Nintendo Switch could be an indie dream machine
The Switch has finally launched, bringing an end to the Wii U era and the beginning of a new era for Nintendo. There are still some unanswered questions in terms of content, however.
Where the Wii turned into a third-party shovelware player and the Wii U was very obviously a first-party-only gaming machine, the Switch remains an anomaly this early into its lifespan. It's certainly not going to be a third-party powerhouse. Naturally, we can expect some quality first-party stuff. But if Nintendo's most recent YouTube presentation is any indication, it's very clear that the Switch will also be …
… an indie dream machine.
Skeptical Much? You Have Every Right To Be
The Switch launch was strange. The biggest game to come out alongside Nintendo's new platform — and it's certainly not one to scoff at — was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Aside from that, we got titles like Snipperclips, 1-2-Switch, I Am Setsuna, Shovel Knight, and a few more. Yeah, the Switch launch lineup was slim pickings, with a few titles already available on other platforms. This has led skeptics to raise their eyebrows. And while I understand the skeptics' point of view, I also understand Nintendo's.
The Switch may not have had the biggest menu of launch items, but practically everyone who made a big fuss over the console had their sights set on Zelda anyway. So where does this leave us? I'll tell you. For as limited as its launch was, Switch owners got a sprawling fantasy adventure that takes dozens of hours to experience — so they have something to do while they wait for other titles to drop.
Said titles won't be big EA or Activision hits. They won't even be hotly anticipated Nintendo games like Super Mario Odyssey. No, the games Switch owners have to look forward to are coming by way of those small dev teams that like to think outside the box. Yes, indie games.
Now, I know that for a lot of people, smaller indies won't replace the big triple-A releases. I won't try to change anyone's mind about that. But what we all need to understand is that Nintendo has always been a company that embraces weirdness — whether that weirdness is its own or that of other companies’, the fact remains that Nintendo has a penchant for the offbeat. There were probably people who rolled their eyes at the Nindies Showcase on YouTube. After all, where was the big third-party showcase, right?
Well, if that Nindies presentation was indicative of anything, it's that Nintendo has no intention of attempting to procure a huge third-party lineup, and will instead focus its efforts on having the Switch be a strong indie gaming system in addition to being the go-to platform for first-party content. And that's why we need to put our skepticism aside. It's okay that the Switch didn't have a huge launch lineup, and it's okay that third-party content won't be the focus of this new console, because there are plenty of other places for us to get those types of games.
The New Go-To Indie Game Player
For all of its shortcomings, the PlayStation Vita still garners mass praise as an ideal device to play indie games on. The cross-buy and cross-save features between the handheld, the PlayStation 4, and the PlayStation 3 allow players to take their indie adventures on the go with a few presses of a button. But those days may be numbered as the Switch's indie library grows over time.
What if instead of accessing a menu to move your game progress from the PlayStation 4 to the Vita before you go out, you can just grab your Switch and take off? Sure, accessing the cross-save menu isn't exactly a taxing ordeal, but the Switch removes that step altogether — as well as any loading times/error messages associated with it — and delivers a quicker, more intuitive experience. And before you tell me that's a moot point, let me remind you that we're in a period where people would rather use wireless headsets than having to “waste time” untangling the more “primitive” corded options.
People are always eager to get snazzy new consoles. Often, this is to see the bump in graphical power or new features. As an indie game fan, I'm pretty happy as long as I can play Stardew Valley on my laptop or Shovel Knight on my PlayStation 4 or OlliOlli2 on my Vita. Admittedly, however, I'll be even happier if, moving forward, I can get the bulk of my indie entertainment all on one platform. The less console juggling I have to do to play indies, the better, and the Switch caters to that intuitive, one-stop, all-in-one mentality.
An Exciting Time to Be an Indie Game Fan
The Vita, like the Wii U, was a failure despite its massive potential. But even in all of its failings, it found a fan base in the indie community. The Vita will be remembered less as a PlayStation 4 companion and more as an indie handheld. The Nindies Showcase highlighted a large number of cool titles like Runner3, Shakedown Hawaii, and the acclaimed Stardew Valley. Speaking of Stardew Valley, I can't play that on my Vita via cross-save, which means I can't take my farming sim adventure with me anywhere I go. That will no longer be the case on the Switch.
I don't currently own a Switch, but I intend on purchasing one in the near future. I do own a Vita and a PlayStation 4, though, and there are games that I love on those two platforms. I'm not going to re-buy Shovel Knight or The Binding of Isaac or Mutant Mudds, as much as I loved those games. However, I will most likely stick with the Switch when Flipping Death, Yooka-Laylee, Blaster Master Zero, and countless others drop. Why? Because being able to un-dock the Switch to take my indies with me anywhere I go is the ideal option.
When you think about a new Nintendo platform, you likely think about Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda, Metroid, and the host of awesome, nostalgic franchises that made the company successful. With the Switch, that thought process remains prominent. But for the indie fan — and I say this as a huge indie fan — the Switch is also the new way to play smaller games. Hell, it could be the best way. The new system will essentially take everything that made the PlayStation 4/Vita duo such a perfect ecosystem for indies and make it even better. And, quite frankly, that's pretty awesome.