During a Q&A session on video game forum Resetera, former head of digital content at Nintendo of America Dan Adelman explained why he has been criticizing Nintendo’s indie policies on the Switch.
After working as a third party business development manager for Xbox and negotiating games like Knights of the Old Republic, Adelman eventually moved to Nintendo and launched Nintendo’s first few forays into digital stores with the Wii, DS, 3DS, and Wii U. He now works helping indie developers with business development, most recently Axiom Verge, and was asked about previous comments he made on social media about getting the game onto the Switch. Back in April of last year, Adelman expressed frustration of Nintendo’s indie policies, saying they could have gotten Axiom Verge on the system at launch, but Nintendo wasn’t saying yes.
“Nintendo had two inconsistent policies that I think in retrospect made life very confusing and frustrating for a lot of people,” Adelman wrote as an answer to the question. “The first policy was that they were only approving developers who were interested in bringing games that had never released on another system before. The second was that once a developer was approved, that developer could bring whatever game they wanted to the system – including their entire back catalog from other systems.
“As a result, there was a mismatch between the rationale we were give for not being approved – because Axiom Verge had already released on other platforms – and what we were seeing on the eShop, which was lots of ports from other systems. It was especially frustrating since we had been asking for access to dev kits more than a year before the system’s launch, and I told them that I knew from experience that they’d have a period after launch where they’d be starved for content. Sure enough, there was a long stretch in those first few months after launch where there were lots of new Switch owners but no new games, which would have been a perfect opportunity for Axiom Verge.
“I’m a pretty vocal and passionate guy, so I let my frustrations known in ways that may have been less than productive. (I guess I can be a bit of a Walter Sobchak.) I’ve since sat down with some of my former colleagues and buried the hatchet, so I think we’re all good now.”
This does explain some of the strange indie decisions on the Switch in its first year, as some developers have taken to social media to complain about Nintendo denying them Switch development kits on the basis of being a port while many of the system’s eShop releases have been later or concurrent ports.
Axiom Verge, a 2D Metroidvania by Thomas Happ, was released on the Switch in October 2017, seemingly through a loophole where having a retail release also mandated an eShop release. The game is also available on PS4, PC, Vita, Wii U, and Xbox One.
Hopefully now that it’s out in the open, Nintendo will do a better job at least communicating what they look for in indie partners. Curation is not in and of itself a problem, but it can be if handled or communicated poorly.