The outlook for Nintendo right now is light years apart from what it was just a few years ago. Back then, asking a fan what third-party titles they were looking forward to would be a very different experience. In fact, chances are they would laugh in your face (either that, or just weep uncontrollably).
Now, in 2017, most of the ominous grey clouds above Nintendo’s offices seem to have blown away. With numerous developers, both big and small, flocking to get their games on the system, things aren’t looking nearly as bleak. While the schedule isn’t as extensive as its multiplatform cousins by any means, it’s a great start that few expected.
Despite this, though, the question still remains: how long will this influx last? While things are looking good, for now, there are plenty of limiting factors that could contribute to a premature end to the honeymoon.
Talking ‘Bout My Generation
First of all, we need to discuss the fact that almost all third-party offerings have been, for lack of a better word, old. In some cases, really old. Skyrim, for instance, originally came out in 2011, during the last console generation. While I’m not going to dispute its status as a great game, it’s not exactly very current or avant-garde.
There are probably some people left in the world who only play on Nintendo consoles. Obviously, in cases such as this, ports of fairly old games are no bad thing. It will allow newcomers to play titles that, not long ago, wouldn’t have even been considered for a release on a Nintendo platform.
However, these are without question in the minority. Most avid gamers who own a Switch do so in a ‘secondary console’ capacity, something which was also true of the Wii U. Plus, there are so many Skyrim ports out there now, chances are it can probably be played on a microwave. Basically, everyone and their dog has played it already. And, since the Switch edition is so late to the party, newcomers are a distinct improbability.
Hence, Skyrim for Switch will rely almost entirely on people buying into the portability gimmick. For some, including my Bethesda-brainwashed-self, this alone will sell it. But asking full price for a graphically inferior release of a six-year-old game is asking an awful lot, however you slice it. I can’t help but worry that few consumers will be agreeable to it.
Rime of the Outdated Releases
An even bigger issue comes about when a game is released downright broken and/or unfinished. Such is the case with the very recently-released Rime. Almost unanimously, players online have complained of serious framerate stutters, rendering the game almost unplayable. This is something which others games on the platform have experienced, although not yet to such a degree. The developers have offered an explanation, citing issues with loading, but its likely to do major damage to sales regardless.
Anyone who was looking forward to Rime‘s release on Switch, but decided to wait for reviews, is now likely to avoid a purchase. This is a real problem, especially for a small indie studio like Tequila Works. Porting games is costly no matter the studio size, eating up not just money but also resources and valuable development time. Ideally, this would be recuperated by strong sales, but this is looking less and less likely.
I completely understand the developers’ plight. It’s clear that they were faced with a nigh on impossible choice. One potential option would have been to cancel the port. In doing so, however, they would have not only wasted all their previous efforts but also disappointed fans. Admirably, they chose to try and deliver on their promise as best they could. It’s a shame that it couldn’t have turned out better.
It’s clear, then, that there are a host of limiting factors that could weaken sales. When a lot of third-party studios are using this as a trial, to gauge whether or not they should develop for the system further, that’s a real concern. EA, for instance, defecated out their less than half-hearted FIFA port, and can now blame poor sales for not trying in future.
Simply The Best(thesda)
Bethesda has gone far further than anyone else, though. With two ports out just this year and another one promised for 2018, they’ve truly gone above and beyond. The only problem is, if these efforts don’t sell, we probably won’t see anything from Bethesda on a Nintendo console ever again. So, no pressure.
It’s not all Doom and gloom though (get it?) Ultra Street Fighter II exceeded Capcom’s forecasts, despite its frankly ludicrous price point. Essentially, it sold way more than it deserved to. This may be chalked up as being something else to play around launch, but who knows? Maybe people really were itching to beat up Ken in a retro art style.
I guess we’ll find out soon enough if third-parties deem the Switch to be a worthwhile endeavor. In the meantime, everyone please buy Skyrim for the fifth time, and maybe we’ll convince them.