Could the Switch Bubble Burst Soon?
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I have a concern, perhaps let's call it a worry, about the Nintendo Switch. It’s a great console, it really is. And there’s proof enough of that in the insane rush to get content on the thing that started late 2017 and will assuredly run through 2018. This excitement from developers and publishers is especially tangible in the indie realm, where game after game has reportedly performed so much better on the Switch than on any other platform. It’s in that camp where my concern lies. During year one, games had great discoverability by default. But for year two and onward, I fear that as things are now, the Switch may soon find itself teetering the same line its competition does, ultimately resulting in similar troubles, even if on a smaller scale.

The problems I’m talking about have taken serious root on what used to be bankable territory, namely on PlayStation 4 and Steam. I doubt I need to introduce the idea that it’s hard to find good games on either platform anymore, that don’t already come with pre-baked AAA marketing in tow. There’s just… too much content, and not enough quality control. Small, good games aren’t getting the mindshare they need, and that’s partially because so many new games are coming out every day, everything gets buried in the pile.

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With the Nintendo Switch, that hasn’t become an issue yet. Despite lots of new games coming out, Nintendo still sends out the weekly releases in emails to press and fans, and the volume just isn’t that bad yet. But it could be. A lot of the problem lies in the current, bare-bones design of the Nintendo eShop as it appears on the Switch. Nintendo has generally struggled with this, but even the Wii U and 3DS eShops are more thoughtfully organized that the Switch’s. It’s a mess!

When you log onto the eShop, everything is just a big pile. There’s no genres, categories, or anything, really. You can look at the top sellers, which is fine for games you probably already know about. Or you can, to Nintendo’s credit, look at what’s on sale. Although you probably already know about those games too, and that option wasn’t even available until later. A big list of everything that has come out in chronological order just isn’t good, especially when you have a fat stack of “Nindies” dropping almost every week.

I’m not going to assume a solution is simple, because that’s ridiculous. I am going to assume that plans are in the works for later iteration on the eShop, as it’s pretty clear that, along with everything else, this software came out earlier than originally planned. Nintendo is likely focused on the actual games, along with the Nintendo Switch Online service that has been delayed multiple times already. Perhaps a new infrastructure is in the works for when that launches, since it will bring with it more functions, such as the classic game library. That will need to live somewhere, after all.

Whatever happens, it’s still worth noting that Nintendo has done a lot for smaller games. It isn’t perfect, but the other big publishers hardly bother even putting out marketing materials for indies and other, non-AAA titles. Meanwhile Nintendo does “Nindie Showcase” streams, and includes these games in its Nintendo Direct events as well. Even though a lot of it is tied into marketing and exclusivity deals, that’s still more lip service than you see elsewhere.

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Whatever happens, it’s still worth noting that Nintendo has done a lot for smaller games. It isn’t perfect, but the other big publishers hardly bother even putting out marketing materials for indies and other, non-AAA titles. Meanwhile Nintendo does “Nindie Showcase” streams, and includes these games in its Nintendo Direct events as well. Even though a lot of it is tied into marketing and exclusivity deals, that’s still more lip service than you see elsewhere.

I’m not saying the Switch is going to turn into a disaster after a big, breakout first year, but this is a worry in the back of my head. Whenever something does well or succeeds lately, it feels like everyone swarms in on it at once. We’ve seen a lot of “me too” games do poorly on an individual level, and I’m increasingly wary of curation, or lack thereof, on game platforms that are run more by flawed algorithms than people. But we’ll see how it goes. There’s plenty of time ahead for the Switch, and plenty of time to make it better. But there’s just as much time for things to go sour, and hopefully the smaller developers won’t get the worst of it in that case.

Lucas White
Lucas White
@HokutoNoRucas

Contributing Writer
Date: 12/18/2017

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