Nintendo Still Isn't Giving Indie Games the Attention They Deserve
Indies deserve more than montages.
The Nintendo Switch has become the go-to console for many indie gamers, thanks in part to regular Nintendo Indie World presentations that keep players updated on under-the-radar titles heading to the handheld. But while it may be the biggest indie showcase produced by a console maker, Indie World’s rushed format does a disservice to the same games it exists to highlight.
As they usually do, the November Indie World showcase featured too many intriguing games to even keep track of as they flashed by. On Your Tail caught my eye early, with its debut trailer showing a detective story set in a cozy seaside town populated by anthropomorphic animals. From the looks of it, it’ll have players collect clues by investigating the town and then arrange them on a cute diorama to solve a mystery. But before I could take it in, the show moved on to the fascinating tactics game Howl, then there was a cute-looking puzzle game called A Star Named Eos.
There are some things Nintendo Indie World does right. For many of the games presented, their developers get a chance to appear on camera and talk about them, something that’s often missing from the largest shows. The games themselves are a mix of ports, previously revealed titles, and brand-new debuts, which is another point in the show’s favor when it could just as easily put all its attention on games with proven audience appeal.
But how much of that matters when the games go by so fast you can hardly register them? In its 20-minute show, Nintendo Indie World featured 11 games, giving each one less than two minutes on average to make an impression. That’s enough time for a trailer reel, but not to go into depth. Especially when many people are likely seeing the games on display for the first time, allowing more time for people to see what a title might be about could make a huge difference.
Take Backpack Hero for instance. At first, it looks like a fairly ordinary turn-based RPG before the trailer reveals it’s actually about organizing your inventory... somehow. The position of items in your bag changes your options in battle, but before you even have a chance to digest that, the trailer moves on to show town management, NPC conversations, and minigames, making this unassuming game a more complex affair than it initially looked.
Slowing down just a little to show more gameplay or to let its developer speak — not all of them get to, after all — could take a game like Backpack Hero from an interesting trailer to one that players feel is worth picking up.
And that’s only considering the games that make it into the main show. Nintendo Indie World ends with a quick montage, this time showing seven games in one minute. Just by this showcase being hosted by Nintendo, that may still be the most mainstream exposure some of these games have ever gotten. But among the rapid-fire clips were fascinating visual novels Enjoy the Diner and Urban Myth Dissolution Center, puzzle platformer Gecko Gods, and painting sim Passpartout 2 — all of which were some of the most exciting games at the show.
None of these problems are necessarily unique to Indie World. Showcases from Microsoft, Sony, and even Nintendo’s larger Direct streams, all suffer from the same breakneck pace that doesn’t leave room for explanation or context. What makes this feel different is that the showcase one of the few dedicated solely to games often left off bigger stages. A clipped trailer for the next first-party Xbox game might not be too revealing, but it’ll also likely get more chances to capture an audience.
The fact that Nintendo Indie World exists at all is undoubtedly a good thing. Before the Switch, Nintendo wasn’t seen as a destination for indie games, and it’s done a lot of work to change that. After most Indie World shows, this one included, I walk away with a few new titles on my radar that I’d either never heard of or perhaps had forgotten about, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. But as one of the highest-profile indie showcases around, it’s in a unique position to shine even more light on lesser-known games.