On The Great Big Switch Port Debate…

 


… I’m okay with it.

Yeah, sorry to open with my actual conclusion but – I’m fine with ports on the Switch. It’s like people forget that they have been begging for third party support and games like Grand Theft Auto V, Dark Souls (which is now coming), Mortal Kombat X, Street Fighter (also coming) – and, here’s the sky-rending irony… they’d all be ports. They’re being ported from one device/console to another. They are, by definition, ports. So complaining about “ports” and then demanding “third party support” is silly. Third party support is mostly ports. Multi-format releases are, in essence, porting jobs.

But let’s break this down into two elements.

The first is Wii U-to-Switch ports; I get why people are rolling their eyes at this, with the amount of remasters the PS4 has had over the years, but before your eyes roll too far back, take a moment to consider this little fact; if reports are correct, the Switch has already outsold the Wii U’s lifetime sales (14 million). It’s done that in ten months, to the Wii U’s four years and four months. At this rate, if Nintendo is right on its numbers – which it seems to be – they’re talking of another 20 million sales during the 2018/2019 fiscal year. That more than doubles the Wii U’s userbase – and it’s likely to only continue to grow as more games come to the system.

So whilst these Wii U games are “older” games getting “ports” – they are going from an unsuccessful console where they didn’t sell terribly well (Bayonetta 2 sold just under a million as I recall – it deserves far more than that!) to one which is selling well and, more importantly, where software is selling in high volume as well. It makes good business sense and it gives them a second and much deserved lease of life.

Not -all- Wii U games will get ports either: I can’t see Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival getting shunted onto the Switch after the reception that garbage got. But Hyrule Warriors was a good game. Bayonetta was a good game. Hell, Pikmin 3 and Mario Maker are good games too. And after Smash Bros. and Super Mario 3D World, with the latter already replaced with Odyssey and the former probably getting an all-new game, there’s not a lot left on the Wii U to port over.

My point is; Wii U to Switch ports are a very, very finite resource. Which is why Nintendo is spacing it out – one, it doesn’t look like a massive splurge of first-party ports. And secondly, it allows for some of them to fill in scheduling gaps to maintain at least one decent release per month. Eventually this wellspring will be wholly consumed, and you can go right on back to begging for Virtual Console things.

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… nnngh… okay, I get it.

As for last gen or current gen ports… it’s what people want!

This is the state of the “Nintendoomed” nonsense; they knock Nintendo for not having third party support but the moment third parties are willing to push games, “oh they’re just ports it doesn’t mean anything”. The fact that third parties are taking the time at all to port things to the Switch, particularly after the Wii U, is a positive sign.

Take, for example, Dark Souls Remastered. Yes, it’s going to be on other platforms. And yes, there’s a lot of questions about performance. However – take a brief, fleeting moment to remind yourself that the debut announcement for this game was… in a Nintendo Direct. FROM Software could have made this announcement itself almost anywhere else for another platform, but rather than do that – it decided, surprisingly, to debut this game alongside Nintendo. That’s not meaningless; that’s quite a statement to be making, particularly when you are FROM Software and two of your three major Soulsborne franchises (Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne) are PlayStation Exclusive.

Then there’s The World Ends With You: Final Remix; this is a cult Square-Enix game, but it sees a market for it on the Nintendo Switch that it didn’t see on the 3DS or Wii U. Square-Enix hasn’t been shy about its support of the Switch, that’s for sure, but bringing a cult favourite over is a big statement of confidence. This is not a no-risk move, especially considering the controls are changing, new content is being added and the visuals are having to largely be redone as well (it is, to all intents and purposes, a remaster). But Square-Enix has enough faith in the Switch, and its market and consumers, to believe that this will find itself another niche corner to grow and flourish.

There are others – L.A. Noire was a big statement from RockStar Games; there’s history there, and most of it unpleasant. Skyrim, Doom and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus are all ports, but look back a few years and see how Bethesda spoke of Nintendo. They were not shy of their viewpoint, and they were not shy in the language they used. But three major games on the Switch? That’s a big statement to be making as well.

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Not to mention getting exclusive content as well.

 

These aren’t “token ports” – they’re given equal billing if not, like Dark Souls Remastered, pushed right to the front.

Let’s also acknowledge that the Switch really did catch the industry with its pants down. A few, like Bethesda, saw potential early on but most of the industry seemed to not be very sure of the idea of a hybrid console. With doubts erased, sales doing extremely well and serious software sales stories of superlative superiority (alliteration crits you for 9,999!), the Switch is no longer the “novelty” – it’s the device being heralded as giving the console market back a pulse.

Exclusives take time; with Nintendo having reportedly only shown the thing off back during E3 of 2016 – only four months before the October Trailer video – the bulk of the first push was invariably going to be ports. With a lot of industry development times being between 24 – 30 months (or 2 to 2.5 years), you put out things and try and see if there is a market there, or to build a market. It’s how it works. The start of the PS4’s life was, primarily, cross-gen ports.

The Switch has an advantage though; it’s a hybrid. Which means sure, you’re buying your game again. But – now you can take this game with you. You don’t have to wait until you get home – it’ll be there in your bag whenever you want to dabble. It’s a gimmick, but it also happens to be a very good gimmick no-one else is doing right now. That puts the Switch into its own very unique category, where buying a game again elicits the odd groan until people get it in their hands (see: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe). It would help if the games were a little cheaper – but that’s a time thing, and not much else.

If the Switch was just wall to wall ports, I might see a reason to complain. But it’s not – not by a long shot. There’s tons of original content on the Switch already, plenty of fresh new indie content (and some really good ports), and some decent third-party games as well – Doom 2016 in a handheld form is quite something. Nintendo has had more big, original content in its first year than most get in their first two or even three years. A smattering of ports isn’t the worst thing – because the Switch is different. And it’s different predominantly because many gamers, critics and publishers made Nintendo be different.

Third-party ports and remasters is a thing beyond Nintendo’s control – but it sure isn’t going to turn down the support. And as I said, Wii U ports… there really aren’t enough of those games to imagine that this is going to be a long-term problem.

And let’s not forget this; Sony’s big PSX announcement was a remastered MediEvil, and one of their biggest releases this year… is a remastered Shadow of the Colossus.

Nintendo is hardly “special” in this regard, and making it out to be is rank hypocrisy.

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