Has Nintendo Finally Turned a Corner On Third-Party Support?

Image from Nintendo Enthusiast

Roughly four months ago, I declared that the Nintendo Switch was destined to be stuck in third-party purgatory, and that it’s best hope was to be a first step towards getting back into the good graces of non-Nintendo developers in the future. It seems, however, that the future may have arrived more quickly than I expected.

While much of the Nintendo universe is focused on the 3DS’s new old 2D Metroid and prepping for the Super Mario Odyssey ramp-up, a few interesting news tidbits slipped in slightly under the radar:

Combine these headlines with the success Ubisoft is seeing with its crossover collaboration Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, and it’s fair to wonder: Has Nintendo finally created a platform that other companies really want to be on?

Consider the following:

  • Switch sales got off to a strong start, and six months later the numbers keep getting stronger. The latest absurd numbers: In Japan, “Nintendo has been selling 10 to 14 times the number of Switch consoles that Sony is selling of PS4s.” (emphasis added) Future sales projections are rising, and seem to have reached the point where developers risk leaving some serious money on the table if they don’t support the console.
  • Nintendo has been dinged in the past for being hard for third-party studios to develop for, but the company made a significant effort to fix this problem on the Switch (see: its decision to support Unreal Engine 4). I declared that Nintendo’s historic hostility to third-party developers would haunt them in the short term, but Nintendo’s outreach efforts seem to have mitigated this issue, as Rockstar joins an already-long list of third-party supporters.

So today, Nintendo has a more popular console and a lower barrier of entry than it’s had in quite some time. Why wouldn’t non-Nintendo developers want a piece of this action?

Of course, the concerns I raised back in April haven’t really gone anywhere:

  • Hardware limitations appear to be forcing NBA 2K18 to run at 30 frames per second instead of the standard 60.
  • The use of cartridges has led some developers to impose a “Switch Tax,” and Rockstar is no exception (L.A. Noire physical copies for the Switch will be $10 more expensive than for other consoles).
  • Much like Skyrim, L.A. Noire is a last-gen game that was originally released in 2011. (Also keep in mind that it’s L.A. Noire that’s coming over, and not Grand Theft Auto.)
  • 2K and Rockstar are independent publishers, and franchises associated with other hardware makers (Uncharted, Horizon Zero Dawn) aren’t any closer to appearing on the Switch.

Still, the outlook for third-party games on the Switch is much rosier than it was in April. The hardware limitations can be worked around (Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle only runs at 30fps, and I haven’t noticed or cared), and past history can be countered by the promise of a bright future. The last remaining question is whether or not these games will sell well enough to justify their costs and entice other companies to get in on the fun. If L.A. NoireNBA 2K18, and the rest of the early pioneers succeed, the Switch might find its way out of third-party purgatory after all.