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