How Nintendo’s Embrace of Indie Games Continues to Bolster the Switch

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Despite not taking the form of a regular home console, the Nintendo Switch has barged its way into the heat of the console wars, muscling in on the territory of Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One. After the struggles of the Wii U, Nintendo needed a big hit from their next product, so they ingeniously forged a console that could be played at home on the television as well as on the go. The masterstroke of innovation has led to the Switch becoming the fastest-selling console in the USA and achieving the tremendous feat of outselling the PlayStation 4 in their native Japan despite being released just over three years later.

To achieve this level of success, Nintendo knew that it had to step up its offering of games since, while some players rave about console power, the majority buy consoles to play the associated games. So, Nintendo stepped up its first-party offering with a huge range of top titles as well as by doing something that the company has never really done before: team up with indie developers. Arguably, Nintendo has embraced a similar game library ethos to other massively popular gaming platforms like that of the Apple App Store and online platforms, which is to offer as much high-quality variety as possible.

Embracing indie developers

Around the same time that the Nintendo Switch was to be released, early 2017, indie developers reported that Nintendo started to reach out to them directly to see what games they were making and if they’d be interested in some collaboration. While filling the Nintendo eShop with these new indie titles which wouldn’t usually be seen on a “first-party first” console like the Switch, it’s been Nintendo’s efforts to treat their indie games with similar respect to its triple-A titles which helped to make this new strategy very effective.

Nintendo boasts a tremendous amount of marketing might and goodwill with its gaming community, so when it makes a showcase – which they do regularly throughout the year via their Nintendo Direct presentations – gamers sit up and listen. In 2017, the company started its Nindies Showcase initiative, which is an ongoing series of announcements which specifically pertain to indie games on the Switch which can be seen prominently featured online or via the Switch’s news hub.

Knowing that its mainline first-party games will almost always sell well, Nintendo set about putting a lot of effort into letting its players know that there is a diverse range of fun and often cheap games available in the eShop whenever they want to play a new game. Doing so has opened up the Switch to a much larger audience, one that may not have had exposure to most of these indie games despite some of them being available on the other consoles and platforms.

A grand example of the Switch boasting about its indie games is Overcooked, which featured heavily as a launch title as well as the promotion of Gris despite the close-by release of Nintendo’s own big-hitter Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. You can even see in interviews post-E3 2019 that president of Nintendo America, Doug Bowser, was more than happy to delve into a discussion about their “Nindie” partners, the upcoming games, and the different ways that the gaming giant helps with development and marketing.

A proven method of library building

In the modern world of content consumption, entertainment companies have to stay on their toes and bolster their offerings with new titles very regularly to keep on top. Netflix is a prime example of this, needing to acquire or create and release new shows and movies every week to keep its audience hooked. It’s the same with online casino games for real money, where new games with new themes are added every week to platforms like Slots of Vegas, to make sure the player experience doesn’t go stale. Both of these entertainment platforms have proven to be wildly successful, which can all be put down to the diverse range on offer.

You can also find a wide range of smaller games on the likes of Steam, the PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, but Steam’s “anything goes” policy and the comparative lack of promotion by the other two major consoles have enabled the Switch to eek ahead as the platform of choice for indie gaming. Being a hybrid handheld device, it was a smart move to embrace the practices of online and mobile platforms and offer a wide range of smaller, cheaper games that people have come to expect from handheld and browser gaming.

Nindies proving to be a big hit

As established, Nintendo has fully embraced its Nindies program and promotes it a great deal. Their Nindies Hits section features a diverse range of high quality games which have all proven to be a hit with the Switch’s audience. At any given time of the year, you can go into the Nintendo eShop on the Switch, access the gaming charts, and see around 50 percent of the top selling games being ones from the Nindies releases.

At the time of writing, June 17, it had been a couple of months since Nintendo released its last big first-party game with Super Mario Maker 2 on the way at the end of the month. The state of the charts in the eShop proved that Switch gamers had been seeking out top indie games while waiting for the next triple-A title, with 11 of the top 22 games being Nindies. These included Crypt of the Necrodancer at number one, Hollow Knight, Cuphead, the much-loved Stardew Valley, Undertale, Celeste, the pre-order for My Friend Pedro, and WarGroove.

Embracing and showcasing indie games alongside their many big-name titles has allowed the Nintendo Switch to become an ever-evolving console that encourages players to stay engaged and keep logging in to check out the new titles each week. There’s no doubt that the Switch’s success coincides with the company’s Nindies initiative.

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