Cognition Dissemination: What’s Up with Japanese Publishers and Nintendo Switch?

When the initial lineup of titles was announced for Nintendo Switch, the number of Japanese games among them was smaller than expected. I noted this in several posts between the presentation from January and its launch, and noted how even Wii U had better Japanese support early on.

Koei Tecmo, for instance, had several Warriors games ready for the preceding console’s launch window like Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper and Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2, but only had ports of the latest Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Nobunaga’s Ambition strategy titles on Switch. Capcom was even worse, who at least had a port of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate ready shortly after Wii U’s launch. For Switch? Nothing outside Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers, yet another version of Street Fighter II. I also mentioned how heavy Level 5’s support for 3DS was early on, but they had nothing whatsoever to offer on Switch.

Project Octopath Traveler. Square Enix is one of the best Japanese publishers on Switch.

One of the biggest exceptions to this among larger Japanese publishers was Square Enix, who announced console exclusive Project Octopath Traveler before launch, and ports like Dragon Quest XI, Dragon Quest Heroes 1 & 2, and Lost Sphear. Nearly every other major Japanese publisher appeared hesitant to support the platform too heavily despite it partly being a handheld, and that reluctance still exists regardless of how the system has been established as a success.

There’s a good reason for this. The Wall Street Journal posted an article on Nintendo’s latest earnings report (note that the article is locked behind a paywall — but not others), where the company confirmed that Switch has sold half as many total systems as Wii U within only six months. Here they also discussed its prospects with Hirokazu Hamamura, president of Gzbrain (who owns several gaming magazines), who tends to provide some insider info for them. The topic of how light Japanese support for the console currently is came up, where Hamamura claimed many of them were caught off guard by its success. Given how Nintendo was promoting it more as a console than a handheld early on (a market they’re less successful in) and how poorly Wii U performed worldwide, it’s a little tough to blame them. Cynics in the gaming audience also thought its performance would be a repeat of Wii U.

Fortunately, it’s doing well despite how plenty thought the $300 price was too high, which shows how effective branding and good advertising is. It was evident Wii U would have trouble catching on the minute Nintendo needed overlong explanations to show what the system was and wasn’t, but the appeal was easy to see with Switch. But that still wasn’t enough for some Japanese third-party publishers to trust them with even ports. Now that Switch has proven successful, Hamamura claims the publishers are scrambling to support it.

There has been noticeable movement from publishers already. I mentioned the light number of Koei Tecmo ports above, but they changed their tune in recent months, and announced Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate, Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires, and Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada for it. Note that they also developed (partially though subsidiary Omega Force) the recent Fire Emblem Warriors, which they also published in Japan. Bandai Namco, meanwhile, announced that One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 Deluxe Edition is coming to the system in Japan, which was developed by Omega Force/Koei Tecmo. Yes, the system is getting four Warriors games in rapid succession.

One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 Deluxe Edition. Hey, at least Bandai Namco is supporting it with something.

Capcom has since ported Monster Hunter XX, the enhanced version of Monster Hunter Generations, to Switch, and ports of both Resident Evil Revelations titles are coming soon. Level 5 has also since announced that Inazuma Eleven Aires will release for Switch in addition to PS4 and mobile. But notice how these are all ports. Hamamura noted that confidence in the system was so low that most big developers won’t have their bigger games ready until 2019. Until then, expect to see a lot of ports and smaller titles, outside Nintendo’s games.

Nintendo themselves could also do more to strengthen third-party support on their platform. They recently expressed interest in wanting more “mature” games on their platform, but these titles can be cultivated if they either develop those games or fund them in cooperation with other publishers. If those games sell well, more will naturally come to the platform. Some titles will need a handheld home after Vita support officially ends in Japan, and that could become Switch faster if Nintendo gives them help.

There’s no telling whether Nintendo will actually develop that kind of strategy in the near future, but there’s one guarantee: They’ll continue to support the system with quality first-party software. This will be shown through games like Kirby Star Allies, Yoshi for Switch (which has no official title yet), and Metroid Prime 4, though none of them have the blockbuster potential as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey. There’s still plenty of time for them to reveal more titles early next year, and it would be good for the system’s many owners if several third-party titles could join them.

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