Nintendo’s Damon Baker Talks Switch’s Indie Support, Attracting Steam Developers

Nintendo’s relationship with indies, or rather ‘Nindies’, has grown incredibly strong over the past few years. The Big N started paying attention to them during the days of Wiiware and DSiWare, but the ball didn’t really get rolling until the Nintendo eShop was built for the 3DS and Wii U. Lots of great indie studios have come to those systems, and now the journey continues with the new Nintendo Switch.

Nintendo’s Damon Baker, the man in charge of indie relationships, was recently interviewed by GamesIndustry. He went into detail about what Nintendo’s vision for its indie relationships is. Basically, the Big N wants to attract developers from the biggest indie platform (Steam) with the Switch’s unique features.

He started off by complimenting the creativity of the indie scene and how Nintendo is primarily looking for developers that create games that resonate with its audience:

“We have been working with indie developers and publishers for a really long time, back to the Wii days… I think with every console generation we’re always looking for new ways of showcasing the fun of that system and what’s awesome about the indie developers is that they’re willing to take risks. They create edgy content, they [offer] a really cool, unique perspective on how they utilize the technology of the system as well. What we’ve got here is we’ve identified a bunch of those developers that we think taps into what resonates really well with the Nintendo audience in particular and showcasing why that content fits so well on Nintendo Switch specifically.”

Damon then talked about how Nintendo views the Switch as a complementary platform. He thinks that if a game is on Steam, there’s no reason why the Switch can’t have it too. On top of that, he also echoed a statement that Nintendo executives have stated many times: it’s not trying to flatout compete witth the other platforms. The Switch’s unique design definitely sets it apart from anything else:

“The way we’re looking at Switch is this is a complementary platform. If it’s on Steam, then there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be on Nintendo Switch as well. If you want to take that experience on the go, if you want to have a baked in multiplayer experience, this is the system to do it. It’s got those points of differentiation, but we’re not trying to go head-to-head against any of the other platforms. We just think that if the content makes sense to be over on our platform then it should be on our platform.”

Not every indie game is made out of gold, that isn’t a surprise. There were a few games on both 3DS and Wii U that definitely had very little redeeming qualities, if any at all. Damon’s following statement seems to suggest that Nintendo is focused on quality control for the Switch’s eShop:

“We’re just trying to evangelize what that unique perspective is for Nintendo Switch and what unique opportunities are available for it, and also to continue to look forward. There’s a lot of fans, a lot of developers that have made content in the past and believe that it deserves to be on Nintendo Switch and maybe it will be eventually but we feel we have a responsibility to honor our fans and give them new and original experiences, and make sure they’re really excited every time they come to the Nintendo eShop to see what’s new.”

“We’re still encouraging self-publishing. Right now what we’re doing is we’re accepting pitches from all of our publisher and developer friends – anybody that’s interested in bringing content we encourage them to reach out to us so we can evaluate that. If they’re granted access into the developer portal and given the tools to develop on Nintendo Switch then they still have the opportunity to release whenever they want, they have the opportunity to price the content whatever they want. We just have that open dialogue with them and try and work on our release strategy so that we can get behind it with marketing and promotional support and make sure they aren’t going to get lost in the noise of everything else that’s going on.”

If you think that the Switch’s indie line-up is a bit thin, worry not. Mr. Baker noted that Nintendo is currently focused on filling the launch window with games that offer great experiences. This doesn’t seem to be PR talk; the Switch already has/ is getting heavy-hitters like: Snake Pass, Yooka-Laylee, FAST RMX, SteamWorld Dig 2 and Runner3.

“We haven’t opened the floodgates yet. We are just really taking an approach with the launch window to make sure the content really resonates with fans. We’re not saying no to content that only uses the touchscreen or doesn’t use the Joy-Con in a unique way, but at the same time we’re trying to encourage those developers and have a conversation with them and say, ‘Look, fans are probably expecting these types of fun features and functionality in the game’ so maybe they should consider them and take a look at what it would take to implement that technology into the game if it makes sense for that type of experience.”

Read the original interview

Indeed, Nintendo is definitely pushing hard with the Nindie scene. The result has been pretty good so far; did you see the great line-up from the recent Nintendo Switch Nindies Showcase video?

Many indie developers have commented on how Nintendo has made the Switch incredibly easy to develop for; this proves that the Big N is serious about attracting as many devs as possible. Not to mention that a Switch dev-kit costs just about $450. If these aren’t signs that Nintendo is trying to be as open and easy to approach as possible, I don’t know what is! In the end, the main beneficiaries are us, the customers. This all means that we can look forward to having a plethora of titles to choose from!


A.K Rahming
Having been introduced to video games at the age of 3 via a Nintendo 64, A.K has grown up in the culture. A fan of simulators and racers, with a soft spot for Nintendo! But, he has a great respect for the entire video game world and enjoys watching it all expand as a whole.