Have Nintendo Created the Perfect Home for Independent Developers?

NINTENDO SWITCH

Ever since its launch back in March last year the Nintendo Switch has been on a roll. Whether we’re talking about console sales, the highly received catalogue of games, increasing support from third parties or simply just the genius of a device offering both home and handheld gaming in one, the Nintendo Switch has had a fantastic opening year.

As is the case with any Nintendo console, it is all too easy to focus on the critical and commercial success of its own first party output, there is another success story that too is worth celebrating – the independent developers. While yes, gamers have been leaping and hopping around the globe as Mario and swinging their fists in ARMS, there are a number of indie developed games that too have seen amazing levels of success whether we’re talking sales or general presence. Developers have already begun spreading the word of their success with the console, some going as far as to claim how Nintendo’s version was in fact the best-selling of the bunch. Lizardcube in particular went on to tell gaming website Gamasutra that they sold “more copies of Wonder Boy on the Switch than the three other platforms we released on combined.” To have the highest performing version is one thing but to have it do so in combined sales of all competing hardware is fantastic and surprising news indeed. Furthermore just looking at the eShop’s top selling chart week on week reveals an environment full of indie developed titles. Games like Golf Story (made by a two person team I might add), Axiom Verge, Overcooked and Jackbox Party Pack 4 stand proudly alongside big budget AAA releases oftentimes higher. It even took the behemoth Super Mario Odyssey to knock Stardew Valley from the top spot, a position it held onto since launch. Clearly consumers are using their Switch consoles for more than just Nintendo’s first party releases.
The Nindies Showcase the publisher has held on two occasions now this year, shows a Nintendo that wants its independent supporters to flourish. The most recent summer Nindies Showcase for example gave smaller projects a chance to shine, both new and previously known. You have to imagine its this sort of treatment that attracts more projects from more teams. There have been comments from indie developers on the improvements they have noticed in working with the Switch over Nintendo’s last effort the Wii U. If we have learned anything from past consoles its that the difficult ones make for a rather unattractive prospect for any developer big and small.
Could all this success come down to the fact the Switch is still in its freshmen year? Excitement for any new console is always high so could this encourage consumer purchases? Nintendo’s eShop is also still growing its quantity of content at the moment making for a less crowded environment and therefore offering a better chance to have a product noticed. Similarly the number of physical releases on the device is relatively low in comparison to its competitors again giving eShop downloads more chance to breathe. With both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One nearly four years old, both their physical and digital libraries are huge meaning more competitors and more ways to get lost. Perhaps that is too pessimistic a view and maybe it’s down to the appeal of being able to play these multiformat titles at home or on the go. I must admit when any indie title catches my eye, I’m always keeping an eye out for a Switch version because mobility is a big selling point.
It will certainly be interesting to see if this momentum continues for the indies. Looking onwards there’s plenty of notable names still to come including Super Meat Boy Forever, Nine Parchments, Travis Strikes back and a little game you may have heard of called Rocket League. If these and the many more coming down the pipe share the same level of success Nintendo will have the reliable first party content, a growing third party selection and perhaps one of the strongest indie showings the publisher has seen in a long time. The next twelve months should prove interesting.