Nintendo has recognized the success of many third-party releases on Switch, and in a recent Q&A session of Nintendo’s 2020 Investor’s Briefing, President Furukawa addressed the matter. When asked what kind of impact does Nintendo think that third-party games have made on Nintendo Switch, Furukawa admitted that the company cannot make games for the variety of genres that third-party companies have jumped in to support. He stated that these titles “enriches the Nintendo Switch gaming experience” and Nintendo is “grateful” to have the support. Furukawa also stated that sales of both first and third-party titles on the platform are increasing due to the rise in console sales, and Nintendo wants the Switch “to be a platform on which both can continue to sell well.”
The Nintendo Switch has games—and lots of them. Out of just about every Nintendo system before it, except perhaps the Wii and DS, the Switch has amassed an absolutely massive collection of titles from third-party developers. This is in stark contrast to the dry spells that helped cripple the Wii U, and even other systems like the Gamecube and stinted the growth of the Nintendo 64.
The third-party race
Of course, Nintendo is no stranger to doing business with third-party companies. However, the company’s history with these other studios is a bit rocky, to say the least. Back in the good ol’ days of the 8-bit and 16-bit eras, Nintendo had a massive stronghold on the entire industry. As a result, it sort of set the tone for how business was operated, to the dismay of some studios. The arrival of big contenders in the form of Sony and SEGA finally gave third-parties more liberty, and many took advantage of it.
The arrival of the Nintendo 64 was the first big act of defiance from Nintendo in keeping in step with the rest of the industry, as it opted to continue with cartridge technology in a world of CDs. This caused some games not to be able to fit on the system, thus limiting support. The Gamecube had a similar issue with the use of mini discs rather than DVDs. With the Wii, DS, and subsequently the Wii U and 3DS, Nintendo opted to focus on gameplay experiences rather than graphical prowess. This made some games flat out impossible to make for these systems compared to their respective competitors.
With the Switch, Nintendo seems to have finally found a solid middle-ground. It’s still managed to stay on its path of innovation by producing the world’s first true hybrid system, while also not skimping out too heavily on power and also having modern development tools. All of this has led to several ports of high-profile games on the Switch. That said, a worrying chunk of these ports do suffer in terms of performance and visuals, but in the hands of the right studios, there have been some home runs. On top of this, Nintendo has made a staggering effort to coerce indie developers into its court over the past few years. This has paid off nicely, as there’s a massive amount of indie games flowing into the Switch’s catalog at any given time.
The biggest problem for the Switch moving forward is the recent arrival of the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S. With this new generation of hardware, the Switch’s power limitations are more egregious than ever. It’s going to become increasingly harder for the hybrid to keep up with newer titles. That said, developers aren’t likely to ignore the 68+ million install base that the Switch has. If sales keep running, support should remain consistent.
During this same Q&A session, President Furukawa stated that Nintendo expects the Switch to have a longer life cycle than past systems. Support from third-parties and indies will be crucial in helping the Big N achieve that goal.