Since its debut, the Nintendo Switch has attracted massive attention from gamers and developers alike. If you’re a gaming developer interested in building for the Switch, which steps do you need to take?
For those who aren’t gamers, the Switch is a tablet that plays games; plug it into an accompanying set-top cradle, and you can play those games on a full-sized television. It has removable game controllers and other accessories. Developers building for the platform must keep best practices for both mobile and full-size console gaming in mind.
For years, Nintendo’s developer portal offered precious little clue about how to build games for the Switch. Despite massive developer interest, the company seemed dedicated to bottlenecking the number of indie developers actually creating Switch games. “Right now we are being very selective about who we’re letting into the development environment, and through our portal,” Damon Baker, Nintendo of America’s head of partner management, told Gamasutra a few years ago. “Whereas with the Wii U and 3DS, we opened that up to everybody. I think our mentality was to cast big net, [but] you’d never know when the next great piece of content was coming, or where it was gonna come from, or where it was going to permeate.”
But now things seem to be changing—a little. In March 2020, Nintendo posted a note stating that “the only Nintendo platform for which new development is possible will be Nintendo Switch.”
Even as it concentrates on the Switch, however, Nintendo still seems intent on limiting access to its players. “When developing for Nintendo Switch, you must apply after you have registered on this website,” the note continued, referring to the developer portal registration site. “You will be able to access the information necessary for development for Nintendo Switch only when your application has been approved. We ask those of you who wish to develop to apply after you have registered.”
The ”information necessary for development” will include an overview of your planned game, as well as your development experience.
When/if you’re approved, it seems that Nintendo is still relying heavily on Unity as its primary game-building platform. If you’re already interested in building video games, you’re probably aware of Unity, which is an essential tool in many game-development shops’ kits. The Unity platform has learning sessions and other content for those who want to master the platform; online learning platforms such as Udemy also offer courses in Unity, for a price.
Nintendo seems like it’ll remain very selective about indie Switch gaming for the time being. Some developers will treat that as incentive to create a great game—and given the popularity of the platform, there’s every chance that indie games that make it onto the platform will prove revenue-generating hits.