NBA 2K18 will be launching soon on the Nintendo Switch and other platforms. 2K recently confirmed the game will have feature parity on Switch with the other systems, even updates will release at the same time. With this, 2K has properly demonstrated how to bring a major third-party game to Switch. Developers, take note.
For years, Nintendo home systems have gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to third-party support. This is especially obvious when you take a look at the Wii and Wii U libraries. Most third-party games on those systems were usually watered down versions made by some B-team. If it wasn’t that, then it was a completely different game (read: incredibly simplified). For example, compare Shawn White Snowboarding on PS3/360 to that of the Nintendo Wii version which was developed by a totally different team.
To an extent, it was understandable during the Wii why some titles were just watered down. The system simply did not have the horsepower to provide the same experience as the PS3 and 360. With the Wii U, power was still an issue, but it was still an HD console. Most developers were very lazy with the few releases they brought to the system, which did not help the already sluggish sales. For instance, EA brought both FIFA 13 and Madden 13 to the system with missing features and technical hiccups.
Nintendo has finally learned a thing or two with the Switch. The company consulted developers while the system was being designed and worked hand-in-hand with Nvidia to ensure enough power was available. The result is a system that has just enough power to handle modern engines and an architecture that is easy to work with. While the Switch still isn’t in the same league as the other platforms, this is still a very big improvement over the Wii and Wii U. On top of that, the system has been selling very well since it launched back in March. With that said, developers have no excuse but to bring their best this time around.
To me, it seemed like some developers basically sabotaged themselves when it came to their Wii and Wii U releases. It was as if they brought over poor releases in a hope that they wouldn’t sell well just to be able to have a ‘reason’ to pull away total support from Nintendo’s systems. Some have even blamed the Nintendo fanbase for not caring for games that aren’t exclusives. This is simply not true. The Wii U and 3DS were the first Nintendo consoles to really embrace independent developers. In a lot of cases, the indie titles that came to those systems sold just as well as they did on other platforms. In some cases, sales were even better on Wii U and 3DS. This proved that Nintendo gamers do want to play more than just Nintendo-made games. The reality is that these consumers want to be treated fairly; not like second-class citizens.
NBA 2K18 on Switch is the full game with no cut content. This is much better than a lot of third-party releases back during the Wii and Wii U eras.
Developers need to understand that it isn’t going to work to just ‘throw a bone’ out to Nintendo gamers. If they want to sales, they need to give people a reason to buy the game. If a consumer owns a Nintendo system as well as another platform and a multiplatform game is better on the other platforms, which version are they most likely to buy? That’s why I think 2K should really be commended for bringing the full NBA 2K18 experience over to Switch. By doing this, it will provide a true test as to how interested Switch owners are. While the Switch version is not as pretty as the PS4/Xbox One editions, all the bells and whistles are still in place.
On top of that, it has the added benefit of being the only version of the game that can be taken anywhere; this is of course the main selling point. Since the NBA 2K18 franchise has such a massive following on PlayStation and Xbox, that makes the situation kind of stiff for the Switch. Even so, if 2K makes sure to advertise the Switch version just as much as the others, it can latch onto the system’s high popularity and will hopefully sell just as well as the other platforms.
If a game like NBA 2K18 finds success on Switch, not only will this will result in future entries in the series coming to the system, but this can also inspire other major developers to consider bringing their games over to the Switch. A lot of studios have seemed to take a ‘wait and see’ approach towards the Switch for now. The system is already selling well, so if multiplatform games also perform well then the whole situation is going to look very good to these apprehensive developers. More quality games then lead to more sales and then everyone’s happy: Nintendo, developers and the Switch userbase.
Of course, there’s still the matter of the Switch being at disadvantage from a technical perspective. 2K has admitted that NBA 2K18 has the system firing on all cylinders. This makes me concerned that future entries may end up being too advanced for the hardware. But, that’s being pessimistic. If developers really want to optimize for the system, they’ll find one way or another to do so. Most developers have been happy with the Switch so far, so hopefully their tone won’t change down the road. In the end, these studios need to make sure that whatever games they bring to the Switch, it’s fair treatment across the board. If NBA 2K18 doesn’t sell well despite having full parity, then third-party support on Switch will most certainly be rather disappointing. If it does turn out to be a success, then there should be no major excuse from other developers.