Right now, Overwatch is far and away the most popular shooter on the planet.With over 20 million gamers regularly jumping in to get their gaming fix – Blizzard’s first person shooter has a large community of dedicated gamers that can’t get enough. Yet Nintendo Switch users can’t get this experience – and likely won’t at any point in the near future. It’s a terrible shame – and remains indicative of Nintendo Switch’s biggest hole – it hasn’t convinced third-party developers that the console is worth the AAA-development time.
Several months back, Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan effectively shot down any hopes of seeing the game on Switch in the medium-term. He signalled that while there was a desire to bring their game to Nintendo Switch, it would be a technical uphill battle and thus not worth the effort at present. That’s a problem for Nintendo.
Videogames take many years of planning to develop. The decision to branch into a new console is one that costs time and money, usually made early in development. If it were as easy as flipping a button to make games appear on new consoles, there’d be a lot more multi-platform games in the wild. The fact though that Overwatch and its team are unwilling to commit these resources to Nintendo Switch indicates just how the console is being viewed by those who actually make videogames – a novelty worthy of praise, but not something that could draw money – right now.
That last part is important because right now, Nintendo Switch is growing rapidly. Early Impressive sale numbers paint a great picture and give fans a lot to crow about. 1-2-Switch, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild have all sold huge numbers on the console – bringing success and positive buzz to the console. But if that buzz doesn’t translate into developers committing their top end titles to the console – then it creates a problem down the line.
Titles like Overwatch don’t sell videogame consoles by themselves, but they certainly open the door to many people considering them. If a version of the game was announced for Nintendo Switch tomorrow – it would likely be huge news and sell well. But that’s the problem – it would be huge news for Nintendo, not that big for an already established community. Given that the community for Overwatch totals somewhere over 30 million, it would ultimately be a drop in the ocean to Blizzard. The onus isn’t on Blizzard to want it, it’s on Nintendo to make Blizzard want it.
It’s not just Overwatch that’s sat on the fence currently. It’s very telling that a lot of the major third-party releases this year are (thus far) skipping over Nintendo Switch. From EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront 2 to Activision’s Call of Duty: WW2; these games are yet more popular titles that won’t be appearing on Nintendo’s hardware. These are yet more big developers sitting on their hands and waiting to see what happens – which ultimately robs Switch of potential games and will hurt it down the line.
Which is why Nintendo really needs to improve how it communicates the successes of third-party titles. A good sign of this is Minecraft – which arrived on the console within the last 7-days; instantly jumping to the top of the Switch’s digital top sellers list. Minecraft is everywhere yes, but the fact that it’s doing well in its launch period should be something Nintendo is gloating about. It’s a sign that third-party development can yield results, a showcase that gamers have an appetite for quality third-party offerings.
Nintendo also needs to showcase improvements for its console. As anyone who’s had to sit through Mario Kart’s online mode will confess – the experience just don’t compare to that offered up by the competition. The entire online component of the console feels light-years behind what Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and Steam are offering elsewhere.
Yes Nintendo has said that a paid-online service will land sometime before the end of 2017 – but is that enough to encourage third parties on board? If Nintendo’s been half as coy about that service to developers as it has with consumers, then it probably won’t make much difference.
It’s been said a thousand times over, but Nintendo has to make sure that whatever its future plans are for the console – third-party developers have to be at the heart of it. The longer these major titles allude Nintendo Switch, the more potential sales of Switch Nintendo passes on. The early success of the console shows that people are willing to accept a different take on things, but only if Nintendo can turn that into long-term gains.
Overwatch is the biggest example of a missed opportunity for Nintendo right now. A development team openly praising the console but unwilling to commit development resources. This needs to be the biggest change the console makes – or that early momentum will be wasted. Nintendo has to do more to win over these developers – if its console is to stand a fighting chance.