Indie Developers on the Next-Gen Consoles

Kelsy Medeiros

Published on 02/08/2023

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 all of their 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 think. Instead, he has relied on his creativity and person-to-person approach, which brought him excellent results. Currently serving as game director at Nintendo, we expect that the coming console presents more opportunities for developers in every generation. Let’s dive deep into the use of this console for game devs to understand the impacts it has.

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 portable, like a Gameboy or Nintendo DS. You can also play docked on your home television for a view of 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 ended up being the most copies sold 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 takes 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 that is now hindering the performance of their projects 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, speaking to developers 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 from the competition’s level of hardware power quality.

The standard for today’s games runs at a solid 60FPs, having standard stable Online Multiplayer offered for most titles. Meanwhile, Nintendo Switch falls behind with less memory that can hold and runs 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.

It’s as simple as this: today’s games are not optimized enough to run on Nintendo Switch, and it’s a must if we want it to run smoothly. It only indicates that Nintendo Switch has reached its limits, and innovative controllers will not remain a trend for long.

Think of it like this: an adult at McDonald’s can easily have a Big Mac and enjoy it (even if it’s not so good for you!), but the average child, on the other hand, will not be able to eat the entire trio without a stomach ache, and probably won’t even finish the meal. (Can you tell that I’m hungry?)

So, when a video game port is being made for multiple consoles such as Steam, XBOX, Playstation, and Nintendo Switch, they will all receive the same project. Still, Nintendo Switch’s version will usually be condensed with either fewer levels, a slower frame rate, or downgraded graphical specs.

Six years later, developers are now choosing to make exclusive Nintendo Switch experiences over porting and releasing multiple versions of their same planned project not to hinder sales of that version while putting too much cost 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, but was only optimized for Nintendo Switch nearly 6 months later on March 21, 2021. The game showed obvious flaws in graphics and frame drops. Features and textures were reduced as well to optimize the Switch’s performance.

The Next Generation

It’s no secret that the world of technology is changing quickly since it’s becoming more accessible. As XBOX and Playstation approach their 4th year of this generation on the market, we know it’s only a matter of time before Nintendo announces their “revolutionary” console.

A rumour arose in July 2023; multiple devs and indie devs reported receiving developer test kits for trial, indicating that the console is nearly ready. The suspicion is for the 2024 window release, which would line up with their previous generation game releases at the end of their lifecycle. Sales for Nintendo Switch have decreased in 2022 from 2021, with 23.06 units for a 29.2% decrease.

Developers have been clear about their requested changes in hardware power and expectations in growing technology. For the first time in their hardware career, it feels as if Nintendo has no choice but to finally give in significant upgrades in hardware to present a smooth online multiplayer experience, more third-party and indie games, and powerful CPU, memory, and graphic capability.

Innovative is still Nintendo’s motto, but they should be attentive to the 4K support with streaming services and applications like Netflix since it’s the new standard.

However, we can feel the winds of change to all game devs, and it’s exciting! Developers are saying that they are incredibly excited for the next generation of Nintendo as they step into the world of 4K. I hope Nintendo listens to their feedback as they continue testing their dev kits. If what Miyamoto has said, “reinvent the controller once again,” becomes true, it’s only a matter of time before more unique ideas in how we play games surge for Nintendo.

The console is rumoured to be as powerful as the XBOX One (2013). Though this is less powerful than the XBOX Series S in 2020 or the PlayStation 5 (2020), it would be 3X the improvement compared to their current generation console. Reported console leaks have been shown on the internet, with developers confirming that the new hardware is rumoured to be released in the second half of 2024.

Commitment to Indie Developers

While game developers wait for over a year for the next-generation console to be revealed, we had a peek into their latest news: Indie World.

It showcases third-party developers who have released outstanding Nintendo Switch exclusive titles for a great price ranging from $15.00 to $30.00 compared to the standard $100.00 as of late. Developers continue using the Switch’s hardware to create innovative titles that the company promotes through social media and their popular broadcasting updates: Nintendo Direct and the new Indie World Direct Showcase.

The company reinforces that it cares about its developers and has made significant improvements in respecting its third-party partners since the controversies of the 90s that held down developers from licensing their games while keeping developers in stringent contracts and rules.

A more laid-back Nintendo welcomes more partners. Now, being given such great support presents a massive opportunity for all developers to promote and gain more visibility quickly. Below is the full presentation of their latest Indie Direct, where indie titles are encouraged to come out over the following year.

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

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