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Play Life, Live Games column: Third parties should offer better support for Switch

Dusty Ricketts
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The Rolla Daily News

Columns share an author’s personal perspective.

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We are coming up on the fourth anniversary of the release of the Nintendo Switch.

Before the system’s release in March 2017, there was real concern that Nintendo might have to exit the home console business and instead start making games for PlayStation and Xbox. The Wii U console launched in 2012 and became Nintendo’s worst selling system of all time with just 13.56 million units sold.

If things had gone similar for the Switch, that might have been the end of Nintendo’s console business. But the Switch has been a well-deserved success for Nintendo, with more than 68 million units sold. That’s more than any other Nintendo-made home console except for the Wii, which sold 101 million units.

And it’s not just the systems that are moving units. The Switch has been the home to some of the best selling games in recent years. “Mario Kart 8: Deluxe” is the best-selling game on the system with 29 million copies sold. That’s followed by “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” (26 million), “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” (21 million) and “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” (19.75 million).

The only real complaint that can be levied at the Switch at this point is the same one several Nintendo systems have had, a lack of third party support. All 20 of the best selling games for the Switch are made by either Nintendo or the Pokemon Company, which Nintendo is a part owner of.

Third party developers have supported the Switch better than the Wii and the Wii U consoles, but it’s mostly been ports of games released previously for other systems rather than new games developed specifically for the Switch.

The worst offender of this has been EA, one of the largest gaming companies in the world with series like Madden, FIFA, Need for Speed and the exclusive license to make Star Wars games.

Since the Switch launched, EA has released just eight games for the system, with half of those being FIFA games, and the company is putting in the bare minimum of effort in getting those games released. Most sports games are annualized and the development studio spends the year between releases updating the graphics, adding new modes or features and updating the roster.

Since “FIFA 18,” each game released since on the Switch has been the exact same as the year before with the exception of updating the rosters and menu screen. The gameplay, features and graphics are all exactly the same in “FIFA 2021” as they were in “FIFA 18.”

My biggest complaint with EA’s commitment to the Switch has been that they have failed to release a single Star Wars title for the system in the time it’s been released and they don’t have anything announced for it.

Disney and Lucasfilm signed EA to a 10-year exclusive contract to create Star Wars games in 2013. The companies are probably negotiating an extension now. I think the way EA has handled the Switch is proof that Disney/Lucasfilm should allow other companies to create Star Wars games going forward and not give EA exclusivity.

The Switch is weaker hardware than the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, let alone the new PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, so getting titles to run on Nintendo’s hardware is bound to be more difficult than the other systems. But Madden and Star Wars titles would sell on the Switch. It’s a shame they’re not there.

Dusty Ricketts is the editor of The Destin Log and The Walton Sun newspapers and can be reached ata dricketts@thedestinlog.com.