It’s always controversial to bring up the topic of third-party support on a Nintendo home system. Even so, I wanted to drag this topic out due to a recent statement from an EA executive who confirmed that the company is testing the waters by bringing FIFA 18 and a few other unnamed projects over to the system. This is obviously a very cautious approach to the Switch, basically amounting to nothing more than an experiment to see whether or not a profit can be turned. So, let’s say things turn out pretty bad and EA formally pulls away—will things be okay for the Switch?
The Switch has been selling pretty well since it hit the market back in March. The system is definitely making waves in the consumer base, with Nintendo actively advertising it to a pretty big extent. Even Nintendo’s competitors like Sony have acknowledged the company’s comeback. So, the Switch is already doing pretty well on its own. How would having an EA title in its library change the scene?
Like them or not, it’s fact that Electronic Arts is one of the biggest companies in the gaming industry. It owns a number of massive franchises, especially its plethora of sports titles. The reason why FIFA 18 in particular was chosen as the ‘premier’ title to test out the Switch is due to the fact that FIFA is EA’s biggest franchise from a financial standpoint. Considering the massive worldwide appeal that soccer/football has, this really isn’t hard to believe. But the question is, how much does it matter to have a big franchise like that on Switch?
One of the biggest complaints brought against the Wii U was that it had very minimal third-party support. This wasn’t the case initially, though. Many third-party developers were really enthusiastic about the system during its early days. At launch and throughout its first year, the Wii U had a number of third-party titles. EA just so happened to be one of the system’s biggest supporters, even going as far as to have a special spot during Nintendo’s E3 2011 press conference to discuss the “unprecedented partnership” that it had formed with the Big N. Wii U sales tanked shortly after launch, which resulted in a complete change of tune from EA and many other third-party studios. That explains the cautious approach that we’re seeing now with the Switch.
After the Wii U’s low sales, EA has decided to hold back until the Switch can really prove itself as a profitable system.
Only bringing FIFA may seem like EA really isn’t trying very hard to make a good first impression on Switch, but there just might be some folks out there who pick up the system just because it offers a high-quality FIFA experience with the added benefit of being able to take it on-the-go. The same can be said for EA’s other sports franchises which are also really popular, such as Madden. I don’t know why these sports games sell in the multi-millions each year, but they’re obviously profitable enough for annual releases.
Since the Switch is already in a much better position than the Wii U was, conditions are more favorable for games like FIFA 18 to sell well. That’s not a guarantee, just a notably higher chance. If things do end up going south, then it’s a matter of determining what happens next. EA has stated repeatedly that the sales of FIFA 18 will be the prime factor in determining whether or not it will fully support the Switch. So, if the situation does turn out to be negative, then we can already expect that reaction. But, what effect will it have on the sales of the Switch?
Nintendo has been doing a pretty decent job at selling the Switch without the help of EA. The system’s unique hybrid design is a big reason why it’s been performing so well: it catches the attention of the masses and it offers functionality that’s beneficial to every game that’s available. On that note, EA would actually be losing something if it chooses not to support the Switch; having its games on a platform that happens to offer portable functionality. It’s debatable as to how big of a deal that is, though. As for the Switch itself, third-party support is indeed something that will be a deciding factor to some consumers. While people should be accustomed to PlayStation and Xbox being the console platforms to go to for all the third-party ‘fixings, there’s still an active desire to have these titles to also regularly be featured on Nintendo’s home systems.
The Switch is already doing much better than Wii U, but that doesn’t guarantee an automatic win even for a sales juggernaut like FIFA.
If EA were to turn away from the Switch, then that would do some damage to the system’s reputation. EA’s titles definitely carry a lot of weight from a popularity perspective. Not only that, the company itself is a pretty influential force in the rest of the gaming industry. If EA pulls away, then other third-party and perhaps even some indie developers may also be swayed to disqualify the Switch as a viable platform, as we saw with the Wii U.
Nintendo home systems have not had good third-party support since the days of the SNES. The reason for this is a toss-up between Nintendo beginning to make very stubborn decisions with the design of its hardware from the N64 onward, along with the fact that other manufacturers like Sony treated developers a lot better than Nintendo did. It’s going to be difficult for the Switch to repair a problem that’s existed for over two decades, but it’s in a pretty decent position to at least make some progress on a solution. Nintendo has finally listened to the comments made by developers and have created an architecture that’s pretty simple to work with. While the Switch still lacks major horsepower, it’s an improvement over the Wii U all while being easier to work with. This is a big step forward for Nintendo, and hopefully an indication for future improvements. With that said, if there’s anytime to try and sway third-parties, it’s now.
As long as the Switch continues to sell well, the situation will be favorable for FIFA 18 and other major third-party titles. There’s no telling how things will turn out, but if it does prove to be a hit, then this could end up being the start of Nintendo truly finding balance and making serious progress in the home console industry. If not, then the Switch may very well have some rough seas ahead in the foreseeable future.