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No, Nintendo Doesn’t ‘Need’ Third Parties



The need for Nintendo to attract third parties has been severely overstated, given what niche the Switch is trying to fill in the console marketplace. Far from the PS4 look-a-like that we expected, the Switch is another Nintendo console that challenges industry norms. As a result, much doom and gloom has been perpetuated about how its innovation will turn away third parties. However, rumor of the Switch’s need for third party support has been greatly exaggerated.

The truth is, ever since the Nintendo 64, Nintendo’s marketing has fallen out of touch with most third party developers and with most gamers. Nintendo consoles have remained secondary purchases for most gamers, even when Nintendo has attempted to satiate developer’s desires for better graphics with more powerful hardware, as with the GameCube. Despite such an increasingly obvious trend toward second-class consoleship, the way that Nintendo markets toward consumers hasn’t changed, until now.

With the Switch, Nintendo is finally admitting that, despite how neat it may be to play Skyrim on an airplane or NBA 2K at an actual basketball court, they aren’t targeting first console purchasers anymore. Instead, they are marketing the Switch as a complementary console for PS4 and Xbox One owners who wish to play Nintendo exclusives. Due to this shift in marketing strategy, third party games, as means to attract consumers to purchase the Switch, have lost much of their puissance. Add to that the fact that Nintendo chose as its console’s main chip an aging ARM processor instead of the more commonly used x86 architecture, and it becomes evident that their focus is on the experiences that they can craft instead of trying to compete with the Xbox One and PS4’s level of third party support.

This may not seem the wisest route for Nintendo at first glance. After all, wasn’t one of the Wii U’s greatest failures the fact that it didn’t have enough third party support to even muster a Madden or FIFA release past the first year? Not exactly.

The Wii U failed, not primarily because of a lack of third party support, but because it sold poorly and was sold for a loss even a year after launch. The added cost of the GamePad didn’t help either, costing Nintendo around $79.25 per console, an incredibly high price for a peripheral that was abandoned by most developers less than two years after release. Nintendo has lived and even thrived through consoles that sold poorly, the N64 and GameCube’s sales were anemic. The Wii U came after a poor 3DS launch that cost Nintendo millions, was marketed poorly, and had less than a year headstart over the PS4 and Xbox One. It wasn’t Nintendo’s first failure, but it was by far their most ill-timed.

Third party games, in reality, have had little to do with the sales of Nintendo consoles since the Nintendo 64. The GameCube had more third party ports than one could shake the proverbial stick at, and yet it still managed to sell less than the original Xbox, a console that, despite its graphical fortitude, was not known for good sales. The Wii had massive third party support, but in an ironic turn of events, the majority of those games were shoddily constructed shovelware that did little to change the preconceived notion that it was a console for children and the elderly.

In fact, the Wii U may have suffered from its initial focus on third party games. By overemphasizing the release of old, mid-generation games that were already popular with consumers on other consoles, while simultaneously failing to secure third party support much past launch, Nintendo seemed even more out of touch with consumers’ wishes. If they were to make the same mistake with the Switch and overemphasize the small commitments that companies like EA have made, they would appear just as laughable as they did five years ago.

With the Switch, it seems as if Nintendo has finally recognized that, for the most part, gamers buy Nintendo consoles for Nintendo games while continuing to play popular third party games on another console, or a gaming PC. In the past, Nintendo’s handhelds have succeeded as secondary consoles, not because they had ports of popular AAA games, but because they had great Nintendo exclusives, popular indie games, and a smattering of third party titles not available on any other platform (Bravely Default comes to mind). With their next system logically, but not officially, replacing both the 3DS and Wii U, it stands to reason that they should use the same strategy with the Switch and attempt to leverage their strength with handhelds to bolster poor console sales.

At the end of the day, Nintendo’s greatest strengths lay within itself. Their franchises are instantly recognizable to gamers and non-gamers alike. If they can successfully utilize that consumer recognition, then there is no doubt in my mind that the Switch can reverse the downward trend Nintendo’s consoles have been stuck on for the past twenty years and deliver a truly memorable console. If they avoid the temptation to switch things up but instead play to their greatest strength, their games, the path back to relevance becomes that much clearer for Nintendo.

Although a gamer since before I can remember, there is not a better definition of me than these three words: Christian, moderate, and learner. I am steadfast in my Faith, my Beliefs, and in my Opinions, but I am always willing to hear the other side of the discussion. I love Nintendo, History, and the NBA. Currently a PhD Student at Liberty University.



  1. Sylmaron

    February 18, 2017 at 9:06 pm

    Saying Nintendo doesn’t need third parties is pretty much the same as stating the WiiU should have been a succes. But it wasn’t.

    • Izsak “Khane” Barnette

      February 19, 2017 at 2:00 pm

      Thanks for commenting! The problem with the Wii U, in my opinion, had more to do with the fact it wasn’t profitable and was poorly marketed.

  2. DrunkSuperman

    February 18, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    ok so just survive on the same 4-5 franchises….hahahah this is the same stuff that was heard when the WiiU started to show it was DOA and look how that ended up

    • Note5

      February 19, 2017 at 1:46 am

      This damning article further encourages Nintendo’s downward spiral to utter isolation and demise.

    • Izsak “Khane” Barnette

      February 19, 2017 at 2:36 pm

      Thanks for commenting! I believe Nintendo’s IPs, if marketed correctly, are more than enough to carry them through.

      • DrunkSuperman

        February 19, 2017 at 7:07 pm

        thats like saying the life support is good enough to sustain the sick/dying person its not about staying alive its about improving, gamers confidence/ interest in Nintendo has already been extremely diminished where they have become basically a joke if this is just going to be the same WiiU scenario which you seem to be fine with then it will completely disappear

  3. Edsword

    February 18, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    The Switch is in a unique position to get support from both 3DS developers and Vita developers. There will be no competition outside phones and tablets in the handheld market. That is the only patch to success I see for Switch, to become the alternate gaming handheld. But the will still need third party support to pull that off.

    • Izsak “Khane” Barnette

      February 19, 2017 at 2:37 pm

      Thanks for commenting! That’s why I mentioned games like ‘Bravely Default’ in my article. I think small, third party games like that would be really good on the Switch.

  4. ruefrak

    February 18, 2017 at 10:42 pm

    Nintendo won’t be able to get 3rd parties to support Switch, so they’ll have to pick up the slack. Some 3rd parties will support it at launch with half-assed ports of their games, and when people don’t buy them, they’ll abandon the console. Some indies will stick around because there’s less competition, but major publishers will focus on PS4/XB1 where the money is. Then you’re left with a console that has no AAA games, other than Nintendo first party support, and people have to decide if that’s worth the price of entrance. Since this is what we saw with Wii U, the answer is no. Nintendo selling a console with no 3rd party support is a proven losing strategy.

    • Izsak “Khane” Barnette

      February 19, 2017 at 2:38 pm

      Thanks for commenting! I would say that third party support has little to do with actual Nintendo console sales. Look at the GameCube, for instance.

  5. Note5

    February 19, 2017 at 1:43 am

    I can’t believe what I read.
    NES and SNES says hi.
    Two of the greatest consoles in history.
    And they are made by Nintendo.
    I loved them for the 3rd Party games and never the 1st party games.
    Top Gun, Contra, Megaman, Double Dragon, TMNT, Chrono Trigger, Ninja Gaiden, FFVI, Street Fighter II, Dragon Ball Z Super Butouden 2, YuYu Hakusho Hen 2.

    • Izsak “Khane” Barnette

      February 19, 2017 at 2:03 pm

      Thanks for commenting! What I was mainly trying to get across was that Nintendo needs to use the same strategy that they used with the 3DS, focus on smaller third party developers, as the “big fish” are more likely to stay in Microsoft and Sony’s ponds.

  6. Note5

    February 19, 2017 at 1:44 am

    What a damning article to Nintendo and its fans.

  7. J.j. Barrington

    February 19, 2017 at 2:24 am

    That’s a title dreamed up by a fanboy if I’ve ever read one.

    • Izsak “Khane” Barnette

      February 19, 2017 at 2:01 pm

      Thanks for commenting! The title is an accurate representation of Nintendo’s place in the marketplace, in my opinion.

      • J.j. Barrington

        February 20, 2017 at 3:41 pm

        How can it be accurate? The Wii U obviously suffered for lack of third party support, and said support is a MASSIVE part of the success of Nintendo handhelds.

  8. fyoube

    February 19, 2017 at 4:43 am

    hey goomba
    We all know Nintendo has the best software know to man, but they cannot survive if they go the way of the wii u. Quit making these click bait-y articles. The gaming public aren’t stupid. This will be the last time I visit your site if that’s what you have to do to get clicks. Seriously … l@me@syouknow what

  9. ???? ??????

    February 19, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    the author is a retard.

  10. John Cal McCormick

    February 20, 2017 at 9:03 am

    “The Wii U failed, not primarily because of a lack of third party support, but because it sold poorly”

    Obviously there’s a lot to unpack in this article, and it’s fair to say that I disagree with basically all of it, but this sentence in particular caught my attention. What does this mean? That’s not “why” the console failed. That’s the conditions for failure. It’s the effect, not the cause. It’s like saying that John Lennon died not because somebody shot him, but because his body could no longer sustain life.

    This article is kinda indicative of a problem that Nintendo faces on a wider scale. There’s too many people willing to perform mental and semantic gymnastics to try and put a favourable spin on everything they do, ultimately to the detriment of the product. Yes Men don’t ever help. Looking at a product objectively (or as objectively as one can) and critiquing it helps. The Wii U failed for numerous reasons, including but not limited to third party support being non-existent.

    No console in history has been a hit without third party support. I’ll reiterate; no console in history has been a hit without third support. And so ignoring all evidence to the contrary and just defiantly proclaiming that Nintendo will be fine without third party support isn’t going to help anybody. It’s the sort of thinking that leads to this site featuring articles in five years time entitled “The Switch failed not because it didn’t have third party support, but because people didn’t buy it.” And it’s the sort of thinking that means that Nintendo won’t get any better. Their staunchest fans are contributing to their downfall, by dismissing all criticism as “haters gonna hate” or coming up with increasingly elaborate explanations for why their chosen console failed.

    • Izsak “Khane” Barnette

      February 20, 2017 at 4:02 pm

      Excellent comment, John. What I am saying is that there is no need for Nintendo to attempt to market to a consumer base that is fully saturated.

      • Izsak “Khane” Barnette

        February 20, 2017 at 4:10 pm

        In my opinion, a lack of third party support was a tangential reason, at best, for the Wii U’s failure. Developers most likely would have dropped support after the PS4 and Xbox One’s release due to hardware constraints.

        • John Cal McCormick

          February 20, 2017 at 4:45 pm

          The problem isn’t – inherently – lack of third party support. Theoretically a system could be a success without it. It just needs other things to balance in its favour. The problem is that Nintendo doesn’t have those things in their favour. They’re sat in a very perilous middle ground.

          They want to be a second console. Okay. That’s a direction. It makes sense. And it’s actually one I’d advocate them going full tilt for. So why is this console selling at a premium price? Why is the accessories so expensive? You can’t tell people that your product is a second console, a sidekick to their PS4 or Xbox One, and then try and sell them it for more than either of those consoles are going for. Optically, it’s so, so bad. Marketing-wise, it’s a big ask to make that make sense.

          Alternatively, they can go the premium console route. They’re already priced like that. But they don’t have the third party support to back that up.

          They’re stuck in the middle. They’re not fully in either camp. And that’s exactly the same problem the Wii U had. And like the Wii U, it’s happening because of what I think are poor decisions in hardware design.

          It might pan out, but as someone who’s been watching trends and marketing and the business side of the industry for many years now, I’ll be surprised if the Switch is a hit. You can never really predict these things because you never know when there’ll be that lightning in a bottle moment, but the Switch looks like it’s caught in a very dangerous middle ground, and I’m not expecting it to be a hit.

          • Izsak “Khane” Barnette

            February 20, 2017 at 6:55 pm

            That’s a pretty detailed breakdown of their business strategy there, and I agree with some of your points. I admit that my heart sank a little when they announced it would be $300. After all, there are Xbox One and PS4 bundles that come with games for that much. However, after the Wii U sold for a loss well after launch, I think they prioritized making a profit off of every console over consumer outreach.

            One could argue, I suppose, that if they didn’t include portability, then they could have sold a more powerful console for cheaper, but I think that misses the point.

            Nintendo has always prioritized innovation over typicality. The NES had R.O.B, the SNES, had the Super FX chip, the N64 had full 3D graphics, the GameCube had analog triggers, the DS had dual touchscreens, the Wii had motion controls, and the Wii U had a tablet. I think for them to make a generic, even if premium, console would be an affront to their true nature as innovators.

          • John Cal McCormick

            February 21, 2017 at 9:42 am

            I’ve never really understood the “Nintendo has always been the innovator” argument. I mean, sure, they do play against type. But a) some of those “innovations” are just Nintendo pointlessly reinventing the wheel to be wacky, and b) their hardware “innovations” have resulted in every one of their home consoles selling worse than the one before it with the sole exception of the Wii.

            The point that I’m making is that Nintendo’s business strategy seems to need a change. Just saying, “Yeah but this is what Nintendo do! They innovate!” isn’t the solution. It’s not the answer. It’s actually the root of the problem they face.

            Without getting too in depth for the sake of this comment not being an essay, look at the commercial viability of the Switch, in your opinion, and then take a look at the only Nintendo console to break their downward trend in sales figures, the Wii. What’s the biggest difference between the two?

            You might say that the Wii has an easier concept to grasp, and I’d say that’s certainly a contender. But the most stark difference for me is the cost. The Wii launched at $250 and came with a game. The Switch is launching at $350 (I think?) with no game. So it’s basically $400.

            You mention Nintendo cutting out the portability to make a more powerful console, but do you really think that is the best strategy?

            Like I said before, Nintendo is in a weird middle ground. For me, unless they can capture the public consciousness – which is an incredibly difficult thing to predict or pull off – like they did with the Wii, then they need a sound business strategy. Somehow I don’t think a handheld with an HDMI Out port is on the same level as the inclusive gaming mantra that the Wii had.

            So you’re left with a number of options. If Nintendo is going to embrace their position as the second console of choice for gamers, a place where they don’t need third party games and the console is solely used for first party Nintendo games, then they need to be cost effective. For me, removing the portability of the console is something that they definitely should have considered, but I wouldn’t have made the console more powerful at all. I’d have done everything I could to lower the cost.

            A Mario and Zelda machine shipping at $200 is a no brainer. That’s a compelling price for a second console. It doesn’t matter how powerful it is. It doesn’t matter if it’s on par with PS4. Nintendo does incredible things with underpowered tech. They’d make great looking games that played well.

            But that’s not what they’re doing. They’re selling a premium console. A console that is more expensive than the competition on the market right now despite being less powerful. They’re not the cheap second console or the PS4 competitor. They’re the worst of both worlds – an expensive console that can’t compete in terms of raw power, and doesn’t appear to have the strong backing of many developers.

            If the Switch was a budget console then I’d agree with the title of this article. But it isn’t. And I think it’s delusional to just assume everything is going to be okay when there’s a huge amount of evidence to the contrary. Hence, I think they do need third parties.

          • Brent Middleton

            February 21, 2017 at 8:53 pm

            The Switch is shipping for $300.

            It’s in an interesting middle ground, I agree. But then again, so was the Wii. It was less powerful than the PS4 and Xbox One, and it wasn’t supported with AAA third party releases at launch beyond one single title–Call of Duty 3. The Wii was able to sell based on its form factor and first party software (namely Wii Sports) alone. The third party devs came running afterwards.

            Nintendo’s portable line has succeeded much in the same way. Form factor and first party software (mainly Pokémon, Mario, Mario Kart, etc.).

            No one wants watered down versions of For Honor or Mass Effect Andromeda on the Switch. Not receiving AAA multi platform support (aside from the major sports franchises already confirmed) isn’t going to be the death of the system. Instead, like Wii and Nintendo’s handheld line, third parties will need to bring software specifically made for the Switch if they want to sell on the platform. And those games will come if the Switch is successful on its own merits, just like the handhelds have been.

            The Switch has the form factor and first party content down. It has much better marketing than the Wii U, which was it’s greatest fault. It also has tons of indie support, which is interestingly taking the place of traditional third party’s on the console.

            Is the price ideal? No, but it’s also not very expensive for a new console. It’s $50 more than the PS4 and Xbox One, but those have been out for 4 years. People have had those systems or their friends have had them for years now. The newness of the Switch combined with its form factor (the main appeal of the console) is going to see it do well. Zelda will hold launch down, Mario will hold holiday. Indies and games like Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe & Fire Emblem Warriors are going to fill any software droughts, another huge problem of the Wii U.

            Is it going to be a Wii-sized hit? Of course not. But it’ll do well. The Switch is far from doomed to the Wii U’s fate. The third and fourth months will tell a far better story.

          • John Cal McCormick

            February 21, 2017 at 9:34 pm

            This is precisely my point though. Sort of.

            Nobody wants to play the rubbish version of Mass Effect or a port of a game that came out months ago on other systems. That was the Wii U approach to third party support that went down like a lead balloon.

            The point is that they have neither parity with the other consoles or price reflective of their nature as the second console. The worst of both worlds, as it were.

            The Wii, as I recall, shipped with Call of Duty, Madden, Need for Speed, Rayman Rabbids, some licensed rubbish (rubbish that sells, though), that awful Tony Hawks spin off, Red Steel, and some lesser known third party stuff like Trauma Centre. Then first party wise it came bundled with Wii Sports, which for all intents and purposes was all the Wii was to much of the casual user base getting one as a Christmas present, and a Zelda game for the hardcore.

            The Wii had a lot more going for it in terms of obvious commercial appeal AND it had the attention of third party publishers.

            The Switch looks very expensive, despite the fact it’s cheaper than the price either it’s competitors launched for, because it’s entering the fray midgeneration. That’s perfectly understandable but it also doesn’t change how bad the optics of the situation are when you can pick up a PS4 or Xbox with all of the most popular games on the market for less than the cost of a less powerful Nintendo system that pretty much has Zelda.

            I’m not writing the Switch off. I just think writing off the importance of third party support is something that Nintendo fans quite often do without actually looking at the grim realities of the situation, and the historical evidence that suggests the contrary.

          • Brent Middleton

            February 21, 2017 at 10:10 pm

            I see where you’re coming from. The launch is definitely lacking, though I’d argue that the Switch has pretty obvious commercial appeal. The Swich can recover after launch though, like the 3DS did.

            The Wii only became attractive to third parties when it took off–which it did because of it’s motion controls, Wii Sports (which showed off those motion controls) and price. The handhelds do well because they’re convenient alternatives to sitting in front of a TV, and they have killer aps like the Pokémon series.
            The Switch has a unique form factor like both of these–it just needs a Wii Sports or Pokémon–esq killer app.

            The Switch could not have supported current gen third party support and been a hybrid without costing hundreds more than it does. It could’ve been a premium-priced powerhouse, but people would then complain about the $400-$500 PS4 Pro-like pricepoint and just stick to the cheaper current gen console’s for their third parties. They could’ve gone for a $200 Nintendo-only machine like you say, and that’d be interesting, but then it’d be competing with its own still-thriving 3DS line.

            I think that because of their timing, and the position the Wii U put them in, they had to either wait a few years until the PS5 etc., or straddle the middle now and try to succeed based off the form factor of the system (like they did with the Wii and like they do with their portables) instead of harnessing the power that would let them support AAA third parties. Because of the Wii U’s fate, they were basically pushed into a corner mid-generation.

            If it does well on its own, third parties will come with great exclusives like so many did on the DS and 3DS. The Switch just has to prove itself somewhat on its own first.

            It’ll be interesting for sure. If it fails after launch, Nintendo would be wise to have a price drop and push Mario at holiday to give it a second chance, similar to the comeback story of the 3DS after its abysmal launch. We’ll see!

          • Izsak “Khane” Barnette

            February 22, 2017 at 1:01 am

            I completely agree. The 3DS got to an incredibly slow start, but picked up pace when the price was cut. As I say in the article, the Wii U was by far their most ill-timed failure coming not only in the middle of a generation but also when they could have used a much needed financial boost after having to sell the 3DS at a loss.

          • John Cal McCormick

            February 22, 2017 at 8:53 am

            The Switch can definitely recover. It might not even need to recover. It might be a huge hit. But the 3DS recovered thanks to a combination of serious price cuts and the eventual arrival of big games. I question how much room Nintendo has to move with the price of the Switch. I’m pretty sure if there was any wiggle room it’d already be cheaper than it is.

            The Switch does need a killer app but it’s very difficult to see where that could come from. It certainly doesn’t have one at launch, or one that has been announced yet. Wii Sports was a very easy sell because it used the unique nature of the hardware perfectly and anybody could grasp the concept immediately. What could you possibly do to take advantage of the Switch hardware, which when you boil it down is really just changing screens? Not only that but Wii Sports was affordable, and came packed in with the console. For a lot of people who bought the Wii, Wii Sports was all it was.

            I know that the Switch couldn’t achieve parity with PS4/Xbox One and remain cost effective, but that’s why I’m questioning the entire focus of the console, if they want it to be a huge success. If all they want is to sell respectably and be their own thing then the Switch will be fine. It can hit Wii U sales. Probably even Gamecube sales. Maybe. But word on the street is that internally they think it’s so special it’s going to be a Wii-level hit and that’s absolutely bonkers to me.

            The focus of the console just seems askew to me. Regardless, it’s going to be super interesting watching it all unfold. It’ll be of little consequence to me since I’ve already decided I won’t be picking one up until Mario hits, but I’ll be interested to see how it’s selling once the novelty of launch wears off and the hardcore Nintendo crowd have already bought theirs.

          • Brent Middleton

            February 22, 2017 at 11:59 am

            I’d say Super Mario Odyssey will be their killer app at holiday by showcasing that you can take a huge triple-A anywhere. Zelda will already do this, but Mario might do it better. That combined with a $50 holiday price cut and it should be fine. It doesn’t need a pack-in in its first yea, it just needs to enter that holiday impulse buy range, and for a console $250 would be the sweet spot. Announce Smash Switch with all the Wii U DLC included for early 2018 and it’ll do fine.

            Probably not Wii numbers, but because of all the improvements in marketing and expected software droughts over the Wii U, I’d be hard pressed to see it do that poorly. It’s seemingly poised to hit Xbox One sales numbers in its first few years, and while that won’t be stellar, it’ll still be respectable. But who knows. The 3DS did 60 million. Crazier things have happened.

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