Let’s get things straight: this week was one of the very best the Nintendo eShop has had yet on Nintendo Switch. Yet, no one is really talking about it. Instead, the same cynical conversation topic continues – supposedly, the eShop is getting too many games, and risking hitting a saturation point. The releases over this week, however, show that quantity and quality can coexist in that digital space, and I’m going to explain why.
What’s on eShop is a running series on Tanuki Bridge that lists the eShop releases from Thursday through Wednesday each week. Whilst authoring these, I get to see the flow of releases from week to week, the highs and the lows; a running pattern has been emerging to me, and one that shows intent from Nintendo. Those in charge of the schedule are making sure there is one major release each week – and by major, I mean a well-known IP, whether it is first party game like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, or a third-party effort such as South Park: The Fractured But Whole. After that, you see a bunch of smaller-scale offerings to supplement that big-name game, from indies to retro revamps. The IP gets people in, then they can start to see these other games around it.
Why am I telling you this, exactly? Well, it’s important context that serves to show Nintendo isn’t just saying yes to everything without thinking about how to space it out. There is undeniably a large amount of games being added to the eShop on Switch, but there is certainly curation to go alongside it.
Which brings me back to my claim that this week was one of the very best weeks in the short history of the Nintendo Switch eShop. More than that, it was important in showing the ideal future of it. Now, by “best”, I’m not saying that Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition (the major IP release of this week, keeping that theme going) stacks up to the standards of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey. However, combined with the sheer amount of – key word incoming – varied quality titles alongside it, the digital storefront starts to look very impressive.
A wide sea of games is fine, but without quality control, it quickly becomes a deep quagmire
You see, the eShop will only suffer if the 20 million games (rough estimate) being added every week are similar and/or of a low quality. That’s why Steam and, to a degree, PSN are so hard to navigate efficiently – there’s a low barrier for entry that allows the likes of Life of Black Tiger to make their way through. A wide sea of games is fine, but without quality control, it quickly becomes a deep quagmire; instead of enjoying the freedom of choosing between lots of amazing games, you’re swamped by poor offerings that hide the good that is there. This is a problem shown most evidently by the App Store, where making an impact is nigh-on impossible (a recent Tanuki Talk delved into the mobile gaming topic, if you’d like more on that!).
Take this week; there are double figures of Switch eShop games releasing in a seven-day period, but they all offer different things. If you’re after a chilled-out, combat-free, relaxing open-world game, then Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles could be ideal. After a challenging rhythm platformer with catchy music? Runner3 is on the way. Oh, more of a horror person? Well, Little Nightmares: Complete Edition is here as well. Zelda fan? You’ve got Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition, as mentioned earlier. Looking got a solid, robust RPG with an amazing art style? Battle Chasers: Nightwar just came out on Tuesday. The list goes on, and none are quite alike.
There is more being done, too. All of those games could be overwhelming at once, so Nintendo cleverly spaces them out. It’s only done ever so slightly, with those days in between games having a crucial effect: it allows them each more of a chance in the spotlight, however brief that time is. Tuesday is a popular release day, often seeing a notable game launch to bookend the week (eShop weeks go from Thursday to Wednesday).
As a result of the variety and smart schedule, I’m not shy to say I spent around £75 this week, as there’s just so many great games. The Switch gets a lot of bad press for how it handles online (rightfully so, in some cases), but one place they perhaps deserve more credit is their approach to an online store. Arguably, it’s as important for them to get this right as it is to have a the flagship Mario, Zelda, or Pokémon game. Wii U showed you need more than just the first-party Nintendo games to create a healthy platform, and with the eShop, other games are being allowed to help with that.
Images via Nintendo UK Upcoming Games