When the dust settled on the Nintendo Switch’s reveal event, fans started to crunch the numbers, and they didn’t like what they found. Despite launching with a new Legend of Zelda game and padding out the spring and summer months with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2, the fledgling console’s launch lineup looked bleak. Today, they can breathe a sigh of relief: The company tells Engadget that more than 60 indie titles are heading to the eShop before the end of the year, and more than a few of them are Nintendo Switch exclusives. In fact, I played a bunch of them at Nintendo’s GDC 2017 software showcase. Spoiler alert: They’re all kind of great.
My full impressions of each game at the Nintendo “Nindie” event can be found in the gallery and video above, but on the whole, the event was a show of commitment, variety and quality. Pocket Rumble stood out as a 8-bit homage to fighting games and portable gaming, and made a great case for the Switch’s local multiplayer, tabletop features. Blaster Master Zero expertly reimagines an NES classic, merging the best of the original game’s regional differences for a Nintendo Switch exclusive experience. There were games like Tumbleseed that challenged common gameplay conventions or others like Mr. Shifty, which remixed old ones with new ideas. Every game at the showcase was fun, unique and creative. Nintendo says that’s the point.
“I think it’s important for us to respect and honor Nintendo fans by procuring original content and unique content from the start,” said Nintendo’s Damon Baker as the event started. He’s spent the last eight months on a new content curation team at Nintendo — a group tasked with making sure the Switch is consistently stocked with new titles, every week, that makes the most of the console’s hybrid features. “We’re curating this content list over 2017,” he said. “We’re also rolling out content on a regular basis. We learned that lesson from the Wii U. We’re not launching with 32 titles on day one.”
The idea that the Wii U had too many games at launch isn’t novel, and Baker isn’t exaggerating with that figure, either. With dozens of games available on the Wii U’s first day, early adopters on a budget inevitably had to choose between Nintendo’s own first party game, or the relative gamble of a day-one port from another console. The safe consumer choice may have led to worse third-party sales early on, and worse third-party support later in the Wii U’s life cycle. A smaller Switch release avoids that possible issue, and gives buyers a smaller, curated list of new games to focus on each week. And that is indeed the plan. “Every week, new games,” Baker said.
Nintendo already has enough indie developers signed on to keep that promise for the Switch’s first year, and the company is actively looking for more. “We’re still taking pitches and evaluating content on a case by case basis,” Baker said. “We’ve made DevKits quite affordable for developers.” It’s a smart sales strategy, one that might keep the Nintendo’s first-party titles from cannibalizing indie and third-party sales on Switch.
More importantly, these Nintendo “Nindie” releases serve to fill the big gaps between those major franchise releases — we may have Breath of the Wild at launch, but Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a month away, Splatoon 2 is an even longer wait and we won’t be playing Super Mario Odyssey until the holiday season. Those may be the games most buyers are buying the Switch for, but it’s this steady stream of strong indie titles that’s going to keep the new console feeling fresh in the meantime — and that’s a huge boon for what had otherwise looked to be a meager console launch.
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