Can Nintendo Sustain Switch’s Success Without AAA Third Party Support Like PS4 and Xbox One Have?

Xbox and PlayStation are getting the biggest games on the market, and Switch is not- can it survive without them?

Posted By | On 31st, May. 2017 Under Article, Editorials | Follow This Author @Pramath1605


At this point, there is no doubt remaining that the Nintendo Switch is a runaway success. Not only is the system breaking records for Nintendo, but its success seems to be single handedly buoying up other partners associated with it too, including Nvidia, who designed the SoC and development environment for it, and major retailers stocking it. The Switch has broken hardware and software records, and has, since launch, been the top selling gaming system around the world, with Switch games constantly dominating the charts, too.

So yes, Nintendo is back, and the Switch is a success. There is no denying that. The question for Nintendo, and for people who are invested in a Switch now, however, is how long the system can actually survive without major western AAA third party support- of which it has very little, or none at all.

Major western games due to launch on the Switch include FIFA, NBA 2K18, and Skyrim– the latter is a port of a six year old game (albeit an incredible six year old game). That’s actually a pretty dire slate of western support for the system. Every day, more major western third party games are either announced or released without a Switch version thrown into the mix- since the Switch’s launch, notable games of this nature have included Mass Effect Andromeda, Call of Duty: World War 2, Prey, Injustice 2, Destiny 2, Star Wars Battlefront 2, and Far Cry 5. The general message, in spite of all the diplomatic posturing and various excuses given by third parties for skipping the Switch, seems to be clear- the Nintendo Switch will not get major AAA third party games.

"The general sentiment is that support for the Nintendo Switch cannot be in the vein of traditional AAA experiences. EA for example said that Nintendo Switch brings a ‘new audience’ to the fold, and is eager to serve that new audience."

And even when the common sentiment around the system has changed, owing to its unexpected success – EA admitted that the system is selling more than it expected, and that it will look into supporting it with more games now – the general sentiment is that support for the Nintendo Switch cannot be in the vein of traditional AAA experiences. No, instead, EA for example said that Nintendo Switch brings a ‘new audience’ to the fold, and is eager to serve that new audience. The interpretation of this, based on precedence with the Wii, which similarly launched with little third party support, and had third parties sit up and take notice of it once it started selling well, is hard to ignore- games on the Switch will be smaller, side projects, made to cash in on the Switch’s install base. There will be no major support for the Switch. It may get a spin off Destiny experience, but Destiny 2 is off the table.

On some level, it’s even hard to blame third parties here- ignoring the historical struggle that most western third parties have had on Nintendo hardware, the Switch is technologically not on the same level as the Xbox One and PS4, and is far too different (utilizing an ARM architecture, rather than x86). Porting to it is possible, thanks to Nvidia’s excellent development environment for it, but also a hassle. Throw in other limitations the platform has, like its online network, and it’s hard to blame western third parties too much.

But even if we were to assume that third parties are on board, and will support the Switch fully, after seeing its sales- one must take into account the typical development cycle of a AAA game. If the Switch’s sustained success these past two months has changed the minds of third parties, and they start commissioning Switch versions for each new game that begins development, then we are not going to start seeing Switch support from third parties for another 2-3 years at the very earliest.

All of this brings us back to the same central point: the Switch is selling now. But can it continue to do so without major western AAA third party support? How can Nintendo maintain momentum for the device in the absence of that support, which the PS4 and Xbox One do get?

"How can Nintendo maintain momentum for the device in the absence of that support, which the PS4 and Xbox One do get?"

The most basic answer is, Nintendo will sell the Switch just fine even without that support. In fact, arguably the most appealing thing about the Switch is that it presents an entirely alternate ecosystem of games for a new purchaser to buy into. Not only do they get access to Nintendo games, but third party support from Japan seems to be extremely strong for the new hybrid, and indie developers appear to be fully on board, too. I have said this before, but the Switch is fully capable of selling as a complement to your existing PC, PlayStation, or Xbox, rather than a replacement- if you own one of those machines, the Switch is the perfect machine to buy to go along with them. But you are not, or very few of you are, going to buy a Switch as your primary gaming device of choice.

The argument I hear is, Nintendo games and Japanese games are clearly not enough to sell a system by themselves- for the latter, the argument no longer holds true, as the sales success of multiple Japanese games over the last few months, including Persona 5, Nier Automata, Resident Evil 7, Yakuza 0, The Last Guardian, and Final Fantasy 15 has shown. For the former, the argument is, ‘if Nintendo games were enough to sell a system, the Wii U would not have flopped.’ Which is a really short sighted argument that deliberately omits perspective and context. Because Nintendo games didn’t sell the Wii U, they sold a far more appealing system in that same generation, and one that was cheaper, too- the 3DS. The 3DS lacked the kind of major third party support that the DS or Gameboy got- and yet it sold 65 million units (and counting!) worldwide, in a post smartphone world. How and why did it do so, especially in the west, which is where the bulk of its sales come from? It did so purely on the strength of the Nintendo games on offer. People bought it because it was a cheap way to play Mario, Pokemon, Animal Crossing, Fire Emblem, Mario Kart, and even Super Smash Bros., which until the 3DS had been exclusive to Nintendo consoles.

But there is no other device to distract from the Switch- if you want to play Nintendo games, the Switch is literally your only option. And sales of the 3DS, not to mention previous Nintendo handhelds, demonstrate that a lot of people want to play Nintendo games.

"If you want an example of what happens when Nintendo makes an appealing system and markets it well, and sells it on the back of only its games – and really, at launch, game, singular – then look at the Switch and its record breaking sales."

This also misses a few other points- the Wii U never had Nintendo’s full backing (major Nintendo franchises completely skipped the Wii U, or got diminished installments, even as they saw multiple entries on the 3DS- such as Zelda, Metroid, Kirby, Animal Crossing, Fire Emblem, and even Mario). Most of Nintendo’s games for the Wii U, while accomplished, were highly unambitious- and no one wants to buy a $300 console that is unappealing just to play a bunch of 2D sidescrollers, no matter how great those 2D sidescrollers are. The Wii U itself was an unappealing machine, straddled with a self defeating concept that never worked, never took off, and was never utilized even by Nintendo. And most people didn’t even know the Wii U existed, or that it was a separate, new system of its own. Nintendo utterly failed at marketing the device.

Indeed, if you want an example of what happens when Nintendo makes an appealing system and markets it well, and sells it on the back of only its games – and really, at launch, game, singular – then look at the Switch and its record breaking sales.

All of which is to say- yes, the Switch is successful now, but also yes, it faces a challenge. It’s an expensive system, and it won’t be getting most, if any, of the major western games that are available on PlayStation or Xbox. But I also think it doesn’t need to get those games- it’s selling as a perfect complement to those experiences, as an alternate ecosystem. The Nintendo Switch is selling to the same audience that bought a GBA to go with their PS2, a Nintendo DS to go with their Xbox 360, a 3DS to go with their PS4. It’s selling to everyone who loves Nintendo games, and now will have absolutely no choice but to buy a Switch if they want to play them. History shows us that there are millions of people out there who fall in that category.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to GamingBolt as an organization.


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  • STRIKE

    No it wont. 3rd party games are as important as 1st party games. Microsoft even with its few 1st party games still has a bigger game library than Nintendo thanks to 3rd party games.

    • Mark

      Yeah but Wii sold more than both last gen systems without 3rd parties. I feel like you, I need those big multiplats, but the Switch is sellin to people who are on the go, and those people will just get a PS4 or X1 for the big games and the big screen

    • STRIKE

      Thats true.

    • ruefrak

      Wii sold because Wii Sports was compelling. People I never in a million years thought would be a game console, bought one for Wii Sports bowling. It was marketed as a fun way to stay healthy. 3rd party support or the lack of it, was not a factor in Wii’s success.

    • Hiyperion

      And because it was something that delivered a truly unique experience, basically something you “had” to try. Today a handheld is not something unique, it wouldn’t have been 7 years ago, let alone today.

      And the HW is atrociously sub-par, which in turn means games, especially the ones designed around the ps4/xb1 let alone the Pro/Scorpio will have to be scaled down … if the engine can work on the Switch HW in the first place. So no RDR2, Battlefront 2, Cyberpunk 2077, Far Cry 5 etc. and those titles are system sellers, titles that will not be on the Switch due to it’s HW.

      And It’s because of those reasons that I’m expecting the sales to drop of considerably in the near future.

    • ruefrak

      So you think that these record sales happening now are because Switch is selling to a dedicated group of gamers? I can see how there are a group of 5-10 million gaming fans who will buy into any new Nintendo console. I guess once we hit a higher level, we’ll see what the real demand is.

    • Hiyperion

      “record sales” for what exactly, not being negative, I would just like to know what is the comparison with?

      Imo it’s selling to Nintendo fans and casuals, but it’s not cheap enough imo. The Wii U has seen good sales as well in the first half of it’s life cycle, but those sales drastically dropped afterwards (btw I got one).

      The reasoning here is that you can get a tablet/phone that could play games and do a lot more, tough minus the Nintendo exclusives, but I doubt a casual would care that much. You’re right tough time will tell.

    • ruefrak

      The “record sales” jargon come directly from Nintendo. They’re comparing sales of Switch to sales of other Nintendo consoles, and the Wii specifically. My issue with that is both Wii and Switch were sold out for months. So if Switch is outselling Wii, that’s not a measurement of customer demand but rather points out that Nintendo has improved manufacturing.

      I didn’t get a Wii U because I was a Wii owner and still felt burned by the lack of 3rd party games. Maybe I will get the Switch down the road, but I want to see how things go. Year one looks good with Zelda, but beyond that, I’m not sure. Maybe it will be the biggest thing ever, maybe it crashes. It’s just too cloudy right now to really tell.

    • Hiyperion

      Thanks for the info.

      I have the Wii as well, got it more because of the hype surrounding the “revolutionary” way you play the games than the games it offered and albeit the 3rd party support was
      atrociously lacking in comparison with the competition I still got a Wii U … which made me question the Switch quite a bit, and that’s before I learned about the specs.

      I keep mentioning those for a reason. With the HW being so under-powered, like 3 cores for games vs 7 with the
      ps4/xb1 and the amount of ram being half as well in comparison, it puts into question if devs, or more to the point, the publishers would go out of their way to downscale the engines enough to support the Switch – a long and expensive prospect.

      We already head the Titanfall 2 dev laughing about the idea of the game being ported to the Switch, and than there is this as well:

      http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2017-05-26-theres-fifa-18-and-theres-ea-sports-fifa-on-the-nintendo-switch

      Consequently this makes it quite the impossibility for more demanding games/engines to appear on the Switch without considerable alterations, if at all.

      Will still (probably) get the Switch eventually as well, tough only when there are more games and the price comes down a bit, but mostly to make sure I’m not rushing into a bad decision yet again.

      In regards to it’s success, yeah, too early to tell… but can’t shake this feeling of deja vu I’m having.

    • DevilDogA99

      Don’t forget how cheap it was. That was one of its biggest selling points and one of the main reasons I don’t think the Switch will do well. For the price, you get allot more out of PS4.

    • Mark

      True. Ninty’s playin it risky with the current price

    • DevilDogA99

      Hopefully were looking at a price drop this fall. Nintendo drops the price usually after six months. So if no price drop I’m sure we will see a good bundle. The sweet spot will be next Christmas. Good deal then and by then we will know for sure if the Switch will flop.

  • Starman

    “Like Sony and Microsoft”
    Aaaaa hahaha !
    That’s the only way Sony survive from the beginning of this gen ……because of the third party deals .
    All of you journalist need to stop with the obvious.

    • Mr Xrat

      Switch and PS4 are gonna give you a spanking.

  • Mark

    Yes, I mean no it doesn’t need to

  • SalvagedXBot

    Nintendo’s market is somewhat different and doesn’t completely overlap with the market that Sony and Microsoft compete in. Nintendo in recent times has never really concerned itself with “hardcore” 3rd parity games and it has been successful in the past (the wii) while ignoring them and providing mainly 1P experiences. The switch is also marketed on it’s portability instead of it’s raw performance. The switch will continue to be a winner and casual 3rd party support will probably improve.

  • Mavericks

    “to it is possible, thanks to Nvidia’s excellent development environment for it, but also a hassle.”
    I’d like to see more a deep article about that. I just can’t even imagine how to fit 7 x86 faster threads into 3 slower threads on ARM.

    Only if a real magic happens here, otherwise it’s going to be a really simplified experience of the existing game.

    • Hiyperion

      RDR2 … or any other big triple A on the Switch?! On a 3 core ARM? While MS and Sony released upgraded versions (especially MS) of their consoles, which means development will eventually shift to those specs? I would like to see a devs (a big triple A dev) take on that.

    • Si2k78

      Development will focus on the specs of the leading platform, so not PS4 pro or scorpio.

    • Hiyperion

      Indeed, tough the minimal specs criteria will still be the ps4 which is quite beyond the Switch. But with more power it gets easier for the devs, as less optimization (i.e. more dev time) is needed – also depending on the dev tools.

      And at least in the case of the Scorpio it might be that the version of the game will be closer to that of the PC i.e. 60fps, visuals etc. far beyond the specs of the Switch which in turn means that the engines will have to be modified/simplified to run on the HW in question.

      In regards to Sony the question is when are they launching the ps5 and how long and if Scorpio will overtake the xb1 in sales in a couple of years. My point was a comparison with what Nintendo released and what Sony did and MS will be. Also there is the option of MS and/or Sony to pay for a better looking game on their respective platform.

    • Si2k78

      Optimization exist for all platforms, and there are cost to developing for any platform regardless of power, which is the exact reason publishers and developers need to release their games on as many systems as they can. If unreal engine 4 development progress is any indication, the switch is a more viable system for multiplatform games than you’re suggesting.

      https://www.gamespot.com/articles/nintendo-switch-now-fully-compatible-with-unreal-e/1100-6450316/

    • Hiyperion

      Optimizations do indeed exist on all platforms, but with more power devs don’t need to try to limit a game that is on platform A to work on platform B.

      UE4 will work on the Switch, but don’t expect Gears of War 4 to be able to run on the platform. In regards to “releasing on as many platforms as they can” not if they don’t see a return if releasing a game on a certain platform i.e. spending money on making sure a game runs and works on the Switch just to see it not sell or sell poorly is a reason as to why they might not do it.

      http://wccftech.com/switch-underpowered-third-party-support/

    • Si2k78

      Usually, a business won’t see a return on invesent if the platform under consideration has a low user base. At the rate the switch is selling, it will have a substantial userbase. Your argument is mute, friend.

    • Hiyperion

      My argument is mute because of? Substantial userbase of mostly Nintendo fans and some casuals (and we have yet to see what the sales amount too), the same people who don’t buy anything but Nintendo exclusives, which in turns means the “business” will think twice about porting a game people potentially won’t be buying on the Switch – but, and to follow my own advice, it is true we have yet to see how well 3rd party games sell on the system.

      I remember a time when Ubisoft and EA (and some others) were fully aboard with supporting the Wii U, we know how that turned out.

      And again, the specs of the Switch are considerably lower than the ps4s which in turn means a lot of work in making something like Battlefront 2 or RDR2 work on the system.

      http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2017-05-26-theres-fifa-18-and-theres-ea-sports-fifa-on-the-nintendo-switch

      Btw I own both the Wii U and the Wii and will probably get the Switch for the Nintendo games.

    • Si2k78

      The issue with your argument is, you are using speculation and passing it off as fact. The truth is, major third parties weren’t on board with the switch prior to luanch, but exceptional sales during the first 3 months has caused businesses to reconsider their level of support, and that’s a fact. With regards to “work” that goes into porting, unless you are a developer, or have developed games in the past, your suggestion that it takes considerable more work is just your opinion. The fact is, multiple reports have stated that the development environment and the tools made available by NVIDIA for the switch have made development easier and not more difficult. With regards to power, no one is claiming the switch version of multiplatform games will look better than their PS4 counterparts, but recent comparisons on digital foundry have found that the switch versions have produced comparable or at worst, acceptable results.

    • Hiyperion

      Yeah, I’m guilty of that, but at the same time I did provide links to what an actual developer has stated and even more to the point the next Fifa game and what exactly is going to be presented on the Switch.

      I did read about the ease of development, but how much of that will translate into the porting being as easy as they claim it is remains to be seen.

      And still, I have yet to see a modern/new big triple A game being announced on the switch. And you don’t need to be a dev to realize that there will be problems when you have less than half the cores, half the ram, and far lower BW etc. than the competition … I don’t worry about acceptable, but if the big triple A (aka very graphically taxing games) will even appear on the switch i.e. Battlefront 2, RDR2, Cyberpunk 2077 etc. and to that point I posted the DF article about the next Fifa, sport games aren’t something I would call “very” taxing.

      Btw I really hope Nintendo makes it back, I’m a bit frustrated because of what happened with the Wii U and the Wii and the lack of 3rd party and some good marketing, I do hope you don’t take this as an agressive stance towards you or Nintendo mate =)

    • Si2k78

      Let’s see what E3 has in store. Excited!

  • stopbeingafanboy

    If they announce Metroid prime 4, then I’ll buy a switch the day it comes out.

  • Mr Xrat

    The Switch is certainly doing better than the Wii U which has more third party launch games and more announced too. I don’t think a lack of third party support will prevent success, but it will stunt that growth and restrict the market Nintendo could exploit.

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  • Quantity of Quality

    The Wii U had so much 3rd Party support but we all know how it went down with that…

  • Riggybro

    I want a Switch because it is nothing like PS and XB.

    It is a real alternative (or addition) to those two.

  • Si2k78

    Sorry, but it doesn’t take 2-3 years to port a game. So we’ll likely see ports much sooner than that once 3rd parties start to commit resources to a switch version of their games currently in development.

    • DevilDogA99

      The big question is, can allot of those games play on the Switch and is that game online centered? Because online games wont sound that good on the Switch (it being portable) and anything above the smaller indie projects will struggle to be ported. They have to be made from the ground up, you can’t just lower the graphics. That’s why you won’t see allot of big AAA 3RD party games coming out this year, on the Switch. They needed to add the Switch version, into development a long time ago.

    • Hiyperion

      Exactly, that’s why this exists:

      http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2017-05-26-theres-fifa-18-and-theres-ea-sports-fifa-on-the-nintendo-switch

      I’m not against the Switch, but the truth of the matter is that those specs are far to low, not sure what kind of 3rd party support was Nintendo expecting with coming out with such an under-powered system.

    • DevilDogA99

      I’m not against the Switch either, I’m actually just upset at Nintendo for choosing this route. I expected so much more and was hyped after the teaser video for the Switch. The actual reveal was dis pointing to say the least.
      What were you saying about Nintendo games with that link? Maybe that even games that are coming from 3rd party are going to be wonky? If the headset for the Switch they reveled today is any indication, I’d say so. Damn thing is very cumbersome.

    • Hiyperion

      Yeah. Well, I’ve heard the Fifa rumor quite some time ago, it’s basically implying that the Switch can’t run Frostbite 3 and has to rely on an engine that was made for the 360/ps3. Basically the Switch version of the game will look nothing like the PS4/xb1 version and consequently any game made with Frostbite 3 (i.e. Battlefront 2, next Battlefield etc.) is most probably not coming to the Switch =/

      And, as if any of that wasn’t enough, there is this:

      http://wccftech.com/switch-underpowered-third-party-support/

    • DevilDogA99

      Ya see that’s one of my big gripes. They just said forget it to 3rd party developers. Having the option to take any 3rd party game I want on the go, would be a system seller. They should have just made a thicker more powerful console.

  • DevilDogA99

    So first off, the current numbers are nothing fantastic and sit in their respectable categories. It’s selling just as well as several other Nintendo products at this point, the big what if, comes in after its been out for six months. That’s when the Nintendo Faithful have all but purchased it and the casuals must be convinced to buy. With that info, it’s easy to say that its to early to claim that Nintendo is back and that the Switch is a success, it could easily drop off. The Gamecube and Wii-U had similar numbers at this time. So if your question is “can it survive without big AAA 3rd party support” the obvious answer is no. Come this fall, everyone will move onto the new shiny thing and buy the game device that has all the games/allot of games to offer. A better question to ask is ” Will the Switch be everyone’s second console to buy this fall?” because the answer to that is a resounding yes. The three to four really great games the Switch has, will easily outshine the Scorpio.

    • Hiyperion

      Thank you, people are saying the system is selling phenomenally, but in comparison with what? The ps4/xb1? Systems that have been out for how long now, systems that most of the people that wanted one or both got them, so Switch is a novelty in the console space, but not in general.

    • Si2k78

      In comparison to historical precedence and business practices. For a system to sell this many units during the “slow” months of March and April and not requiring the typical holiday shopping season to push units, it says a lot about its appeal. Nintendo fans typically won’t pay the absorbent markups we are seeing in the secondary market right, but some people are.

    • DevilDogA99

      That’s easily explained by the low Wii-U unit sells. Nintendo fans are clamoring for anything and hoping this works out. Plus it’s the new shiny thing. Also I’m not sure out of season really matters. Sony just released allot of games earlier this year and that’s not normal either.

    • Si2k78

      Seasonal shopping accounts for 50% of annual sales for many industries, so selling well during the slow seasons does have a significant meaning. A lot of games are being released now for the PS4 because maybe it’s been out for 4 years and development has wrapped up. It was bound to get quality releases after 4 years on the market.

    • DevilDogA99

      Very true but again, it selling well now doesn’t mean anything. I can easily assume that if a PS5 came out in February, that it would sell really well, I don’t think anyone would doubt that. ( Of course only if it was later on in the PS4s life cycle, its to early for one right now) It’s the new shiny better tech on the block. Come September, that will be the big game changer, that’s when Nintendo sells will drop unless they drop price/good bundle.

    • Si2k78

      Actually, the switch has the potential to be a primary console. The appeal of it right now is it’s ability to allow you to play games when you want, and importantly, where you want. For a large number of young adults right now, spending 3-4 hours in front of the tv for games may not be a realistic proposition, but playing a game for an hour during the cummute to and from work, an hour at lunch, 20 minutes on be crapper, and then an hour on the tv when we get home, it’s allowed for gaming to fit in our lives again. This is an incredibly powerful proposition, and would seriously make people consider picking up the switch version of a game over the ps4/xbone version, even with a graphics downgrade.

      https://www.theverge.com/2017/3/21/14985854/nintendo-switch-open-world-games-zelda-mass-effect-persona

    • DevilDogA99

      Totally understand and agree but the lack of games and that 3hr battery life is a killer. Honestly, if I wanted to play on the go, I’d buy a 3Ds. So they are competing against themselves.

  • JJ

    The questions are A) How many millions are the core Nintendo audience (myself included in this category)? B) How many primarily Sony, MS and Steam/PC gamers are interested in Switch? C) How many new casuals has Nintendo brought in with their new clever add campaign for Switch and D) How many lapsed Nintendo gamers have been brought back through Mobile, NES Classic, etc who now want a Switch?

  • dead fanboy

    Xbox Scorpio/XB1 S is set to dominate this holiday season August – December with a great exclusive games line up and definitive edition of multiplats and Microsoft will have both the most powerful and least expensive consoles.
    Xbox Scorpio – $499.99
    XB1 S 1TB – $299.99
    XB1 S 500GB – $199.99

    PS4 Pro – $399.99
    Ps4 Slim 1TB – $299.99

    Nintendo Switch – $299.99

    Xbox Game Pass over 100 games for $9.99


 

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