Switch Third Party Support Could Make All The Difference

The Switch’s predecessor had a curious relationship with third-party franchises. Early in its life, the Wii U received ports of acclaimed games like Mass Effect 3 and Assassin’s Creed III. This was no doubt part of Nintendo’s strategy to show that, yes, their consoles had more to them than exclusives. It was a sensible idea in theory. The problem was the execution. Who’s going to buy Mass Effect 3, for example, when the first two games aren’t available on the console?

Nintendo has always been inconsistent with courting third-party developers. The Gamecube had a solid enough roster of non-Nintendo series, but it lacked the heavy-hitters found elsewhere. Without hits like Metal Gear Solid, Grand Theft Auto and Final Fantasy, no one was ever going to consider Nintendo’s platform as the one to buy if they wanted variety outside of the usual Mario and Zelda instalments.

With the Switch, Nintendo is in an odd position, Like the Wii U and Wii, it lacks the hardware to keep up with its competing consoles. On the other hand, we’ve reached a point where remasters and ports of older games are treated with similar fanfare to the biggest new AAA releases; having a weaker console, for once, might not hinder the company’s pursuit of franchises outside of their usual roster.

Picking out a few exemplary titles, though, could make all the difference.

In a move that didn’t really surprise anyone, a remaster of the original Dark Souls was announced for current consoles – the Switch included. For Nintendo, it could be the ideal title to have. Its unforgiving nature and pointedly melancholy tone are a far cry from what people tend to associate with Nintendo. As the first game in its series, it leaves the door open for more. Could we eventually see the entire Souls series on Switch, and in portable form? It’s an enticing concept.

Another no-brainer was The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. You don’t need any familiarity with the rest of the series to fall madly in love with it, and it has the sort of enduring popularity that most other games can only dream of. And now it’s portable, too! That unique selling point may well be the Switch’s saving grace in the years to come. I doubt we’ll ever see perfect parity with the likes of Horizon: Zero Dawn or Forza Horizon 3, but I’d bet that many would be willing to trade hyper-realistic graphics for portability.

It’s a careful balance to strike, and I don’t envy Nintendo’s position. With the Switch lacking the power to run the latest tech showcases, it could be tempting to instead release a slew of old ports to bolster the system’s library. I’d make one suggestion to Nintendo: choose carefully. Flooding the console with ports of old games will do its reputation no favours. Picking out a few exemplary titles, though, could make all the difference.

It’s clear that the Switch can handle games from the previous generation. With the advent of the PS4 and Xbox One spawning a slew of cross-generation games, Nintendo has a large selection of games to choose from that are still somewhat fresh in the collective gaming memory. The obvious choice would be Grand Theft Auto V. The most recent GTA title on a Nintendo platform is Chinatown Wars for the DS. Although well-received, it isn’t quite the same as its cousins on consoles.

How tempting does that sound? I’m not a huge GTA fan, but to have it on the Switch and in portable form would be a win that truly sets the console apart from its rivals. From a business standpoint, it would be a huge deal: Grand Theft Auto V not only released to immense critical acclaim, but it continues to rank high on sales charts years after its release.

Many cross-gen games fared poorly on the previous generation of consoles. Dragon Age: Inquisition was full of bugs on the PS3 and 360, but I suspect the Switch could run them better, to a point that the enjoyment factor, if not the graphical quality, is at least on par with the PS4 and Xbox One versions. Others like Alien: Isolation and The Evil Within would also benefit from a similar treatment, helping to put the Switch on similar footing to its rivals.

Ultimately, it’s up to Nintendo how they proceed. The Switch’s first year shows great potential in both the first, and third-party categories. Nintendo have always struggled with building a great third-party catalogue, but this might be the time they finally get it right.

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