Nintendo: Game Builder Garage could fail on Switch

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Game Builder Garage looks charming and fun, but its fate is far from guaranteed. While the game can be huge, Nintendo needs to be careful.

Out of nowhere, Nintendo dropped the trailer for Play builder garage, the latest user-generated content project for the company. This is not a completely new project, because Play builder garage builds on the foundation of Nintendo LabGarage mode. As such, the title is an economical use of resources in the pursuit of another Nintendo Switch success. However, this success is far from assured. As long as the potential is there, Play builder garage could end up being nothing more than wasted potential.

It might seem too early for cynicism, but the project has a number of hurdles ahead of it. Unless Nintendo is able to master marketing, content infrastructure, and post-launch support, this will be another example of excess innovation. After all, while Play builder garage is a niche product, it is a resource intensive product. Famicom Detective Club coming out weeks before it’s also niche, but ultimately this pair of visual novels will ship the full content and be finished. Play builder garage requires meticulous, long-tailed support.


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Official Art for Game Builder Garage

Without community behind, Play builder garage will sink into darkness. Nintendo positions the software as “entertainment,” intended to teach players the basics of game programming. It’s a smart concept from a practical point of view, and it moves the goalposts smartly. Nintendo preemptively downplays the title’s community element – but Play builder garage is not an island experience. In the absence of committed creators generating content for others, the title will become bland.

After all, only a fraction of Play builder garage players will actually want to learn the nuances of its systems. Most people want to experience the content, not create it themselves. This is true for all titles that depend on user generated content. The two halves of this set must be balanced. The success of Super Mario Creator wasn’t just his intuitive level builder. The success of Super Mario Creator was his ability to sustain himself as a playable 2D Mario Game. No one needed to create in order to have fun.

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It may all sound elementary, but it is important. Because if Super Mario Creator is the gold standard for user-generated content experiences, Super Mario Maker 2 is the archetype of failed potential. While it’s still a great game full of great ideas, Nintendo has missed its execution in some ways. Multiplayer was a mess. The Course World Hub lacked utility. Post-launch updates were few and badly scheduled. These are all issues that, contextualized in Nintendo Switch Online’s focus and lingering shortcomings, sting all the more.


Official Art for Game Builder Garage

Play builder garage must work around these issues to be successful. Nintendo must take lessons learned from past efforts to heart. Without growth, this upcoming title will be fraught with preventable issues that will weigh on its longevity. Even if Nintendo sticks to the landing, it must navigate the backlash that has overwhelmed the promising but ineffective title of Media Molecule, Dreams. Play builder garage is a huge risk. And, it’s affordable, with a release date two weeks before Mario Golf: Super Rush. It does not inspire confidence.

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However, the general polish displayed in the trailer does. Play builder garage is largely questionable due to the circumstances surrounding it. The content itself looks lovely and seems like a crash course in programming. The community is already mobilizing around the project and theorizing about potential creations. The opportunity for replayability and long term engagement is there. If Nintendo can hold the landing, Play builder garage could be huge. However, several recent Nintendo projects should have been huge, but weren’t.

Still, the community is dealing with a shrewd, profitable Nintendo. The recent financial briefing that followed Play builder garageThe announcement was positively complimentary. Even Wario would blush in favor of Nintendo. If even a fraction of these resources were channeled into Play builder garage, it could be the next one Super Mario Creator. Or, it could be the next one WarioWare DIY. Whether the title ends up being a flash in the pan or a focal point of Switch’s library, Play builder garage is a worthy bet.

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