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2023 In Review: The State Of The Switch eShop Is Fallen

by Donald Theriault - January 2, 2024, 8:20 am EST
Total comments: 3

Observations from a year that single-handedly proves Sturgeon’s Law to be true.

Early in 2023, author and hot-air balloon resident Cory Doctorow published a piece on how TikTok had shifted value from users to business partners to itself and now was in the process of dying, calling the process “enshittification”. For most of the year, I’ve thought of this as a good explanation for what has happened to the Switch eShop since early 2021 with the rise of the eShop spamming publishers. You know who they are, you know what they publish. (Though the rise of “hentai” in game titles that top out at a T rating has been a disturbing subplot of the last few months on our Discord server.)

However, I’m beginning to realize that this process doesn’t strictly apply to the eShop as it stands. Because previously the eShop as a platform for games has seemingly completed the first two steps; the value started with consumers, then shifted to the publishers… but it’s hard to imagine the third step happening to Nintendo as the platform holder. Sure, their digital sales are growing, but they brought back Game Vouchers this year and had a game (that is already over 20m shipped) retail for $69.99 US for the first time ever. But if Nintendo is going to get the 30% cut of third party sales on the eShop, it’s hard for actual quality publishers to sell their wares when the most common search (“Recently released”) buries anything and everything under a sea of 29th bundles for games and stuff that I’d call asset flips but that’d be an insult to asset flippers.

And that’s not even accounting for the stuff that the lawyers killed because it flew too close to the copyright sun (see: Last Hope, The and Burnout (2023)).

A sample bullshot from the eShop page or a screen of a game that got ripped off wholesale? (The latter: it's Burnout Paradise Remastered.).

Let’s drop some numbers here (all based on the chart here and accurate to 1% 19 times out of 20):

  • North America and Europe both blasted past 2000 releases, with North America hitting a previously thought unfathomable 2431 releases
  • The average week this year in North America had 47 games, with only two weeks under 30 and a new North American record being set with 71 releases the week of October 25 - and even a world record being shattered in Japan with 79 on the week of December 21
  • Since I began tracking release counts in 2021, there were 5000 games released just on Switch as of June 1 - and this went over 6000 roughly around Halloween

This is a clearly unsustainable pace that - ideally - will cut off this year with the launch of a Switch successor. Hopefully it’s announced and launched sooner than later so as not to combine holiday pressure with difficulties in launching the new system (maybe in June) but I’m not holding my breath. Obviously, Nintendo could deny the right to publish software on the successor to these outlets, but that doesn’t seem like something they would do. I mean, VG Games and GameToTop still get to put games out after the previously mentioned copyright infringers were slapped down.

So what features does the Switch eShop need to make it so I’m the only one who sees these works on the successor, assuming similar publishing agreements? I can see three - but feel free to suggest more in the Talkback thread.

  1. “New Releases” list includes publisher blacklisting. One click on the publisher’s page and they get removed from the New Releases view, while retaining the option to search for a specific game if the blind squirrel finds the nut. VG Games? VG Gone. RedDeer Games? Shipped off to High Level. GameToTop? Shoved six feet under. And if I want to block a certain AAA publisher in retaliation for only paying royalties for a game to someone who wants a significant portion of my friends and at least one person who has written for Nintendo World Report to die for existing, I have that option.
  2. An option to toggle bundles from the new releases page, if not confined to a “Bundles” page assuming similar functionality to the Switch eShop. This way, these publishers who release one random new DLC every week with a new 90% off bundle can’t game New Releases with it. Looking at you, AAA Clock. Legitimate bundles can still be listed on the main game page as we see now, and scenarios of “early access with premium editions” can put the game on the main page until everyone has access.
  3. Actual quality control of eShop advertising. If your key art isn’t at least somewhat accurate to the game you’re publishing, you don’t get to launch. This would ideally also include a legal review to preemptively catch the most flagrant copyright violations, and a special master to immediately ban any game that puts “hentai” in the title. The fact that I have 25 hits on our Switch game list for that term is about 25 too many.

Some other functionality the successor’s eShop needs, but isn’t strictly tied to this:

  1. A g-d shopping cart for new games. We know it’s possible, you can buy multiple pieces of downloadable content on the same page, but I would really like an option to put through a single transaction for multiple games when there’s a big sale that’s knocking off 20% of my wishlist at once. Speaking of…
  2. Buying a game by default removes it from the wishlist. I’m pretty sure this was the case on 3DS and Wii U, so why do I have to clear items manually from the list on Switch? If you want to make it toggleable, that’s fine; it could be used as a way to tell your friends that a game you enjoyed is on sale.
  3. Speaking of Wii U and 3DS eShop features, music and pages. The former to make the eShop less of a sterile experience, and the latter to avoid the pagination issues that occur when going more than 30 / 50 / whatever releases deep into the schedule.
  4. A simple refund system. Not only will it get certain government authorities off your back (hi European Union), but if we’re going to live in the era of “known shippable” it’d be nice to have some recourse.

We’ll be watching the developments with the eShop with great interest, or dread, or anger depending on what actions Nintendo takes as a platform holder. Hopefully it’s more of the first item on that list so I don’t have to threaten to reenact the most dangerous match portrayed in Beyond the Mat.


RABicleJanuary 02, 2024

Bring it back…

Ian SaneJanuary 02, 2024

I was rather shocked when I discovered there were hentai games on the Switch.  I always thought of that stuff as underground, and relegated to open platforms that don't have any licensing system.  I assume Nintendo does still have a third party licensing system so that there aren't games that are outright viruses on the eShop but it seems like only the most basic functionality is required to pass.  And while restricting games that are not very good is way too subjective usually "no porn" is a pretty standard policy.

Though a lot of the complaints I hear about the eShop don't relate to me because I just never use the eShop interface in any meaningful way.  I use Deku Deals to browse the eShop and it links me to the direct page where I can purchase the game.  I never login to the shop from the Switch itself, I do it all on my laptop.  Now I typically peruse the "recent price drops" page to see what's on sale and it can get overloaded with junk games which seem to go on sale every week (oh look, "Checkers for Kids" is on sale again).  But it's still a relatively easy interface to scan quickly and spot the good stuff, plus you can filter by publisher so that can help narrow it down to the companies that you associate with quality.  Good indie games will need something else to grab my attention obviously but that's kind of a the case with anything indie in general.  Games like that get on my radar from word of mouth and good reviews on sites that I frequent.

On that note Deku Deals will show you the Metacritic score for a game on it's main page as well which makes it easier to spot good titles.  Nintendo would do well to learn from that site on how to redesign their eShop layout.  Now having a third party web site alternative to the proper eShop doesn't give Nintendo an excuse to not offer something better, but it exists and if you're aware of it but don't use it you're suffering for no reason.

M.K.UltraJanuary 03, 2024

I think a rating system should be implemented. A five star rating system that is only becomes available once you have purchased and played a game for a certain amount of time. No written reviews are necessary but could be an option. I think this would help some of the great indies rise to the top of the pile.

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