possibly even dividing by RRP, so you can get a feel for value per money."
This is a really great idea. I hope to be wrong, but I think we'll unfortunately never get something like this because... Nintendo.
While it's only a little thing, I do wish that nintendo would let me add games to my wishlist from the website - I browse a lot at my desk and can read up on games etc. but then I have to remember to do looking for it later when I get home... if I forget the chances of me coming back to a particular title are small
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