clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Is the Switch indie friendly? One developer’s take

Binding of Isaac dev discusses development on the Switch

Russ Frushtick is the director of special projects, and he has been covering the world of video games and technology for over 15 years. He co-founded Polygon in 2012.

Nintendo’s never had the best reputation when it comes to being welcoming to independent developers. While a few tiny developers have managed to release games on Nintendo platforms in recent years, the total numbers are a fraction of what you’d find on an Xbox or PlayStation.

Is that likely to change with the Switch? We spoke with Tyrone Rodriguez, the president of Nicalis, whose company has three Switch games planned, including one launch title, The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+.

Nicalis is one of the few smaller developers that has worked with Nintendo steadily in recent years.

“We were fortunate enough to have prototype developer hardware for the Wii U, 3DS, etcetera, so we already had a good relationship with Nintendo to get [the Switch] a little bit early,” said Rodriguez.

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

That insight into Nintendo platforms of yore has proven useful. Afterbirth+ launched just last month on PC and to see it transition to a console so quickly is almost unheard of in the indie space.

A big part of that speed was thanks to the Switch’s new development tools, explained Rodriguez.

“The Switch is, by far the easiest and most programmer friendly so far,” he said. “I know this sounds like lip service to Nintendo, but it’s actually not. If this wasn’t true, we wouldn’t be able to get these games up and running as quickly as we have, and we wouldn’t be able to have a launch title. It’s light years ahead of what we were doing with Wii U.”

Another effective technique was to unify their games across multiple platforms, further decreasing porting time. Achievements, for example.

“We put in hooks in ... so that the code will work on any platform,” Rodriguez said. “So, for example, if there was a console that didn’t have achievements, you can’t have achievements on those games. But in the case of Isaac, we built the achievements right into the game.” (Rodriguez is still under NDA with Nintendo until the Switch launches, and apologized for the need to remain vague regarding Switch functionality.)

Rodriguez also mentioned that, in addition to his team’s three announced titles (Isaac, Redout and 1001 Spikes) they has “way more” Switch games in development. They’ll have competition, though. Other indies have been announced for Switch, including Stardew Valley and Tumbleseed.

“We used to enjoy the lack of developers coming to Nintendo consoles, it was a lot less competition,” said Rodriguez. “But it’s not a bad thing. More good games on every platform is good for the industry. I’m very happy Nintendo is trying to get more games for this platform.”

A look at the Nintendo Switch

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon