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What Digital Board Game Developers Think of Nintendo Switch

Brad Cummings
United States
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Early this week, it was reported that there was an touch only Nintendo Switch game planned for release in Japan. This drew my attention.

The Nintendo Switch is a portable tablet console that can be docked to the TV for bigger play. To this point it was understood that only games that worked in both ways would be featured on the device. The above announcement changes things.

If correct, this would mean the possibility to play digital board games on this device is there. Not only that, but the Switch is touting easier porting for Unity and UE4 games. That means the process could be less than terrible for devs.

This got me thinking, what do you digital board game developers think of the Nintendo Switch? Is it a viable future platform? I asked a handful and below are the responses I received:

Joseph Humfrey wrote:
Despite never having owned much Nintendo hardware myself, I’m extremely excited about the Switch. The flexible way it can be a console, a handheld and a tablet means lots of different genres and scales of games will work beautifully on it. Nintendo has shown a great breadth of both 3d console experiences as well as smaller 2d games, and it excites me that they’re really starting to cater well towards indie developers. As a company we’re definitely thinking about it very seriously as a platform for narrative games like 80 Days.

Justin Gary wrote:
We are always excited about new platforms that help bring the best of the board-game world to new audiences. Ascension was the first deckbuilding on mobile devices and the first to enter into the World of Virtual Reality. The switch represents another potential horizon to create more accessible social board game experiences. I won't commit to any platform until I have a chance to play it, but I am definitely keeping an eye on the Nintendo Switch.

Dan wrote:
Nintendo have consistently innovated with their hardware, and should be commended for always trying something fresh, rather than just upping the graphics power like most other consoles.

If the Switch has a touch-screen, and similar system architecture to an Android table, then it makes a lot of sense to bring existing titles designed for this input mechanism to a new platform.

However, it's a fair bet that most people buying a Switch already have a phone or tablet, so I wouldn't expect a massive pick-up, especially given the limited amount of hardware available at launch.

On top of this, 3rd party games usually struggle on Nintendo hardware as they have to compete with 1st party exclusives like Mario and Zelda but, if you can get in right at the start, like Voez, you might be able to establish a strong foothold on the platform.

What is really interesting, is that this could mark the beginning of Nintendo merging their home-console and hand-held platforms, which would be a canny idea as the 3DS has massively outperformed the Wii-U (a quick look on Wikipedia shows the 3DS at 35.3 Million units worldwide, compared to the Wii-U's 13.6 Million). Fusing the two markets could generate a strong uplift in hardware sales, which is great for both developers and consumers alike.

The fact that the Switch has a touch screen on the controller is of particular interest to us, as it's a great tool for creating a physical bond between the real-world player and the virtual-world experience - something we really focused on with Tsuro.

Voez's decision to not support the TV screen is an intriguing one. Having made a number of games on various Nintendo platforms, I know that they can sometimes enforce weird design restrictions around how their hardware can be used, particularly in the early days of a new console or peripheral. That having been said, the gameplay in Voez looks like players need to keep an eye on the touch screen, so I'm not sure what benefit using the TV would bring.

If Thunderbox were to do a Switch version of Tsuro we'd probably want to leverage the unique hardware to reinforce the immersion - sure you'd be able to play Tsuro on the go, just like the iOS and Android versions, but we'd probably put the board on the big screen, and have the players' tiles on the controller, so they could strategise in secret. Hmmm... maybe we should get on the phone to Nintendo!

Don Whiteford wrote:
We are considering Nintendo Switch as a potential new platform for our games, and are excited at the prospect of this new hardware, along with the opportunities it may bring.

Neil Rennison wrote:
I'm a big fan of the Switch's potential for game developers and this news has piqued my interest even further! I think this opens up lots of opportunities for companies like us working in the digital tabletop RPG/board game space. Lots of food for thought.

Scott Rencher wrote:
This seems like a great potential platform for board games. Play by yourself on the touch screen, or utilize the TV to play with others in the room. Hopefully they make it affordable for others to join in. The closer a platform mimics the natural interactions of moving physical pieces, the better we can maintain the illusion that the game and the experience is real.

Martin Pittenauer wrote:
It's hard to tell without having touched the final hardware yet ofc. Saying that, it is an interesting hardware package and might be a great board game platform. Being a worrier, I see two issues:

1) I'm sceptical of Nintendo's efforts to support and empower independent developers. Some of that might be prejudice and of course I'm very happy to see Nintendo taking more proactive steps to facilitate indies on the Switch, but well, given it's track record with third party devs, it's an issue to keep an eye on.

2) I'm not sure how well no-tv-mode games will be received by the audience. It's one of the main selling points of the system and violating that implicit promise (made by marketing) will make people angry. Maybe rightly so at Nintendo, but also at developers not supporting the TV mode. Board games are in an especially awkward place here, because they profit a lot from touch controls, but also lend themselves perfectly to local multiplayer, which would be associated with TV mode on the platform rather than handing the Switch from person to person.

Ben Murch wrote:
It's an interesting piece of kit, and I find it curious that not all the games will support TV mode given that's one of the big system selling points. Feels like Nintendo are cannibalising their handheld market. Are they trying to phase out their DS line of products? The controllers themselves don't look that great for digital board games, and the handheld screen itself is smaller than a tablet.... which makes me think tablets or PCs are still the leading platform for digital board games. Would I be tempted to make something for Switch? Sure. However, that something would most likely be a port from an iOS game, and not something totally bespoke and new. Nintendo are positioning themselves in a very odd space in the market, and it will be interesting to see how the next year progresses for them.
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