Nintendo Switch box - grey edition

Why Sony and Microsoft are supporting the Nintendo Switch

Sony PlayStation is one of the most recognisable brands in gaming. It is so ubiquitous that there appears to be little need for the Japanese electronics company to support other platforms. Yet despite the ultra-competitive nature of the video games industry, Sony has already invested in Android and iOS games. Now this expansion is being taken even further, with news that Sony is to release a title on the Nintendo Switch.

Sony’s position as a publisher is well known. And while releasing games for other platforms could potentially make Sony money, it could also strengthen a competitor. As important as first-party titles are, good quality third-party releases play a vital role in a gaming ecosystem.

A turn-based tactical war game called Tiny Metal will be Sony’s first release for the Switch. The title, which has been developed by Area35, was featured at PAX West Indie Megabooth, in September. In addition to its outing on the Switch, Tiny Metal will also be released on PlayStation 4 and PC.

It is Sony Music Entertainment (SME) that will be responsible for the release of Tiny Metal, via their new label Unties. In addition to Tiny Metal, Unties has three other titles in the works. One release will only be made available for the PS4. However, the other two will be released on PC and possibly other platforms too.

SME is not part of Sony Interactive Entertainment – the division of the Japanese company that is responsible for the PlayStation consoles. Yet despite the separation, all divisions of Sony normally act in the interests of the company as a whole. The idea that SME has gone rogue in its strategy with Unties is not credible. It is notable too that there are no plans for any Xbox One releases at the present time, demonstrating a limit to Sony’s cross-platform ambitions.

Despite consoles selling in the tens of millions over their lifetime, both Sony and Microsoft struggle to turn a profit on their gaming machines. Yet this does not matter much when healthy margins are available through the sale of game licences. It is a state of affairs that makes obvious the temptation to publish on rival platforms.

The big console hardware companies publishing titles on other platforms is not even a new development. Sony Online Entertainment, now no longer part of Sony, released both Payday: The Heist and PlanetSide 2 on the PC. There is also a very good recent example too. Minecraft, one of the most popular games of recent years, was developed by Microsoft-owned Mojang. This has not prevented the well-known 3D sandbox game being released on everything from the Samsung Gear VR to the Nintendo 2DS XL.