The Nintendo eShop, oh what happened to ye? You were once a place of such great design, fun music, and arguably, a worse home for indies. Yet, you’ve somehow become dull and gritty with your age. You truly are a teenager now Nintendo eShop.
The Switch is Nintendo’s first system that’s truly becoming a great home-base for indies. I’d argue the Switch has become an indie’s best console, and the platform an aspiring developer should target. However, the Switch still has quite a few faults in the scenario, the obvious one being how a player buys your game.
The eShop is notorious for having a poor interface where, if the game is not on the best selling list, it is completely buried. Every single complaint has merit, except the weirdos who want to be able to listen to music, buy multiple games at once, or heaven forbid use a dark theme! Not everyone can be Super Smash Bros, Wargroove, or Untitled Goose Game apparently. Someone was going to get lost in the shuffle, especially with the poor design of the eShop in general.
Sneaky developers and publishers have devised a get around. Sell your game at a 50-99% discount, make no money, and rocket to the top 10 sellers list like a kid on crack. Sell games for pennies, but make hundreds to hundreds of thousands of pennies. Seems like a win-win for developers right? Your game is seen, it sells quite a lot of copies, and you hit up the best sellers list! It’s not like there is a catch bigger than the undocumented criminal history of a high level politician is there?
You’re an indie developer. The industry still hasn’t gotten to a point where the average gamer truly understands the work going into an indie title. Most people still view you as inferior, before even seeing your product. Now we can point fingers at slobbering Nintendo fanboys, console warring man-children, and children like myself with bigger mouths than feet. None of that would really go anywhere though. You took your game that was probably only fifteen dollars to begin with, and showing everyone that it is only worth fifteen cents, completely killing any momentum that game could’ve had in the future.
Remember when Grandpa gave you the choice of one hundred dollars right then, and one dollar every day for an entire year? Well developers who farm best selling slots stick themselves on an interesting cliff. The public now views your game as only worth fifteen cents. So what happens to every game that goes down this road is about as easy to predict as the end of a new Mega Man game.
For those who aren’t aware, the Switch eShop implements a gold point system, where Nintendo fans get rewarded with gold points worth cash for buying games. You get a lot of points for physical games, so most have about a dollar worth of points at any given time. This means that people are getting indies on super-sales, for “free” as they see it. A perfect storm for an impulse purchase. So far, this doesn’t seem too awful.
Your game is now worth nothing in the consumers’ eyes. When that sale ends your game will not hold any value, or steady income. You’ve dammed the river, but not thought about the pond down stream. This is inherently toxic to games, as well as future titles by the same developer/publisher. As more and more games pull this card, more and more games will sit stationary on the eShop. Eventually, they’ll all add up, and create a huge problem for both indies in general, and Nintendo.
I think Nintendo would do some good by not allowing games under $6 to go on sale by more than 50% at a time. The eShop itself needs to be spruced up, so let’s see what we can do for it in short bursts. Adding a short music loop to the eShop could do a lot on a basic level, but we need to go deeper than that.
Developers and consumers need more in-depth search and browsing functions. Allow us to search easily by developer, publisher, genre, sub-genre, even by copies sold! This system is entirely built on the rich getting richer. Perhaps add in a basic review system? Even as simple as “fine”, “good”, and “bad”. Push games with “good” ratings on the front of the eShop. Push them on pages by genre. PUSH THEM PERIOD! [EDITOR’S NOTE: another possibility is simply have an Indie button that has all the indie games in it, that way trolls won’t review bomb games which has become a large hassle on Steam. Instead maybe have them viewable by release date, alphabetical order, etc.]
The Switch is consumers preferred way to play indies. The Switch is the most convenient platform on the market, dare I say, the most convenient platform in gaming history. Indies can do better than what they’re doing in the system’s ecosystem. Nintendo can certainly do better to stop the damage before it becomes an even bigger problem. Or, they can continue waving the white flag to screaming man-children who demand dead twenty plus year old characters to join a children’s party fighting game, while lugging around CRTs. Nintendo’s choice I suppose.