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Nintendo Switch’s 2023 could belong to the indies

In a year where Nintendo’s first-party offerings are looking sparse, a break in AAA releases could give some Indies their deserved time to shine

Nintendo Switch 2-23 indie releases: an image shows Hornet from Hollow Knight leaping out of a Nintendo Switch

Look, I’m so sick of the words Switch Pro. This mythical hardware iteration continues to be a whisper in the corridors of games journalism even after years of speculation, and the mere concept of it is enough to whip up a frenzy in fans and experts alike. But, despite all of the rumours, it’s not here yet. What I do think is coming is the next Nintendo Switch, the sequel, the real successor.

Whether it’s called Switch Advance, Super Switch, New Super Switch Deluxe, or whatever, new hardware, much like Thanos, is inevitable. Like the tide receding before a tsunami, a good sign of new hardware is often when first-party releases slow down to a trickle, something that’s currently much the case for 2023. The dying days of the Wii U are still seen as an absolutely barren few months, with very little reason to play on the platform, as most Nintendo studios got to work on the Switch.

Personally, I think Nintendo wishes that The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom released years ago, but issues surrounding COVID forced the company to reluctantly release it quite close to the end of the Switch’s life cycle. Outside of the next Zelda, Nintendo’s 2023 release schedule includes Pikmin 4, a remaster of a Kirby game from the Nintendo Wii, and a Bayonetta spin-off. This is why, to me, 2023 could belong to the Indies.

I’m absolutely certain that Nintendo is currently hard at work on a few other titles for 2023. Whether it’s the rumoured Kid Icarus: Uprising port, another Mario Sports game, or Pokémon Scarlet and Violet DLC, Nintendo likes to have a new title at least once every month or so. But the lineup for 2023 is a bit barren when you compare it to previous years, and this means that the Nintendo Switch has a bit of breathing room right now for smaller games to come through and make a name for themselves.

Nintendo Switch 2-23 indie releases: a screenshot shows Hollow Knight Silksong

Many existing Indie titles find that the largest amount of sales come from Nintendo Switch, and a few success stories make their way into the mainstream cultural zeitgeist every year. Geoff Keighley’s infamous The Game Awards is one to champion smaller titles, as Celeste is a 2018 “Game of the Year” nominee, even winning the “Games for Impact” award. Dead Cells is also the 2018 “Best Action Game” winner, and Supergiant Games’ Hades is one of the titles nominated for the 2020 “Game of The Year” award.

Indies are no longer oddities, developers and publishers don’t tuck them away in Xbox Live Arcade for players to whisper about in forums and message boards. Some Indie games are making the front of magazines, titles like Hollow Knight and Ori & The Will of the Wisps are on store shelves, publishers now make huge marketing pushes, and developers attempt to capture some of the mainstream audience that regular triple-A titles thrive on. I’ve even written a magazine cover feature all about Hollow Knight, Australian developer Team Cherry’s indie masterpiece, and the gaming world is waiting with bated breath for even a glimpse of the sequel, Hollow Knight: Silksong.

Nintendo Switch 2-23 indie releases: a screenshot shows the pixelated platformer Celeste

This brings me to my point. There could not be a better year in the Nintendo Switch’s life cycle for a title like Hollow Knight: Silksong to release than 2023. Yes, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom takes up a lot of the spotlight, but a year is a long time, and players also like a bit of variety. Team Cherry released the original Hollow Knight on Nintendo Switch in 2018, something of a lull year that Nintendo filled with ports and remasters, though Nintendo ended the year with Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu & Eevee, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. So, one good game out of three.

Nintendo currently reports that Switch hardware sales sit at around 122.55 million. This means the Nintendo Switch is only behind the Nintendo DS and the mighty PS2 in terms of hardware sales, a truly astronomical achievement, and a number that’s only going to rise with the release of the next Zelda title. This current install base is a gold mine for Indie games, so long as they can break through the crowded pack that is the Nintendo eShop, or hope to snag a guest spot in a Nintendo Indie World Showcase.

Nintendo Switch 2-23 indie releases: a screenshot shows the action rogue-like hades

Many indie developers are expressing how difficult it is to gain any visibility on the Nintendo eShop, with a large amount resorting to extreme sales to rise up the ranks of the most downloaded tab, only to return to full price and hope to bag a few honest sales along the way. Nintendo is likely aware of its lacklustre offerings for 2023, so I’d like to see a renewed focus on support for indie developers and lifting up deserving titles.

One of the Nintendo Switch’s launch titles is the SFB Games’ developed SnipperClips: Cut it Out, Together, a jaunty multiplayer puzzle game that utilises the Switch’s Joy-Cons in clever ways. As Game Informer reports, Nintendo originally approached the developer in 2016 when it was still called FriendShapes, before working alongside SFB Games to alter the title, turning it into a flagship release for the momentous launch of the Nintendo Switch.

Nintendo Switch 2-23 indie releases: promotional imager shows Snipperclips

Personally, I still feel SnipperClips is one of the best showcases for the Nintendo Switch and the Joy-Con controllers, and Nintendo should include the software with every Switch, much like Wii Sports is to the Wii. This is down to the incredibly hard work of SFB Games, a small English developer that in 2017 consisted of just six people, as well the Big N’s guidance and assistance in development. When Nintendo works in tandem with smaller developers, magic can happen.

I’m not asking for Nintendo to buy Team Cherry and make Hollow Knight: Silksong a console exclusive. What I’m asking is for the company to recognise that a lull in its first-party offerings is a great opportunity to work alongside smaller developers, and perhaps for even Nintendo to make some extra money along the way. Of course, the Japanese publisher takes a percentage for every single sale made on the Nintendo Switch, but the famously frugal company is likely to promote a title more if it’s co-developed by Nintendo and the company is in for a larger cut.

Nintendo Switch 2-23 indie releases: a screenshot shows Snipperclips, a Switch puzzle game

So, it’s time to take a look at 2023. We love indies here at Pocket Tactics, and while we desperately wait for even a whisper of the Hollow Knight: Silksong release date, there’s a huge library of other titles ready to make a splash on Switch. We’re eagerly anticipating diving down the mines of SteamWorld Build as our recent preview backs up.

In Stars and Time is a monochrome time-loop RPG with a touch of LGBTQ+ inclusion, and our interview with developer Adrienne Bazir hopefully gets across why we can’t wait to learn more. Plus, we recently set sail for the salty seas of Team 17 published title Dredge, an atmospheric and Lovecraftian title looking to put the ‘wat’ in underwater.

Nintendo Switch 2-23 indie releases: a acreenshot shows SteamWorld Build, a desert based city-builder

Concerned Ape – the mastermind behind Stardew Valley – is currently hard at work on The Haunted Chocolatier, a spiritual (excuse the pun) successor that looks to bring even more relaxing simulation vibes to the platform in the future. Then, there are even smaller titles like Numskull’s Clive ‘N’ Wrench, the Super Rare Originals division of indies, and so much more. Indie developers have a really fertile install base with the Nintendo Switch, and consumers love indie games. It’s up to Nintendo to connect the dots.

Some of my brightest memories of the Nintendo Switch come from indie games. Whether it’s bawling my eyes out in Spiritfarer, exploring the sunken depths of Silt, or rocking across the galaxy in The Artful Escape. Indie games serve a vital purpose on any game console, they provide a wealth of different experiences and often smaller, more personal stories that resonate with players emotionally. Indie titles are surprising, they’re often different, and I’d rather play twenty wonky indie titles that try to say something than another Mario sports game right now (sorry Mazza).

Nintendo Switch 2-23 indie releases: a screenshot shows the game The Haunted Chocolatier

If 2023 is truly the year Nintendo’s getting ready for Switch 2: Electric Boogaloo, then I hope Ninty spends a bit less time promoting 1/2/3 Switch or whatever other titles prop up the Winter months, and more time working alongside indie developers to promote, develop, and market smaller games. With over 120 million eager gamers having a Switch to hand, many indie developers dream of cracking into the greater cultural consciousness and becoming the next Celeste, Hades, or Dead Cells. And personally, I want the world to see those new, exciting, and weird games as well.