With this year’s E3 now effectively over, all of the major developers have already made their announcements regarding what gamers can expect in the coming months. And whilst Microsoft can be criticized for not adequately demonstrating the technical prowess of their XBox One X console via exclusive first party content, it must be acknowledged that their forthcoming system is still going to receive plenty of content that will be tailor-made towards the machine. Indeed, Microsoft were resoundingly confident in their XBox ecosystem when the company demonstrated 42 games during their E3 press conference.
So whilst Microsoft have gone out of their way to convince audiences that their XBox One X console will be earnestly supported by the development community, even if their E3 presentation was lackluster in first party content, what can’t be argued is that major third party companies (such as Ubisoft and EA) are already tailoring their biggest AAA titles (like Assassin’s Creed Origins and Anthem) towards the “true 4K” machine. All of this adequately demonstrates that third parties are wholeheartedly convinced by Microsoft’s sales pitch, and are willing to invest significant resources in wanting to develop for a platform that isn’t even out in the marketplace for another 5 months and hasn’t even had the ability to prove itself.
So if third parties can make the necessary concessions in wanting to develop for an untried and untested platform, why is it that despite Nintendo’s proclamations in announcing a comprehensive Switch Partners list, that there still exists a significant lack of forthcoming content from many of the more prominent developers – despite the Switch having already been out on the market for 3 months?
At this year’s E3, many of the biggest third party games failed to account for the Nintendo Switch as being a platform that they’ll be appearing on. Indeed, almost every AAA game was curiously absent from the Switch release calendar – with the list of titles including (but not being limited to) the following:
Monster Hunter World (a franchise title that was previously exclusive to Nintendo).
Beyond Good and Evil 2
Call Of Duty WWII
Life is Strange: Before the Storm
Evil Within 2
Assassins Creed Origin
Dragon Ball Fighter Z (a game that’s resoundingly “Japanese”, and yet still manages to release on a console brand that’s largely failed to gain traction in Japan).
Even if Nintendo did have a favourable showing of what Switch owners can expect, their Direct presentation still failed to demonstrate an adequate amount of games coming to the platform. So whilst Super Mario Odyssey does indeed look incredibly promising, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 however is a game that suffers in its commercial appeal as a result of its RPG lineage. At the same time, and whilst one can’t dismiss the inherent quality or amount of reverence that fans place upon Kirby, Yoshi, and Fire Emblem, those franchises have never been major sellers in the West.
So what else can Switch owners expect in the coming months? Well, there are third party offerings in the form of Rocket League and Skyrim – both games which are already arguably passe as Sony and Microsoft gamers have been enjoying these on their (considerably less expensive) systems for a number of years. And then there are token gestures from some of the biggest publishers in the form of EA’s FIFA 18 (a game which suggests that EA aren’t entirely committed to the Switch platform as the company isn’t prepared to invest the necessary resources in porting over its Frotbite engine), Ubisoft’s Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (but no mention of Beyond Good and Evil 2 or Assassins Creed Origin), Take-Two Interactive’s NBA 2K18 (but no mention of Red Dead Redemption 2 or even a late port of Grand Theft Auto 5), as well as WB Games’ Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 (but no mention of Middle-earth: Shadow of War – even if the publisher deemed it financially viable to release its prequel on XBox 360 and PS3 systems despite those ports not having the Nemesis system).
If one were to be honest however, one can’t entirely surprised by the lack of third party support which the Switch has garnered thus far, for Nintendo has a long history of neglecting third party relations, and has also done little to incentivize developers into ensuring that their games are easy to port across to on the hybrid system. Porting a game costs money, with the amount required increasing immensely due to the system being based on a different architecture (ARM versus the industry standard of x86) as well as being significantly weaker than both the base PS4 and XBox One models – not least because it is powered by the Tegra X1 chip. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that games on the system cost more – with Tequila Works going on to state that “Rime‘s price is based on the costs of development and costs of manufacturing for each specific platform.” With this in mind, why would any third party developer invest significant resources into porting across a software project, only to then have the game be more expensive on Switch as opposed to other versions? And given the amount of criticism that Rime and Puyo Puyo Tetris both received when consumers complained about the price, it’s no wonder that many developers aren’t exactly forthcoming in wanting to invest too much time, energy and resources into porting a game across to the Switch only to then have the port realised as being the most expensive version.
At the same time, another extremely important factor to consider is that the Switch utilises cartridges as opposed to the competitions’ significantly cheaper Blu Ray storage medium. And with “costs of development and costs of manufacturing” resulting in exclusive third party projects (like Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengers and Super Bomberman R) being as much as £50 upon release, it’s no wonder that dismal sales forecasts have led to Capcom being reticent in wanting to show public support for Nintendo’s new console – with the company going on to announce that its Monster Hunter World game won’t be coming to the Switch and that it has no plans to release the Switch version of Monster Hunter XX in the US “at this time“.
But even if one were to discount third party attempts, what about Nintendo’s own in-house games? Why do Wii U “ports” of Mario Kart 8 and Zelda cost in excess of £40 when Sony have amply demonstrated a consumer conscious ability of providing excellent value for money when touting their remakes of Shadow of the Colossus and WipEout Omega Collection? And with this in mind, why would any gamer want to advocate Nintendo’s pricing business strategy where Switch games end up being considerably more expensive than the competition?
Even to Nintendo evangelists, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the Switch is experiencing an acute shortage of viable software support. And whilst those very same people would have once dismissed the PS4 and XBox One platforms as having no games, it’s worth pointing out that the Switch’s anemic release calendar suggest that the format is only going to be getting an average of 1 appealing game every 2 months. A pretty pathetic comparison when one takes into account the PS4 and XBox One vibrant ecosystems, where both formats get numerous high quality games added to their roster each and every month.
So what else does Nintendo have in the pipeline? Well, there’s a full-scale Pokémon game that likely won’t be seeing release until at least Christmas 2018. And then there is Metroid Prime 4 – a game that Nintendo fans have been going crazy about over on message boards, with some going even so far as to argue that the title’s mere announcement has won the company E3. If that is the case, then according to Nintendo fans, all a company has to do to win E3 is to showcase a pre-rendered logo that doesn’t include any gameplay footage.
The only problem with this though is that whilst Microsoft and Sony can both demonstrably rest on their laurels by holding back on certain announcements, both companies understand that their healthy roster of third party licensees will be more than able to pick up the slack should there be a software release shortfall. This also partially explains as to why Valve no longer make games anymore, as the company has chosen to instead focus on providing a service platform through which developers can release their own products on the incredibly successful Steam portal. But with the Switch showing signs of having failed to gain significant third party traction, Nintendo aren’t in the enviable position of being able to afford such a luxury. The onus therefore falls squarely upon the platform holder to ensure that its hybrid system gets a healthy wellspring of games from the company’s own first party efforts whereby Nintendo does its very best to convey the idea that the Switch has a healthy future prospect. After all, people buy hardware for the software, and whilst Nintendo’s E3 Direct can be considered as being commendable in some regards, it’s still worrying to think that apart from Nintendo’s own efforts, there appears to be very little else appearing on the horizon. Just where exactly are the fruits that were promised as result of Nintendo’s Switch Partners program? And why is it that 3 months on, and with E3 now effectively over, that the Switch’s ecosystem still shows signs of having a barren release calendar, to the extent that the vast majority of the most popular blockbuster third party titles still aren’t appearing on the platform?
Maybe Nintendo did win E3 by merely showcasing a logo of a game that is clearly in the early stage of development. But if that’s the case, then can it not be argued that Nintendo has drummed up unnecessary hype for a title that won’t be seeing release for another 3-4 years? At the same time, was the Metroid Prime franchise ever really that much of a major system seller, to the extent that fans are already proclaiming the fourth title’s announcement as being the equivalent of the second coming?
According to VGChartz, the Metroid Prime series have never really fared that well on either the Gamecube or Wii. Indeed, Metroid Prime game only ever sold 2.82 million units (despite being a pack-in title designed as a system seller), whilst Metroid Prime 2: Echoes sold even less at 1.33 million on the 21.74 million selling Gamecube system. At the same time, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption only ever sold 1.79 million copies on the Wii – a system that had an install base of 101.63 million units. With this in mind, it’s abundantly obvious that many Nintendo fans are clearly over-estimating Metroid Prime 4‘s appeal, to the extent that some are even arguing that the minor selling franchise can somehow remold itself into becoming a major system seller on par with the likes of Halo and Call of Duty. And if that’s the case, then shouldn’t Metroid Prime‘s previous sales figures testify to the notion that the series is already a major tour-de-force that holds mainstream appeal? And if not, then how can Nintendo even conceivably win E3 on the basis of a logo for a game that has a history of only being a minor sales success (at best)?
But let’s just assume that Metroid Prime 4 is indeed worthy of the pre-release hype, and that the fourth entry in the series will be just as groundbreaking as the original trilogy. And if that’s the case, then shouldn’t gamers also be eagerly anticipating Metal Gear Survive – the next title in the Metal Gear franchise that’s unfortunately being lambasted by the press for not having the input of series creator Hideo Kojima, even if Konami has had the decency to ensure that “a lot of the development staff from MGSV:TPP will be returning to help create Metal Gear Survive“?
With Metroid Prime 4‘s announcement, Nintendo have stated that the game will not be developed by Retro Studios, with the project instead being handled by a “talented new development team” as well as long-time producer Kensuke Tanabe. With this in mind, while it’s understandable that Retro Studios wouldn’t be involved in the game’s creation (as many of the original trilogy’s key staff have since moved on to form Armature), what can’t quite as easily be comprehended is why the project has been able to garner so much hype when its development team’s pedigree is still under question – especially when one considers as to how much effort Microsoft took in ensuring the quality of its own Halo franchise after the company sought out highly distinguished talent when forming 343 Industries. At the same time, what recent evidence has Nintendo shown that the company even understands modern first person perspective games to the same extent as Bungie, Sledgehammer Games, 343 Industries, and Respawn Entertainment – especially after longtime producer Kensuke Tanabe himself oversaw the risible 3DS title Metroid Prime: Federation Force?
Given that Nintendo sub-contracted development of Metroid: Return Of Samus to Mercury Steam, why couldn’t the company honour Metroid Prime‘s series traditions by having Armature spearhead development on the fourth title? After all, this would be more in keeping with the original trilogy’s spirit, and would also ensure continuity for those who have come to appreciate the earlier games’ distinctive style and gameplay.
To conclude, the amount of hype that Nintendo has received for its E3 Direct is not only unwarranted but is also completely unjustified. For not only does this suggest the idea that many Nintendo fans are earnestly clinging to the notion that the Switch is a future proof product, but what’s also sad is that many Switch owners still harbour the belief that their necessary investment into the Switch and its ecosystem is considered as being a worthwhile endeavour. However, critics would argue that the joke’s really on them, for whilst their ego-investment has blinded them of the Switch’s obvious shortcomings, the reality is that the hybrid console has the least amount of noteworthy games being released for it out of all the major systems – with many of Nintendo’s own showcased titles having only niche appeal. Sure, some of them will be good (with a few even being great), but to paraphrase a certain online comment: the joke’s really on Switch owners for wasting their lives in order to earn the necessary amount that would enable them to buy such a glorified piece of $hit!