A couple of weeks ago on the podcast we discussed the cancellation of Scalebound, lamenting the ever diminishing line-up of exclusives and wondering how Microsoft were planning to drive players towards Xbox One. Before that (and later this week) we discussed Nintendo’s strategy with the Switch, a strategy that we criticised for, among other things, a lack of meaningful third party support.
I’ve had some feedback that these appear to be opposite arguments leading to the same conclusion – that Microsoft’s lack of exclusives and Nintendo’s lack of third parties are both damaging, with both companies placing themselves on the back foot in regards to driving players to buying their consoles.
So I thought I’d use this week’s Weekly Words to address this.
In Microsoft’s case it’s fairly straightforward. Firstly, a lack of exclusives gives players less incentive to choose Xbox One over Playstation 4. Most of the bigger upcoming games for Xbox One are multiplatform and also releasing elsewhere. In fact, thanks to the Play Anywhere program, Xbox One has zero exclusives. Though there is a different argument to be had about whether Play Anywhere has any substantial impact on Xbox One sales.
Secondly, Scalebound was the third first-party game to be announced and then cancelled by Microsoft. First was Phantom Dust (and the bizarre circumstances surrounding its development). Then Fable Legends, despite being touted as part of the “greatest line-up in Xbox history” – before disappearing and eventually being axed. And lastly Scalebound, a game that was seemingly very different than the way Microsoft chose to market it since its initial reveal in 2014.
So as well as thinning the pool of experiences exclusive to Microsoft, this series of cancellations give people pause for thought when examining the rest of Xbox One’s line-up. While we can always be confident that a new Halo, Forza or Gears is coming, it seems that Microsoft isn’t shy about wielding the axe when it comes to games not based on juggernaut franchises.
If games like Fable or Scalebound from studios such as Lionhead (RIP) and Platinum can be cancelled, what’s to stop Microsoft canning Crackdown 3 (which was also announced in 2014)? What about Sea of Thieves, State of Decay 2 or Cuphead?
Nintendo has this issue as well, though it’s compounded by a lack of major third party support.
The biggest issue is a complete lack of new games to play. There are arguably two major games currently confirmed to be launching on Switch – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. Zelda releases with the console on March 3rd, with Mario only being given a vague “Holiday 2017” launch window.
Switch also has Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Edition and Splatoon 2 to come, with the latter being hugely anticipated in Japan, but both seem like they’re simply expansions on games already available on Wii U.
Assuming Super Mario Odyssey releases between October and December (for the sake of argument), this is the list of games available on Xbox One and/or Playstation 4 between the releases of Zelda and Mario:
- NieR: Automata
- Ghost Recon: Wildlands
- Star Trek: Bridge Crew
- Styx: Shadows of Darkness
- Mass Effect: Andromeda
- Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3
- Persona 5
- Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition
- Micro Machines: World Series
- Dragon Quest Heroes II
- Little Nightmares
- Injustice 2
- Tekken 7
- Dirt 4
This list is more than likely incomplete, with other games awaiting release date announcements, as well as the certainty of franchises such as Call of Duty, Forza and more releasing fresh installments between now and “holiday 2017”.
Switch has games coming out between March and the holiday season of course. As well as launching with 1-2 Switch & Super Bomberman R, Nintendo’s next console will see games such as Snipperclips, ARMS, Has Been Heroes (also launching on other consoles), Fast RMX and more.
The “more” in the equation are games like I Am Setsuna, Little Inferno, Disgaea 5, Lego City Undercover and Shovel Knight. A raft of games from third party publishers and developers that have already been released on other platforms. In some cases these games have been available for years.
There’s very little to actually play on Nintendo Switch, unless you’ve held off on joining the current generation of consoles.
And aside from the ability to take your Switch on the move (with the caveat of a potentially quite short battery life to contend with), there really isn’t any incentive to make Switch your primary console.
While you’ll be able to get your hands on ports of third party games, you can get a Playstation 4 or Xbox One cheaper than a Switch, with both Sony and Microsoft’s home consoles featuring a bigger back catalogue or games and a more exciting slate of upcoming games.
Aside from Nintendo developed games, which is obviously the biggest draw when buying one of their consoles. Though if Nintendo are banking on players buying a Switch simply to be able to play Zelda and Mario, they may want to switch (intended) strategies. Fast. If a large number of people bought Nintendo consoles for Nintendo games, Wii U would have sold more than 13 million units.
Even as a second console its price is prohibitive, given the lack of games not already available on your primary console of choice. £280 is quite steep for a console that you’d only be playing a handful of games on, especially when factoring in the inflated prices of said games (when compared with new releases on PS4 and Xbox One).
The gap between big releases that should be filled with exciting third party games is instead being filled with ports. If the Switch’s current line-up isn’t a big enough indicator of a total lack of third party support for Nintendo’s next machine, the reveal event itself was a dead giveaway.
Ubisoft, usually a big player at any console launch, has brought Just Dance 2017 to the Switch’s release day. The other two games they’ve confirmed are Rayman Legends and Steep (remember when Beyond Good & Evil 2 was a certainty to be a Switch exclusive?). All Nintendo have managed to get out of EA was a custom-built FIFA game, probably a port of an older game.
Bringing out developers like Suda 51 and companies like Sega to announce their intention to make a game without actually announcing anything shows a lack of urgency from game makers to actually develop for Switch.
I know we still have a month until launch, and an E3 coming up this Summer, but if Nintendo had anything earth shattering to announce they surely wouldn’t have held it back from such a critical hardware reveal.
This post isn’t to attempt to dissuade anyone from being excited for Switch. If you’re happy with the moves Nintendo have made, then more power to you. But I can’t help but feel Nintendo have fumbled a golden opportunity to win back a big chunk of their missing, lapsed fanbase (like myself).
Nintendo and Microsoft have opposite problems. Nintendo have a critical lack of third party support. Microsoft have a shrinking line-up of exclusive titles. But both problems give a lot of people pause for thought and question the true value of the respective console manufacturer’s propositions.