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Nintendo Switch: A Discoverability Followup 2

My recent piece on discoverability for Nintendo Switch got some decent feedback from a few active Switch developers - here's an update with some new data points and info.

So, my recent piece on discoverability for Nintendo Switch, which was based on slightly less personal experience than my Steam posts, got some decent feedback from a few active Switch developers.

In general, it appears that the analysis was on the money. Overall, we’re transitioning from an opportunity-rich Switch game sales environment to a much more crowded sales channel.

Here’s a Tweet graphic from SMG Studio I pasted into the No More Robots Discord channel a few weeks ago which, uhh, illustrates the point:

In particular, there’s a LOT of good older games now being resurrected & ported onto Switch - the most recent of which I noted was Vlambeer’s super-fun (but almost decade-old!) Super Crate Box:

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as they say.

Besides confirmation of the market crowding, a number of other data points surfaced that I wanted to mention in a relatively unstructured order:

  • ‘Top charts’ are country-specific - I omitted to mention this for Switch, or even remember it. But yep, the Switch charts I put in the last column were North America-centric. This country-specificity is also true for Steam charts (unless you click the ‘Global Top Sellers’ link), and also a number of other console stores. (I think the number of star ratings and charts on PS4’s online store are tied to your region, for example.)

  • Top Switch publishers by # of releases - I did briefly link to this gigantic listing of Switch games put together by Perfectly Nintendo in the last newsletter. Which is great just to see HOW MANY DARN GAMES there are on Switch. 

    But another aspect I didn’t spot at the time - the list also ranks Nintendo Switch publishers by total number of releases. (You get a much better idea for the big console publishers that way, which is handy if you’re looking for a publisher! Though quantity and quality don’t always match.)

  • Discounts differ on a per-territory basis? - Here’s an interesting one - I heard a rumor that there are different minimum sale prices allowed in different Nintendo territories. So for example, European territories wouldn’t let you discount your game all the way to 9 cents, as Membrane has been in the U.S. 

    (Personally, I don’t think any Switch games should be sold for less than $1.99 or your local equivalent. Also, there should be [EDIT: more, there are already some!] limits on sale frequencies and discount percentages. But I’m maybe an outlier.)

  • The discounter himself appears! Talking of Membrane, its developer Seth S. Scott turned up on Twitter to chat to me after spotting the newsletter. I thought the exchange was interesting, so let me paste in the entire (public) exchange we had:

    So there you go - I think that’s clearly two points of view, and I’m not the person who has to make a living on the Switch store. (If I was, I’d certainly be discounting my game. Reminder, Seth’s title has sold 100,000 copies now on Switch, many at 9c.) 

    So, no shaming - just thought it was interesting to see feedback from someone mentioned in the last article.

  • More anecdotes on sale success - Switch sales seem WAY more ‘X% off’-centric than other console stores at this point - not least because some of the other stores only ‘invite you to participate’ in sales, and you can’t discount arbitrarily at any point.

    I spoke to another developer who mentioned that their game was discounted more heavily on Switch recently, and sold 10% of its total lifetime copies in that sale alone.

    In addition, the crew at SMG Studio have been public about how much better their games sell in sales, and how badly they sell when they are not in sales:

    They also noted: "We've seen little change in the non sales period just after a sale. If anything the increased word of mouth fills the slump. For every savvy sale tracking user, there seems to be 50 that dont pay close attention and just buy what they see and like."

    I also spoke to another unnamed party who said that they sold less than expected after launch on Switch a few months back, but that was unexpectedly partially (but not wholly!) made up by a sale a few weeks after launching. So… more anecdotal data.

  • Top charts are based on the preceding 14 days - I’m not sure this is stated anywhere in public. But sounds like ‘total sales numbers for the past 14 days’ on a rolling basis is the metric for getting in the Switch charts. (This explains why heavily discounted games stay in the charts for a bit after getting undiscounted!)

  • If you sell well, you can sell REALLY well - this is also true on Steam and likely other storefronts. But the self-reinforcing ‘sell great, get in top charts, keep selling great’ loop, especially for regularly updated games, can be super strong.

    Case in point: Dead Cells, which has now hit 2.4 million sales across all platforms, and Motion Twin’s Steve Filby directly comments: “Switch [sales are] insane, it's completely ridiculous. The game really lends itself to that portable, one-more-run [style]." 

    If you can get it right (ahem, latest example would be Untitled Goose Game!), then I suspect you’ll keep selling thousands of copies a day for an extended period of time.

So that’s all the extra updates and tidbits I’ve got. Hope this gives you some hope that you can be one of the Dead Cells/Untitled Goose Game style megahits on Switch, while avoiding the immediate mega-discounting of the opportunistic.

[You’re reading Game Discoverability Weekly, a regular look at how people find - and buy - your video games. Or don’t. You may know me from helping to run GDC & the Independent Games Festival, and advising indie publisher No More Robots, or from my other newsletter Video Game Deep Cuts.]

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