Is The Nintendo Switch Indie Game Friendly?

When it comes to Indie Game developers, Nintendo doesn’t exactly have the best reputation it can; many developers prefer developing for PC mainly, Mobile platforms pretty close, and with Xbox and PlayStation consoles coming in at third. That’s why only a small fraction of Indie Games are ever released for any Nintendo hardware, and the majority of that has only been in recent years.However, with the Switch, that seems likely to change, with Tyrone Rodriguez, the president of game development studio Nicalis, saying that the console is much more developer friendly than most of Nintendo’s previous hardware. So far, Rodriguez has managed to work on games for a number of those consoles, thus giving him first hand experience as to what it’s like for developers to programme for each console, and The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ being a launch title for the Switch. To date, this makes him one of the very few Indie developers to work with Nintendo consistently over the past few years.

Is The Nintendo Switch Indie Game Friendly?
Rodriguez makes it seem that the Switch will be more Indie friendly than previous Nintendo releases.

Speaking to Polygon about his relationship with the company, Rodriguez said:

We were fortunate enough to have prototype developer hardware for the Wii U, 3DS, etcetera, so we already had a good relationship with Nintendo to get [the Switch] a little bit early.

With that relationship in mind, The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ is set to be one of the fastest games ever to be ported from PC to a console in recent memory; it launched on PC just over a month ago and is set to be released on the Switch in about a month. Rodriguez says that this is down to how easy it is to develop for the Switch, based on his first hand experience developing for the console.  As he says:

“The Switch is, by far the easiest and most programmer friendly so far. I know this sounds like lip service to Nintendo, but it’s actually not. If this wasn’t true, we wouldn’t be able to get these games up and running as quickly as we have, and we wouldn’t be able to have a launch title. It’s light years ahead of what we were doing with Wii U.”

Nintendo Switch Indie Friendly
The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ is set to be a launch title for the Nintendo Switch.

So far, Rodriguez can’t say much about the console or its launch, due to a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) between Nicalis and Nintendo, but he was able to provide some insight into how easy it was to develop for the Switch, something which he apologized to Polygon for.  Another one of the main reasons that The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ was able to launch so quickly on the Switch after being released on PC was an attempt to unify their games across multiple platforms, further decreasing porting time. Achievements, for example. Rodriguez explains:

We put in hooks in…so that the code will work on any platform. So, for example, if there was a console that didn’t have achievements, you can’t have achievements on those games. But in the case of Isaac, we built the achievements right into the game.

Rodriguez also mentioned that, in addition to his team’s three announced titles (Isaac, Redout and 1001 Spikes) they has “way more” Switch games in development. They’ll have competition, though. Other indies have been announced for Switch, including Stardew Valley and Tumbleseed. So far, this gives a clear indication as to whether or not the Switch is actually Indie friendly. And if that’s definitely the case, things are looking up for fans of the company, as it’ll definitely mean more games being released on the platform sometime down the line. At the moment, it’s only Indie developers that were able to get their hands on the hardware early that’ll be releasing games on the platform not long after launch. As for the increased competition that Rodriguez and his company will be facing in the coming months and years? Well, it’s a good thing, but slightly bittersweet it seems. As the developer says:

We used to enjoy the lack of developers coming to Nintendo consoles, it was a lot less competition. But it’s not a bad thing. More good games on every platform is good for the industry. I’m very happy Nintendo is trying to get more games for this platform.

So far, there has been a lot of back and forth about the pros and cons of the upcoming platform, with many developers saying that they’ll be releasing games for it, and others saying that they’ll be sticking to PC, Xbox and PlayStation for the time being. Hideo Kojima even weighed in, saying:

You might be familiar with the fact that for a previous game that I did, we had a specification that we called ‘Transfarring’ where you could take the saved data from the PS Vita and move it over to the PS3 and back and forth like that. I believe [Switch] is an extension of that idea. The fact you can play something at home and take it outside, this is the gamer’s dream. The Switch is an evolution of that.


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