Here’s What It’s Like to Be a Nintendo Switch Game Developer in India
Game development in India has seen its fair share of woes, but just in the last few years many home grown developers have started to ship games on major platforms, with the Nintendo Switch rising in popularity as a target console. Bengaluru-based game developer Holy Cow Productions has shipped four games in conjunction with multiple other studios on a host of platforms from mobile to console and even the PC via Steam, with Nintendo’s hybrid console recently joining in.
But how is developing games on the Nintendo Switch beneficial, when Nintendo itself doesn’t have an official presence in India? After all, its console sales here are all thanks to grey market imports with an unofficial retail presence. Holy Cow’s founder Goutham Dindukurthi spoke to us at length on the studio’s process for developing games and supporting other studios.
“Nintendo has definitely become a huge opportunity for indie developers,” he says. ”The process has been quite smooth in terms of the developer tools and from our limited experience, Nintendo support has been amazing.”
While the Nintendo Switch has become the go-to console for smaller independent studios, the company doesn’t have any direct channels of contact for Indian developers. Networking meetups prove crucial for indie developers to get in touch with the Japanese giant.
“The team from Japan, with whom we were lucky to meet when they had visited India [back in 2018], have been really supportive and helped us with our first game [Mystic Pillars] on the platform,” he says. “We were extremely fortunate to have our trailer feature on the Nintendo YouTube channel and were elated to see Nintendo help boost our launch on social media.”
Nintendo Switch India Game Development Challenges
To date, Holy Cow has shipped four games, with one of them on the Nintendo Switch in Mystic Pillars, a story-based puzzle game set in ancient India. The Nintendo Switch has also seen other Indian developers like Nodding Heads Games with Raji: An Ancient Epic release on the platform as well as Godspeed Games’ Krystopia, Shaolin vs Wutang, Almightree: The Last Dreamer, Shakes on a Plane and The Innsmouth Case. Of course, porting the game to the Nintendo Switch has its own challenges, but the team at Holy Cow was up to the task.
“The main issue with developing for the Nintendo Switch has been the availability of dev kits as they have no way to ship them to India currently,” says Dindukurthi when asked about what the biggest hurdle was in developing for the console.
After acquiring developer kits, the actual development process was fairly relaxing although the publishing requirements posed new challenges.
“Although we have worked with consoles before [Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite], this is our first experience publishing on them,” he says. ”There was quite a bit to learn and a lot of delays trying to figure out the tools with all the different regions and guidelines. From making region specific trailers to getting store texts translated, it was all new for us and challenging.”
Publishing a game on a platform where official sales statistics for the country are hard to acquire is a risky move. While Dindukurthi can’t tell for sure how much of the developer’s audience is from India due to region-locking and account switching hurdles, its popularity among niche circles in India is a good sign. So much so that it’s enough for Holy Cow to consider porting its other games to the platform.
“Switch hardware sales are really promising and we want to keep developing games for the platform,” he says. ”Our experience working on it has been quite good and we will try to put as many of our future games on it as possible. The type of game would dictate the platforms for our future games but our next couple of games will be on the Switch for sure.”
Nintendo Switch Is Popular With Holy Cow’s Team
The developer has worked in tandem with studios like Infinigon, The Cirqus, and Hobo Interactive. Its next game Bot Rods is an arcade-styled racer currently slated to release on Steam, but a release on the Nintendo Switch is still a possibility. However, that decision lies with its publishing partner, although Holy Cow has had a positive work relationship with the other studios it has collaborated with.
“Mystic Pillars for example is a game that is completely made in-house whereas with Zenith we worked on the entire game programming and some 3D character animations,” he explains. ”With Bot Rods, we handle the programming, 2D and UI art.”
Stating that the team is most familiar with the PC, the studio has also found developing for other platforms relatively easily with the newly joined Nintendo Switch rising in popularity within the studio for development.
“So far, the easiest to work with has been the Xbox platform but since our recent and first self-published game has been on the Nintendo Switch, I have to say that it is our current favourite,” he says.
Of the Nintendo Switch Pro and What Developers Want
Finally we had to ask what Holy Cow would like out of a rumoured Nintendo Switch Pro console. It was speculated to be revealed post-E3 but instead the company announced an OLED variant that’s more of a mid-generation refresh than one with improved internals to compete with other consoles.
“A much more powerful hardware so that we can provide the same visuals and performance that we can on the other consoles and PC platforms,” he says.
It’s still early days for Dindukurthi and his team, but it’s fascinating to see how Holy Cow has grown over the years from co-development to self-publishing and it’ll be interesting to see what it does next.
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