If you haven’t been paying attention the past few months, you might have missed that the Nintendo Switch is off to a very strong start. After faceplanting with the disappointing follow up to the Wii, the Wii U, Nintendo seems to have at long last listened to some of the criticism that has haunted the company in the past few console cycles, with a multi pronged approach that both embraces their nostalgic roots while reckoning with strategies of their industry peers.
This week alone has seen the release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which since its original debut six years ago has been seen on practically everything from Xbox 360 to the Nook, and LA Noire, a curious choice given the scant history of Rockstar games in the company’s publishing history and their inability in the past, hardware wise, to keep up with current re-releases.
As the Switch’s release cycle has ramped up, a number of odd choices (in the sense that they do not fit the mold of Nintendo’s first-party lineup from years past) have popped up on the list. Syberia II, for example, will show up at the end of this month, and Doom, a title that would have been felt too graphic for previous Nintendo consoles, came out on the Switch this month. Back in the Wii days, the adult titles were few and far between, with Madworld as perhaps the console’s most violent release.
This steady stream of older titles tells us a few things. First, that Nintendo had some serious catching up to do in terms of indie and smaller game selection following the Wii U, and they took the opportunity with Switch’s release to strengthen the relationships with several third party developers. They’ve put out not just some of the still-popular, kinda-recent stuff like Moon Hunters, Stardew Valley and Axiom Verge, and quirky indie darlings like Octodad, VVVVVV, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, Human Resource Machine and Thumper, but also much older titles from companies like SNK, reissuing many of the same classic Neo Geo hits that were available on the Wii’s Virtual Console. They’ve smartly established their modern tastes and sensibilities while retaining their nostalgic appeal.
Secondly, opening up support of Unreal and allowing developers to publish directly to the Switch may actually have had a greater effect on the Switch’s success than previously anticipated. Nintendo consoles have been all but infamous the past several years for not having the sheer processing power required to keep up with the most impressive looking current releases, and while they could afford, in the past, to ignore the increasing demands on visuals and graphics, they appear to have come to their senses.
In terms of indie game selection, Nintendo now seems to be catching up to Sony in terms of quality and scope. If they keep this up, Nintendo will not only be firmly considered part of this current console cycle, it’ll dominate it too.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.