Developers Flocking to Nintendo Switch

Once the dominant brand in the video gaming industry, Nintendo lost its edge amongst third party developers in the 1990s, when industry insurgent Sony released the first product in its popular line of PlayStation gaming consoles.

While Nintendo’s hardware and in-house games have remained critically and commercially successful, the Japanese company has struggled to attract the attention of third-party game developers, missing out on titles in popular franchises such as Battlefield and Call of Duty.

However, the incredible popularity of the Nintendo Switch — the company’s latest home and portable gaming console — appears to be turning the tide.

A new survey from the Game Developers Conference shows that an increasing number of game developers — third party studios independent from Nintendo — have plans to develop content for the Switch.

The survey, which was reported in The Verge, produced a variety of interesting results. 36 percent of respondents listed the Switch as the console they were most interested in, giving Nintendo’s console a higher level of interest than Microsoft’s popular Xbox One.

Approximately 23% of developers said that their games sell just as well on Switch as on other gaming consoles, with 28% noting better sales on the platform despite its relatively small user base. Approximately 15% of developers intend to release their next title on the Switch.

Developer interest has largely been backed up by impressive sales results. After poor sales of its previous home console, the Wii-U, Nintendo has sold more than 10 million Switch consoles since its release in March of 2017.

Interest in Nintendo’s new console has been strong since its release, with major titles such as Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey attracting attention from old Nintendo fans and a growing audience of post-Millennial gamers.

Rumors that Nintendo will bring its immensely popular Pokemon brand to the Switch this year are to fuel further interest in the console. Nintendo has also yet to launch its Virtual Console for the Switch, limiting its current catalog to recently released titles.

The growing level of interest in the console represents an opportunity for the Japanese gaming company to “win back” developer support it lost during the 1990s and 2000s, where Nintendo’s storage media decisions repelled many of the company’s third party partners.

Recovery of third party development was listed as one of the company’s main objectives in the period before the Switch’s release, with Nintendo’s creative director noting that the console was designed to attract developers.

The Game Developers Conference survey also reveals some other interesting data about the state of the gaming industry. According to the report, 11% of game developers are working on titles that use loot boxes as a monetization tool — an option that’s been derided by gamers.

The survey also shows that PC gaming remains the most popular platform for developers, with developers keeping a steady level of interest in PC despite declining levels of interest in mobile and VR/AR.

The full report, entitled GDC State of the Game Industry 2018, is available online from the Game Developers Conference website.

Emily Bennet
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