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Indie-Entwickler sprechen über die Herausforderungen, im eShop wahrgenommen zu werden

News #23.397: 07.08.2020, 07:57
At last count, the Switch library consists of over 2,600 games. Every single one of those titles is on the Switch eShop, which leads to quite a struggle for developers when they try to get noticed. MCVUK talked to Joseph Humfrey, co-founder of Inkle (creators of 80 Days and the upcoming Pendragon) and Mike Rose, founder of No More Robots (publisher of Descenders and Yes Your Grace) about the challenge of catching attention on the Switch eShop. Humfrey had these comments to share.
"The primary mechanism for indies to get featured on the eshop right now isn't really in the eShop at all. It's in the news app Nintendo currently does a popular roundup of each week's releases, and thankfully they chose to feature 80 Days. We believe this was the main way that 80 Days received new players outside of our own marketing efforts. Beyond this we haven't had any help from Nintendo, though it's not very surprising since we're so new to their platform. We entered at a time when indie competition had already become very fierce, and it's an old port rather than a platform exclusive.

The newsfeed is certainly better than nothing for getting noticed, especially since you have the potential to be featured right from the lock screen of every single device worldwide. But it's also pretty transitory - once you've sunken down the chronological list, that's it.

By comparison, when 80 Days first came out on iOS, it was featured prominently by Apple. It was exclusive, we specifically designed the art style with Apple's then brand-new iOS 7 minimalism in mind, and having already released games on the platform we already had a contact on their App Store team. It then stayed within their regular rotation, being included in a multitude of features over the years.
In terms of organic discoverability, the main problem with the eshop is that it's simply too basic. There's such a small number of pages where you can be featured, that it massively limits the breadth of potential discovery. Yes, they have a Discover page, but it's just one page, where games of all genres and types have to fight for visibility. Beyond that, they have Recent Releases (which you're guaranteed to be on, albeit for a very limited period of time), Current Offers (which appears to be full of games that are err... gaming the system), and the Charts (which doesn't even break down into genres as other stores do).

The strange thing is that Nintendo has actually invested in curation. They have multiple pages on their various international websites, such as #Nindies, Indie World and their Indie Games page. Indie World even produces editorial content - interviews with developers and so on. The problem is that this content isn't being replicated in the one place where players need it - on the device itself.
My opinion as a developer is that this is a simple organisational problem. The website editorial and content teams are probably entirely separate from those responsible for developing features for the software running on the device.
My hope is that Nintendo will release a big software update in the future that will merge the news and eShop app together into one to create a seamless editorial and store platform all in one place. Currently the transition between reading a news item and going to a relevant eShop page is pretty painful. If they could do that while expanding their curation (and categorisation) effort within the eShop itself, that would be great!"

Rose spoke about the one tactic numerous devs have used to get their game noticed; major sales. You no doubt know about games that are cutting their price upwards of 90%, which helps them shoot straight up to the top of the charts. Not only does this bring is sales, but it gets much better placement on the eShop as well. The problem is, this teaches consumers to hang back and wait for major sales before buying a game.

"I mean, they're not just gaming the system, they're unfortunately using the system the best way they can. Massive discounts are now the core way to sell on Nintendo Switch. If you've ever wondered why there are just reams and reams of 80-90 per cent off titles on Switch - including at their bloody launches - it's because the store is ranked by units, not revenue.

The top charts are the games with the most downloads in the last two weeks. So in other words, if you put your game on 90 per cent off, and as a result, inevitably get a ton of downloads, you shoot up the charts. Then once you're at the top of the charts, you automatically get a ton of extra sales due to being at the top of the charts.

I really hate it. I try to scream at game devs all the time "don't devalue your work! Don't deep discount!" At No More Robots, we haven't discounted any of our games by more than 40 per cent, even titles that have been out for more than two years.
As a result, we see incredible sales on Steam every single day, because consumers have learned that we'll never deep discount. Now I'm stuck in a situation where I may be forced to deep discount on Switch, otherwise I literally cannot sell units on Switch. It's heartbreaking, and it makes me really sad for the eShop."
The way it's going now, I reckon in around a year's time, the eShop is going to look like the App Store - tons of cheap-looking titles that were clearly thrown together in the space of a few months, all selling at a dollar each. And everyone trying to make an honest living on Switch, won't be able to anymore. I can't imagine how else it's going to go

From my experience, [the Discover tab] doesn't do a great deal. We've had two games in the Discover tab (mid-lower, mind you), and I don't think we've really seen many additional sales. In fact when our games disappeared from the Discover tab, we saw no drop in sales. I imagine it's different if you're in the top six slots, but realistically, those are usually always filled with the Deal of the Day / Game of the Day, and Nintendo games, so getting into those is unlikely at your launch.
The eShop has proven the hardest store for us. On Steam, you get tons of automatic promotion guaranteed, and there are plenty of ways to utilize the Steam store. On Xbox and PlayStation, it's all about getting the store placement, getting Xbox Wire and PlayStation Blog posts etc. On Switch, for the vast majority of devs, it's solely on you getting the word out before launch, and then knowing all the intricacies of how the store works."

The truth is that it wasn't obvious how badly set up the store was at first - but once the floodgates opened, it became incredibly obvious very quickly why this store wasn't going to work in developers' favour. The eShop wasn't built for discovery - it was built to be a catalogue of games. So that's exactly what it is, and realistically, you need to know the game you're looking for, before you even boot the store up, so you can search for it. I don't see that changing anytime soon."

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