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Indie devs talk about the challenge of getting noticed on the Switch eShop

There's a lot of competition and little curation

At last count, the Switch library consists of over 2,600 games. Every single one of those titles is on the Switch eShop, which leads to quite a struggle for developers when they try to get noticed. MCVUK talked to Joseph Humfrey, co-founder of Inkle (creators of 80 Days and the upcoming Pendragon) and Mike Rose, founder of No More Robots (publisher of Descenders and Yes Your Grace) about the challenge of catching attention on the Switch eShop. Humfrey had these comments to share.

“The primary mechanism for indies to get featured on the eshop right now isn’t really in the eShop at all. It’s in the news app Nintendo currently does a popular roundup of each week’s releases, and thankfully they chose to feature 80 Days. We believe this was the main way that 80 Days received new players outside of our own marketing efforts. Beyond this we haven’t had any help from Nintendo, though it’s not very surprising since we’re so new to their platform. We entered at a time when indie competition had already become very fierce, and it’s an old port rather than a platform exclusive.

The newsfeed is certainly better than nothing for getting noticed, especially since you have the potential to be featured right from the lock screen of every single device worldwide. But it’s also pretty transitory – once you’ve sunken down the chronological list, that’s it.

By comparison, when 80 Days first came out on iOS, it was featured prominently by Apple. It was exclusive, we specifically designed the art style with Apple’s then brand-new iOS 7 minimalism in mind, and having already released games on the platform we already had a contact on their App Store team. It then stayed within their regular rotation, being included in a multitude of features over the years.

In terms of organic discoverability, the main problem with the eshop is that it’s simply too basic. There’s such a small number of pages where you can be featured, that it massively limits the breadth of potential discovery. Yes, they have a Discover page, but it’s just one page, where games of all genres and types have to fight for visibility. Beyond that, they have Recent Releases (which you’re guaranteed to be on, albeit for a very limited period of time), Current Offers (which appears to be full of games that are err… gaming the system), and the Charts (which doesn’t even break down into genres as other stores do).

The strange thing is that Nintendo has actually invested in curation. They have multiple pages on their various international websites, such as #Nindies, Indie World and their Indie Games page. Indie World even produces editorial content – interviews with developers and so on. The problem is that this content isn’t being replicated in the one place where players need it – on the device itself.

My opinion as a developer is that this is a simple organisational problem. The website editorial and content teams are probably entirely separate from those responsible for developing features for the software running on the device.

My hope is that Nintendo will release a big software update in the future that will merge the news and eShop app together into one to create a seamless editorial and store platform all in one place. Currently the transition between reading a news item and going to a relevant eShop page is pretty painful. If they could do that while expanding their curation (and categorisation) effort within the eShop itself, that would be great!”

Rose spoke about the one tactic numerous devs have used to get their game noticed; major sales. You no doubt know about games that are cutting their price upwards of 90%, which helps them shoot straight up to the top of the charts. Not only does this bring is sales, but it gets much better placement on the eShop as well. The problem is, this teaches consumers to hang back and wait for major sales before buying a game.

“I mean, they’re not just gaming the system, they’re unfortunately using the system the best way they can. Massive discounts are now the core way to sell on Nintendo Switch. If you’ve ever wondered why there are just reams and reams of 80-90 per cent off titles on Switch – including at their bloody launches – it’s because the store is ranked by units, not revenue.

The top charts are the games with the most downloads in the last two weeks. So in other words, if you put your game on 90 per cent off, and as a result, inevitably get a ton of downloads, you shoot up the charts. Then once you’re at the top of the charts, you automatically get a ton of extra sales due to being at the top of the charts.

I really hate it. I try to scream at game devs all the time “don’t devalue your work! Don’t deep discount!” At No More Robots, we haven’t discounted any of our games by more than 40 per cent, even titles that have been out for more than two years.

As a result, we see incredible sales on Steam every single day, because consumers have learned that we’ll never deep discount. Now I’m stuck in a situation where I may be forced to deep discount on Switch, otherwise I literally cannot sell units on Switch. It’s heartbreaking, and it makes me really sad for the eShop.”

The way it’s going now, I reckon in around a year’s time, the eShop is going to look like the App Store – tons of cheap-looking titles that were clearly thrown together in the space of a few months, all selling at a dollar each. And everyone trying to make an honest living on Switch, won’t be able to anymore. I can’t imagine how else it’s going to go

From my experience, [the Discover tab] doesn’t do a great deal. We’ve had two games in the Discover tab (mid-lower, mind you), and I don’t think we’ve really seen many additional sales. In fact when our games disappeared from the Discover tab, we saw no drop in sales. I imagine it’s different if you’re in the top six slots, but realistically, those are usually always filled with the Deal of the Day / Game of the Day, and Nintendo games, so getting into those is unlikely at your launch.

The eShop has proven the hardest store for us. On Steam, you get tons of automatic promotion guaranteed, and there are plenty of ways to utilize the Steam store. On Xbox and PlayStation, it’s all about getting the store placement, getting Xbox Wire and PlayStation Blog posts etc. On Switch, for the vast majority of devs, it’s solely on you getting the word out before launch, and then knowing all the intricacies of how the store works.”

The truth is that it wasn’t obvious how badly set up the store was at first – but once the floodgates opened, it became incredibly obvious very quickly why this store wasn’t going to work in developers’ favour. The eShop wasn’t built for discovery – it was built to be a catalogue of games. So that’s exactly what it is, and realistically, you need to know the game you’re looking for, before you even boot the store up, so you can search for it. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”

Categories: Interviews, Consoles
Tags: eshop, switch

Comments

But it's not up to Nintendo, Sony, or MS to curate and advertise these games. That's the danger of being indie and not having a publisher.

They are responsible for their own advertisement. That means they need to somehow get commercials, even on something like youtube, or they need to send codes to youtube players and such to get advertisement. Not just throw it out on the store and be like "It'll sell!"

Thu Aug 06 20 04:57pm
Rating: 2 (Updated 1 time)

It is up to Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft to curate. No one else can curate their stores but them.

Without it, you basically just have a warehouse that games get dumped into, and Nintendo’s own eShop is like a warehouse with a poor to non-existent cataloging or library system.
Sure it has current top sellers, and a short “recently released” section. Then the rest is just in a big pile you have to dig through.

These developers are advertising. But because of the way the eShop works the game is just thrown into the store.

Steam heavily curates, and customises based on your account history. Apple does it too. They do it because it works and as this and other developers have said, it benefits them, the end user and the store platform.

But at the end of the day, Nintendo needs that eShop space to put their old repacked games they delete from their other active store and triple the price.

Edit: Ironic that Nintendo’s own game, Super Mario Run, is benefiting from some quality curation and appearing on the front page of the iOS App Store today as Game of the Day.

It's a hard balance, since we have to remember they were way too strict in the Wii era. Indie developers needing to have a building to call their own and other conditions several complained about.

I'm also not a fan of any store really. PS4 is too intrusive and slow, mainly promoting games with microtransactions or the upcoming big game.

Steam, has a lot of useless tags.

I do have to agree the Great Offers page is the one I use to most on the Switch. Perhaps having others like Games of the week or having an alternating tag like Halloween games, or Summer Adventures in the Eshop instead of the News section could be more useful.

socar
Fri Aug 07 20 05:22am
Rating: 1

Steam doesn't curate as often as you think they would. There are still lackluster games on Steam..sometimes even terrible ones at that.

Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft have simply made it easier for devs to release their games on the consoles. You can't expect Nintendo and the other two to monitor every single game before they are released to the store.

I don’t think you know what curate means. It has nothing to do with the amount of bad or good games on a store. It does not control if a game gets released or not.

I've never seen indie devs complain about their games not being noticed in the PlayStation Store or Xbox Marketplace (doesn't mean it doesn't happen, I'm just saying I've never read about it).
But indies have been complaining about it on Nintendo systems since the 3DS eShop era. I don't think Nintendo cares very much.

Xbox has game pass, which promotes indies in a sense by letting people with a sub play them, while PS4 has PSNow or games that can be bought for easy platinums, which sometimes leads to better word of mouth. Switch has neither of those, and the fact that store is horrid (The PSN store on PS4 is bad too but the web store is super robust) and is STILL NOT FIXED is just insulting.

It's hard for the good games to get noticed in the sea of garbage. But even if Nintendo highlights the gems, plenty would still slip through the cracks.

The issue I see in all stores is that the volume of game is too big and the tags and other ways to look for games aren't useful because they don't cut a lot of the fluff. It's like with manga where if you look for comedy you get shounen, and other broader genres that have comedic moments but comedy isn't central to those works.

I just think the way we look for things is in need of change, since the dream will be that searchers showed you something that aligns closer to your tastes. Price, Presentation, game genre, mechanics, and story are factors that vary wildly from game to game.

I should remind some folks that Nintendo used to curate 3rd party games. They got sued on anti-trust grounds for it. This curation also led to AAA-gaming leaving Nintendo.

So once again:
Nintendo - Doomed if they do. Doomed if they don't. AKA: Morton's Fork.

Are you talking about the NES days when Nintendo imposed a limit on the number of games developers could release? When we’re talking about curating the library I don’t think any of us are saying that Nintendo should limit releases like that. Instead they should more actively highlight the good games. As far as I know they’re well within their right to do so.

Nintendo originally put the limited releases mandate because they were trying to curate and encourage evergreen sales by having high quality games instead of shovelware flooding the NES. The problem though is government saw otherwise despite Nintendo having a few contenders around. Nintendo's hands may be still tied by this mandate and are very limited on how to curate the eShops.

I don’t think we have the same understanding of what it means to curate.

ngamer01
Sun Aug 09 20 12:18pm
(Updated 1 time)

See the 2nd verb listing.

Remember Nintendo Power was a thing back in the NES era and Nintendo of America curated the top NES games in every issue until the anti-trust case hit. Back then Nintendo Power + word of mouth would be the only way to figure out what was out on the NES at the time.

Since that case, Nintendo Power was forced to instead cover every game even if it meant it was going to release to non-favorable reception and Nintendo of America themselves had to limit what kind of curation they could do even with the rise of the internet in the late '90s.

Yeah.... “selecting for presentation”. I don't see that as the same thing as preventing a game from being on the service. They just don’t have to promote all games. Curating is also organization, something the Switch shop is severely lacking.

What’s your source for the bit about Nintendo Power? I don’t think that’s true.... but I could be wrong. Ive never heard about Nintendo Power coverage being impacted by the anti trust ruling.

I really thought Nintendo would’ve added a lot more to the eShop than they have at this point in the way of curation. Outside of the discovery tab they’ve done very little.

It’s confusing because they regularly did it on Wii U. Always tabs with eye catching art- “games to play online!”, “Metroidvanias!” etcetera. They still do that but as these devs say, they’re on the news channel. Makes no sense. They really ought to be front and centre when you load up the eShop.

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