Nintendo has always been perceived as the family-friendly option for gaming, and it’s easy to see why. Mascots like Mario, Kirby, the Pikmin, and the cast of Animal Crossing, despite being highly acclaimed series, are always coated with an ESRB rating that invites a younger crowd. Of course, plenty of adults (like myself) play and enjoy these games as well. But with Sony, Microsoft, and game developers often catering to the largest gaming audience, namely the male, 18-35-year-old demographic, Nintendo has had a hard time blending in with that crowd, even with their franchises that notch a bit higher on the age scale. They have an action-adventure game in Zelda, but it’s no God of War. They have a squad-based shooter with Splatoon, but it’s no Gears of War. There’s the first-person shooter Metroid Prime, but it’s a far cry from Far Cry.
But then again, Nintendo has also not closed its doors completely to M-rated games. Bayonetta 2 shocked the gaming world when it came exclusively to the Wii U. Suda51 delivered No More Heroes originally exclusively to the Wii. The Mortal Kombat series has found a home on multiple Nintendo consoles. And the profanity-riddled Conker’s Bad Fur Day dropped jaws when it launched on the N64. There have been other adult slanted games release on Nintendo systems, yet somehow they still retain the moniker of being the kiddie console maker.
Now we have the Switch, and things may be changing. It launched with The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth +. Recent Nintendo Directs have revealed Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, DOOM, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and Resident Evil: Revelations, all coming to the platform. Even Rockstar announced a remastered version of L.A. Noire for the Switch. With the unquestioned success thus far of Nintendo’s new console, publishers and developers are flocking to the Nintendo brass, eager to make a profit by putting their titles on the Switch. So what does this flood of support mean? Is Nintendo going to open its doors to every Mature labeled game that wants in?
The likely answer is no. Nintendo may be making many closed door deals right now, but Nintendo has always had high standards when it comes to what is allowed on its consoles. Reggie Fils-Aime and other public Nintendo figures have always claimed that it has to be the right fit for Nintendo. It’s about the substance of a particular game, not just the developer, and how broad the age appeal is. So we might get Red Dead Redemption 2 for the Switch, but I doubt we’ll see Grand Theft Auto V on it. Ubisoft is a big supporter of the new console, and I could easily see Assassin’s Creed thrusting those hidden blades on the Switch, but I can’t picture For Honor or every Tom Clancy game bloating the hybrid’s hard drive.
It's a two-way street as well, with some devs and publishers not seeing the profit of throwing all their titles at Nintendo. Activision has already given Skylanders the nod on the Switch, but there are currently no plans to offer up Call of Duty. Bungie is holding back Destiny 2, though this could be due to the limitations of the Switch’s online architecture and that reasoning could change once Nintendo’s Online Service is fully implemented next year.
Nintendo has always whistled their own tune, and I don’t see the Switch, even with its popularity mushrooming, trying to suckle the teat of every willing game maker just to load its library. Nintendo wants to embrace a wider audience, but without entering the power struggle arena with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. There will be more M-rated games on the Switch for sure, but Nintendo will walk a fine line between attracting the disillusioned hardcore gamers and keeping their faithful followers satisfied and not alienated. The bottom line is that the lineup of games, from E ratings to M, is growing for the Switch, giving everyone who owns or is planning to purchase the console something to look forward to.
Image Credit: Sigurd Hosenfeld