Do you think there are too many games hitting the Switch eShop each week?
Chris Obritsch: Yes and no. Whilst I like that indies are getting in there, the number of mobile titles quickly ported over to Switch to make a buck is frustrating, and it buries some of the better Switch games.
Dan Muir: It’s not that there are too many titles being released, but I do feel that there could be more in the way of support to help developers promote their game from Nintendo themselves. It’s very easy for a title to get buried after a few days and trying to boost the visibility of a title seems to be somewhat of a struggle.
Joshua van Kuilenburg: From a marketing point of few, fewer games would help us stand out, of course. However, as a gamer, the Switch's success excites me, and I perceive the large number of great games hitting the eShop as a plus – as long as Nintendo's QA process can prevent a 'Steam situation' where insane amounts of asset-flip games can bury indie gems.
Dugan Jackson: Having fewer games release each week would certainly benefit the visibility to those who do release. But perhaps it's more important to think about improving how the games are displayed and categorised, so everyone can be accommodated and get a fair shake.
Thomas Whitehead: Well, at the end of the day you either encourage developers onto a platform or you don’t. If Nintendo closes it off people complain (as many did in the first 6 months when the store was more ‘curated’) but then people complain if the store is stacking ‘em high. My personal view is that the number of games isn’t necessarily the main problem, but the store design doesn’t always help. I still personally feel like the eShop user interface and layout could be better, but then again there’s no magic solution. As a Switch owner I do now typically find it harder to ‘browse’ on a weekly basis, and as a result that can bring the danger of people switching off and caring less about new titles, or being less willing to spend a load of time looking at various games beyond one or two that have earned the most headlines.
Michael Heald: When we launched there was a max of about 5-10 games a week being launched, which I think is about the right number for players to keep track of what’s launching. Now that there are many more, it’s very, very easy to miss releases, even ones you’re waiting for.
Andy Pearson: It’s a balance. A good flow of content will encourage more people to embrace the hardware – and more Switch owners means more potential customers for publishers. From a consumer's point of view, I think as long as the eShop continues to improve as a platform, giving consumers different ways to discover content, the platform will continue to grow. They key is how the content is represented and presented, not the volume.
Nik Makin: I think Raging Justice benefited by launching at a time with fewer games released each week.
Mike Daw: It's an inevitable product of a platform's success and it's the same on all stores. The Switch just happened to enjoy a period where big publishers didn't flood with their content, plus dev kits were hard to get hold of. That period is now over though, and it's great to see so many people getting onboard, both as users and developers. It's a great machine and deserves its success.
Thomas Kern: I understand why Nintendo allows many games on the store, because they don’t want to make a judgement on any indie game. I personally don’t have a problem with that because Nintendo finds a balance by being very active to feature great games and provide excellent support for high-quality content. So-called ‘Shovelware’ quickly gets buried.
What would you like to see Nintendo do to improve the eShop?
Mike Daw: The 'indie highlights' video compilation that Nintendo posts on Twitter is a great start, but it would be good to see a similar store section with curated content. 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. Adding a user review system would be great too – even if it's just a number of stars to avoid censorship issues. I really miss that from other stores. Then naturally a highest-rated section, too.
Dan Muir: I would love the store to be more intuitive, but in comparison to the Xbox One or PS4, it’s still a relatively new front. Hopefully, Nintendo will tweak and improve the store, in terms of aesthetically and navigation, as the Switch matures as a platform.
Chris Obritsch: Personally, I find the 3DS eShop to be a smidge ahead of Switch, and this goes for the PS4 as well. It would be so much more user-friendly if there were categories, and categories within categories – and easier to find things you want to play.
Joshua van Kuilenburg: How about some cosy music? I've always liked that in the other eShop iterations. One a more serious note, more robust search features and a customizable recommendation section, perhaps based off what games players bought previously. Especially with the large number of games releasing these days, discoverability will become an issue for players unwilling to wade through every single release.
Dugan Jackson: Discoverability could be improved, be it through suggestions for 'similar' titles or even just showing our other games on each of our individual game pages.
Thomas Whitehead: The layout could be better. I remember saying right from launch that I didn’t personally think the store design was as good as that on Wii U, weirdly; it’s a tad plain and ‘feels’ crowded when a lot of games arrive at once. Nintendo has made small improvements, we should acknowledge, little things like charts and so on. To be fair to Nintendo, looking beyond the store interface, they have teams and people that are always open to hearing about your games and occasionally offering additional support, like trailers being shared on official channels and so on. Plus the web pages and ‘basics’ that developers get as part of publishing a game are very welcome. The intent to support smaller publishers and developers is there, and it’s great in that way. My personal wish is for a complete overhaul of the store design, even to the point that it looks and operates depending on whether you’re on the TV or portable, like the difference between browsing an online store on a monitor or a smartphone. There’s no reason big redesigns and improvements can’t happen, but it may not be on the agenda – who knows!
Michael Heald: Better discoverability, proper categorisation and also proper featured areas. There’s a multitude of things they could do to expose games better. Imagine hitting the store and there being not just an area for new releases and sales, but also curated areas for different genres, or showing players games that fit their profile based on what they’ve bought to date.
Andy Pearson: When you have a platform that has such a high volume of content, the most crucial thing is how that content is presented to the end user. Personalised recommendations, a wider variety of places a game can be featured, better ways of categorising and searching for content. As the volume increases, the eShop – and indeed all platforms – will need to better consider how users can not only find the games they want, but also discover games they don’t even know they want yet!
Nik Makin: I think browsing the eShop for things could be easier; they do a great job of making the screen uncluttered, but it can take a while to go through the lists. Also some algorithmic suggestions based on play history or purchase history would be a nice addition.
Thomas Kern: I don’t like how the eShop team allows discounts of up to 99% off, which means a game comes down to a mere cents. This race to the bottom is supported by a high visibility of discounted games because of the high traffic section in the eShop. Lower quality games tend to give big discounts very often, and the discounts automatically mean visibility so they override the quality focus of Nintendo-featured content. Deep discounts also mean more downloads, so they are ranked very high in the charts. Casual players may think these games are good because they’re high in the charts. I would suggest Nintendo reduces the amount of sales for each product and how low it can go. If someone needs to give 99% discount to be able to sell a game, then there’s something wrong. Either the developer set a wrong base price or they exploit the deep discount percentage and have set a high price intentionally.
How important is the eShop to your business, and when creating a game, is eShop one of your primary target platforms?
Dan Muir: Very. Nintendo has seemingly listened to the criticism of the Wii and Wii U’s stores and tried to address as much as they possibly could. Hound Picked Games sees that the eShop is probably now the most critical of stores to release on, should a title be multi-format and because of the incredible way Nintendo fans help share and spread the word of new and exciting titles. With the sales ratio of Switch to Steam/PS4/XB1 being so significantly better, it would be foolish to ignore the juggernaut that is Switch for our future titles.
Chris Obritsch: eShop is our primary platform followed by the others, so it's extremely important. However, as I mentioned before, games get pushed down by the mobile ports quickly on the 'what's new' list. Beyond that point, it seems that a lot of users don’t seem to care to dig deeper because of how the eShop is set up.
Joshua van Kuilenburg: Right now, the eShop is our only release platform aside from Steam; it's definitely integral to NAIRI: Tower of Shirin's success. We consider PC as our main development platform, but, especially for future instalments, we will more elaborately target the eShop as well as the Switch's unique features.
Dugan Jackson: How digital storefronts function can make a big difference to sales. Just take the example of Steam – how it changed the front page list of 'new titles' into a list of 'new and popular titles'. We can't rely on the store alone to sell our games for us of course, and have to work hard to help people to become aware of our games so they will search them out on digital stores. Based on sales so far, yes, the eShop and Switch console remain a key target for future games.
Thomas Whitehead: The eShop is very important to our business, for sure; it’s our primary platform at present. The appeal of the device, and its suitability for our sorts of games, hasn’t changed since it launched. The system still offers input flexibility (physical controls, touchscreen, portable, TV play) that nothing else offers, at least not as intuitively and effectively. Our rhythm music games, for example, are most at home there, and particularly games with a retro / pixel-art style seem to really belong on the Switch. Many of our followers are Nintendo gamers too, of course, especially those that also played some of our titles on 3DS in particular.
Michael Heald: Right now, the Switch is the platform to launch on, but as each day passes that becomes less and less the case. I think the sales we got at launch next to 200 games is worlds away from people launching next to 1000+ games. It's hard to say for sure, but I’d say that in another 12 months time, launching on the Switch will be the same as launching on any other platform.
Andy Pearson: As a publisher of Japanese content, for example, the PS Vita was a key platform for us. As that platform enters its twilight years, we can see the Switch now taking over the space that Vita left behind. We’d consider it to be the more natural home for things like Visual Novels, which is a genre we’re particularly fond of.
Nik Makin: The Nintendo Switch, and therefore the eShop, has been very important to the success of Raging Justice; it's been a great platform to release on and definitely one we'll be targeting in the future.
Mike Daw: As for any producer of consumable content, the storefronts are hugely important for that initial release window. Beyond that, casual discoverability becomes key, and it feels like the eShop is slightly lacking in that regard. We are loving the Switch as gamers, so we very much intend to focus on it as developers going forward. Its tendency towards local party multiplayer is something very exciting for us that we haven't really been able to explore on other platforms.
Thomas Kern: eShop has become one of our most important businesses and we’ll keep providing games for it. It’s one of our primary target platforms but also because of the fantastic Nintendo Switch hardware. It’s just a lot of fun to make games for it and play with it.