After the Switch was first revealed last year, Nintendo showed off a screen with all the companies slated to support the new home console. For a little while it seemed like there was hope that the Switch would not copy the mistakes of its predecessor. Featuring Bethesda, Take-Two, and other notable industry publishers, some believed that Nintendo had decided to build large third-party support with its new console.
After Nintendo revealed the Nintendo Switch last week, that hope largely dissipated. What began as an “unprecedented partnership” with Nintendo in the Wii U era, and ultimately lead to just four games released for the platform, EA’s support for Nintendo came crashing to a new low with the Nintendo Switch. There is a total of one game from the publisher in development for the Switch.
Now, to be fair, EA’s title FIFA is one of its biggest properties, and easily its biggest sports property. Across PS4, XBO, PS3, 360, and PC, each year the franchise sells nearly 20 million units. The franchise is so popular that FIFA 14 still launched on PS2 in 2013, the year the PS4 launched. If any of EA’s franchises could sell on the Switch is surely would be FIFA.
However, since its initial announcement there has been even more bad news for Nintendo fans. According to one rumor, the Switch version of FIFA will not be based off the current generation version of the game – the PS4 and XBO version. Instead, it looks like the Switch version will be based off the last generation version for 360 and PS3, consoles that are more than a decade old.
All of a sudden, many Nintendo fans screamed in ire. Many claimed that EA simply hates Nintendo and wants the company to fail. Moreover, they berated the company for only bringing over a single game, mocking the company for its futile attempt at building bridges with Nintendo fans. What these fans fail to realize, however, is that it’s not EA’s job to sell the Nintendo Switch, it is Nintendo’s job.
As it stands, EA makes hundreds of millions of dollars selling its games on other platforms. When EA invested in Wii U investment, the company made little return, which is why it seized development for the console. As it stands now, EA has little to gain from porting its games in high PS4/XBO quality to the console.
Nintendo, meanwhile, has a lot to gain off game parody with other consoles. Perhaps it may not seem like it, but Nintendo could surely benefit from having an image of “third party games are on our system.” Instead, the Switch’s image stands as the Nintendo console, JRPG console, or console without any third-party games. Nintendo has far more to gain from third-party partnerships than the other way around. EA will continue to sell millions of copies of its titles, with or without Nintendo.
Just think about it: Imagine you are the CEO of a big game publisher. It would cost millions of dollars to make a port for the Switch and it likely won’t make a profit. Would you want to risk the development of that title, or would you prefer to keep it safe with releases on already-established platforms? I would surely choose the latter option, why would I ever choose to willingly put risk into a console when I do not have to?
As for the underperformance of FIFA on the Switch – it may not even be EA’s fault in the first place. We already know that the Switch is demonstrably weaker than the PS4 and XBO. Perhaps direct ports of those versions could not even run on the Switch in the first place. Perhaps it would cost substantially more to optimize more powerful versions of a game on a less powerful console. Either way, EA has little reason to spend more money to port the current version of a game if there is little evidence it would perform well.
In the end, EA is just acting as a regular business trying to keep its profit margins up. It’s not EA’s job, or any third-party company for that matter, to make sure Nintendo consoles succeeds. From the looks of it, the majority of third-parties can do just fine without sales on a Nintendo platform. Perhaps in the future instead of bringing EA down for its economically-based decisions, we can bring Nintendo up to speed on the importance of third-parties, or the lack thereof.