In this Soapbox article, Gavin discusses the warm familiar feeling he experienced while watching this week's Nintendo Indie World Showcase...
I was planning on beginning this with a big 'list o' shame'; all the indie titles I've got backlogged on my Switch that I still need to play, many of them purchased but never 'opened'. However, after scrolling through my alphabetically-ordered library and reaching double figures before getting to 'H', it's probably better to skip all that and replace it with a sentence underlining what everyone reading this already knows: the sheer breadth and variety of gaming experiences on Switch is mind-blowing.
Hardly an original sentiment, for sure, but it's one I still can't wrap my brain around, even over three years since the console launched. It just doesn't want to sink in, perhaps because it represents such a sea change from previous generations. I was a big fan of Wii U, but at the time I remember being surprised by the (relatively) solid indie support it received. With big retro-inspired games like Axiom Verge, Shovel Knight and Shantae leading the charge, the console attracted more quality independent developers and smaller releases than I'd imagined given its very modest install base.
Years before that, the Wii certainly had a wealth of software and interesting indie WiiWare experiments, but both Wiis were just pinkie toes in the pool compared to Switch - I feel like I'm drowning in games here! Watching the Nintendo Indie World Showcase earlier in the week underlined the incredible difference yet again, but more than that, it finally felt like there's no going back in this cosy Nindie relationship.
We asked readers how they felt about the presentation, and the majority of you (nearly 40%) were very happy with what was shown - I certainly fall into that group. Of course, different strokes and all that: around 30% felt it was a decent (if not amazing) broadcast; 20% saw very little to get excited about; and then there's the one-in-ten of you who won't be satisfied by anything less than the meatiest of 'proper' Nintendo Directs. I understand that desire, certainly, but I also find it hard to believe people found nothing at all to like in the Showcase. I thought it was absolutely excellent from start to finish.
the number of shadow-dropped games was kinda crazy - and a bit of a nightmare for outlets trying to put out timely reviews
I'm a huge fan of Supergiant Games' Bastion, and Transistor is one of the aforementioned games I've bought but haven't played yet, so seeing Hades coming to Switch was a great opener. I must have missed Raji: An Ancient Epic's reveal at some point, but it sure caught my attention in the presentation, not least because it's available on the eShop right now.
In fact, the number of shadow-dropped games was kinda crazy - and a bit of a nightmare for outlets trying to put out timely reviews, but that's not something players need worry about. There's even an argument that not having all the reviews to dissect before buying a game brings back a frisson of old-school excitement. Remember when our purchasing decisions were guided more by the screenshots on the box than an aggregated review score? Always a chance you'll end up with a lemon, of course, but thanks to indie games' more modest price tags, any turkey will likely be much less painful than the 60 quid you burned on Turok 2 back in the day (hey, I was more of a GoldenEye guy, okay?!).
Sorry, I got distracted - where was I? Oh yes, all the video games. A Short Hike looks like an appropriately restorative little jaunt, Hypnospace Outlaw is something I've had my eye on since it first launched on PC, Card Shark looks like a lot of fun, Manifold Garden and the pair of Subnauticas have been on my radar for a while, and both Evergate and Garden Story seem intriguing. And there's even two-player coming to Untitled Goose Game! I was less enamoured with that one than most (yes, there are a handful of indies I've actually managed to play to completion!), but two-player could be the thing to really hook me.
It's been a while since so many interesting games were packed into such a tight presentation, and I've got around a dozen titles for the backlog, some of which I've had my eye on elsewhere and never got around to playing. Now I can not play them on Switch!
Jokes about my ever-dwindling gaming time aside, a comfortable and warm sensation came over me while watching the presentation; a reassuring feeling that Switch is the best possible fit for all these diverse indie experiences and only a fool would turn away from a relationship this fulfilling, this satisfying, this mutually beneficial. Nintendo's got a good thing going here - they've been going steady for a few years, but the relationship has always seemed a little tumultuous. It really feels like they're ready to settle down now.
there are times when you wouldn't put it past the company to abandon everything--developer support, industry-standard control schemes and formats, whatever--if it dreamed up some radical new idea
There's always a niggling sense that hungry-hearted Nintendo, always eager for novelty, could pack up its bindle at the drop of a hat and head out on the road, Springsteen-style. Irrational it may seem, but there are times when you wouldn't put it past the company to abandon everything--developer support, industry-standard control schemes and formats, whatever--if it dreamed up some radical new idea and ran away with it, chasing a dream like a Darner Dragonfly.
That willingness to take chances makes Nintendo products exciting and unique, of course, but seeing how smaller developers have helped prop up the Switch lineup--this year especially--and with the platform holder focusing attention on them like never before, you get the sense (finally) that they won't be running out on them any time soon.
It's not a perfect relationship by any means, and stories that devs are struggling to be seen on Switch eShop are increasingly common. We've spoken before about how Nintendo needs to do more with its digital store to solve discoverability issues. A 'happily-ever-after' requires hard-graft and--there's no other word for it--work to stay fresh, healthy and interesting. Make no mistake, Nintendo really needs to double down with support and do better where it can if it wants to keep that spark alive.
The argument that people only buy Nintendo consoles to play Nintendo games also holds some water, of course--and staggering sales of Animal Crossing: New Horizons highlight that first-party games are vital to its hardware success, but the ecosystem and convenience of Switch is what struck a chord with gamers, casual and core, where Wii U blew a big raspberry. After all, Wii U had the great games, but the fact is that comparatively very few people bought that Nintendo console to play those Nintendo games - most of which have since come to Switch and outperformed original sales many times over, proving their quality and worth. Nintendo is also putting out fewer games (pound-for-pound across its systems) than it did before it combined its home and handheld consoles into one platform. That smaller developers have stepped up to fill the software gap--and that Nintendo is working to showcase them--highlights the effectiveness of the partnership.
it would be a mistake to discount the huge number of curios and offbeat indie games of all sizes as mere filler while we wait for the 'real' deal. These are real deal!
Nope, it's the convenience of Switch in both its form factor and its catalogue of brilliant non-Nintendo titles that's the reason I'm struggling to keep my gaming head above water these days. Yes, we may be craving the really big first-party announcements, but it would be a mistake to discount the huge number of curios and offbeat indie games of all sizes as mere filler while we wait for the 'real' deal. These are real deal!
There are undoubtedly people finding the Switch lineup a little dry of late, but a drought?! Personally, I'm drowning in great stuff! Compare and contrast to the Wii U days if you must, but whatever way you cut it, the huge buffet of indie delights on eShop is incredibly impressive. For me, that tidy 20-minute Indie World Showcase had one of the most varied and exciting lineups I've seen all summer, and half of them are available right now.
Long may the Switch stork continue to deliver us beautiful bouncing Nindie babies!
'Duh, Switch has lots of great games - did we really need an article about it?' Short answer: yes! 2020 has been a real piece of work, so there's always space for some positivity and optimism.
We're busy working on reviews of games from the Showcase, so look out for those over the coming week or so. Be sure to leave your own drop of positivity below, and let us know your thoughts on anything you've picked up from the presentation.