Indie Developers on Nintendo Switch: Embracing Next-Gen

Kelsy Medeiros

Published on 25/06/2024

The Nintendo Switch is undoubtedly the leading console of this generation. The “Nintendo Saviour” (referencing Nintendo’s Wii U failure of 13.5 million sales from the last generation) has become Nintendo’s most successful console in deals and game reviews in its 40+ years in the video game industry, and it presented an opportunity to devs all around the world.

Nintendo has consistently re-invented the controller and the way to play the game as such with the Wii Remote (2006), Nintendo Entertainment System (1983), Nintendo DS (2004), and their most beloved controller: the Nintendo Gamecube (2001).

It has never focused so much on the power of its hardware and has always believed in the quality of its software. As the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto’s most iconic game quote says, “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.”

Nintendo Switch: A Triumph in Gaming History

Considered one of history’s most influential video game designers, Miyamoto has collaborated on many other iconic titles, signing games such as Super Mario, Legend of Zelda, Pikmin, and Donkey Kong. We all agree that Miyamoto is the dream developer goal devs aim to reach in success.

I admire how he never cared about what people thought. Instead, he relied on his creativity and person-to-person approach, which brought him excellent results. As the current game director at Nintendo, I expect that the coming console presents more opportunities for developers in every generation. Let’s dive deep into how this console is used by game developers to understand its impact.

Nintendo Switch: Innovation Over Power

Nintendo focuses on innovation, allowing developers to use its ongoing unique styles of hardware interface to explore their ideas and creativity to the maximum.

Every console comes with a new hardware interface. Software sells hardware: this is the belief of Nintendo’s success and is why even if games may take much longer to produce than expected, they will most likely be called “iconic” or “revolutionary” in the software’s genre.

Developers have taken inspiration from Nintendo’s continued success in their revolution and have found such unique ways that not even the company has thought of.

You can play this on a portable device, like a Game Boy or Nintendo DS. You can also play docked on your home television to view 1080p 60fps (if the game is supported). It has remote control options and can doc on itself by standing up on its kick-stand, which was heavily improved with the recent OLED Model in 2021.

A Multi-Play Experience

Now that the new innovative controller inspires devs, some excellent developers have given leading examples of the console’s opportunities. Ubisoft’s Rayman takes their multiple console release, Rayman Legends in 2013, and delivers a definitive edition port to the Nintendo Switch with 20 exclusive added touchscreen control levels, motion control mini-games, new character cosmetics based on popular Nintendo franchises (Super Mario, for example) and new online challenges.

The game did so well that it sold the most copies as of 2019 and is considered the “best” version by most gamers. Other examples include many puzzle games, such as Tetris 99, which takes the original classic Tetris from Gameboy and puts you into an online multiplayer battle against 98 other players worldwide in a heated Tetris battle.

On the go, the wifi connection is a must-have quick-to-play and enjoy games with family and friends. Finally, party games have ended up being the Switch’s best offers. Games like 1-2 Switch take the unique Joy-Con controllers to use creatively across 28 games to play with up to 8 family members and local friends. It’s perfect for a pizza party.

In the following footage, you can see the use of the unique controller in game development by using the rumble feature to feel the weight in water bottles or even the tip of a shaver and the motion of rocking a baby too much or not enough. The unique ways of the controller’s rumble and portable weight inspire developers to try making many game modes for gamers across multiple genres.

Developers Harnessing Creativity

Even with such success, however, what was considered new eventually started to stale. Developers are beginning to notice the need for more power, hindering their projects’ performance rather than inspiring them.

Indie developers have indicated that as of 2022, their titles are sold mainly on Steam and Microsoft’s Xbox / Playstation due to the processing power and memory that a PC and the consoles showcase in feel, accessibility, and graphics.

At Montreal Comiccon 2023, developers spoke to me about releasing their titles on multiple consoles. They described the Nintendo Switch’s process as “exhausting” and said it “has delayed projects.” The Nintendo Switch is turning eight next year in 2024, which is overdue given the competition’s level of hardware power quality.

The standard for today’s games runs at a solid 60FPs, with a standard stable Online Multiplayer offered for most titles. Meanwhile, the Nintendo Switch falls behind with less memory, which can hold and run on only 1080X720p.

Even big blockbuster games such as Tears of the Kingdom, created by Nintendo themselves, promised to run at 60 FPS, but they still show frame drops in crowded areas that take more memory. The 2023 title even resembles its 2017 prequel, Breath of the Wild.

Utilizing Nintendo Switch Features

Today’s games are not optimized enough to run smoothly on the Nintendo Switch. The Switch has reached its limits. Innovative controllers will not remain a trend for long.

Think of it like this: an adult at McDonald’s can easily eat a Big Mac and enjoy it. The average child cannot eat the entire meal without a stomach ache and probably won’t finish it.

So, when a game is ported to multiple consoles, the Nintendo Switch version is usually condensed. This version may have fewer levels, a slower frame rate, or downgraded graphics.

Six years later, developers now prefer making exclusive Nintendo Switch experiences. They avoid porting multiple versions of the same project to not hinder sales. This also reduces costs and pressure on developers and companies.

Developers like Activision have taken their iconic games, like Crash 4, one of the most anticipated titles of all time. Released to consoles on October 2nd, 2020, it was only optimized for Nintendo Switch nearly six months later, on March 21st, 2021. The game showed obvious flaws in graphics and frame drops. Features and textures were also reduced to optimize the Switch’s performance.

Nintendo Switch: The Next Generation ?

It’s no secret that technology is changing quickly and becoming more accessible. Xbox and PlayStation are in their fourth year of this generation. We know it’s only a matter of time before Nintendo announces their “revolutionary” console.

In July 2023, rumors arose that multiple developers received developer test kits for trial. This indicates that the console is nearly ready. The suspicion is for a 2024 release, aligning with previous generation game releases. Nintendo Switch sales decreased in 2022 compared to 2021, with a 29.2% decline to 23.06 million units.

Developers have clarified their requests for hardware power and expectations for growing technology. For the first time, Nintendo feels it must finally give in to significant hardware upgrades. They aim to present a smooth online multiplayer experience, more third-party and indie games, and powerful CPU, memory, and graphic capability.

Innovation is still Nintendo’s motto, but they should support the new standard of 4K for streaming services and apps like Netflix.

Wind of Change

We can feel the winds of change for all game developers, and it’s exciting! Developers are incredibly excited for the next generation of Nintendo. They look forward to stepping into the world of 4K. I hope Nintendo listens to their feedback while testing their dev kits. If Miyamoto’s idea to “reinvent the controller once again” comes true, more unique gameplay ideas will emerge.

The console is rumored to be as powerful as the Xbox One (2013). This is less powerful than the Xbox Series S (2020) or the PlayStation 5 (2020). However, it would be three times the improvement over the current generation console. Reported console leaks have appeared online. Developers confirm that the new hardware is rumored to be released in the second half of 2024.

Commitment to Indie Developers

While developers wait for the next-generation console, we had a peek into their latest news: Indie World. It showcases third-party developers who have released outstanding Nintendo Switch exclusive titles for $15.00 to $30.00. This is a great price compared to the standard $100.00. Developers use the Switch’s hardware to create innovative titles promoted through social media and Nintendo Direct. The new Indie World Direct Showcase also promotes these titles.

Nintendo shows it cares about its developers and respects third-party partners. They have made significant improvements since the 1990s controversies. During that time, developers faced strict contracts and licensing restrictions. A more laid-back Nintendo now welcomes more partners. This support offers a massive opportunity for developers to promote and gain visibility quickly.

Below is the full presentation of their latest Indie Direct. It encourages indie titles to come out over the following year. By embracing these opportunities, developers can thrive in the supportive environment Nintendo now offers.

Check out the Indie World for a great look at third-party titles by Independent developers that are making headlines!