The eWaste clogging up Nintendo’s eShop


When digital store fronts on consoles started to gain momentum, many enjoyed games that they might not have been able to access previously, unless you were on a Nintendo platform. For the Wii and early Wii U eras, Nintendo was very restrictive about the developers they let make games for their platform, it was such an issue that it was called out for years that if you wanted 3rd party games, you didn’t get a Nintendo platform. However when the Switch came about, there was a paradigm shift in how Nintendo were operating, no longer were developers required to have a storied history of releasing games (or even a physical address), new developers were welcomed with open arms and with those arms busy welcoming them in, no one was holding back the deluge of shovelware that was on its way.

Each week, anyone who visits the Switch’s eShop will be treated to a slew of new games, some of them are big names, some are released by darling indies and some are shovelware, which is where the problem lies. If you are not familiar with the term Shovelware, it has been around since the early 1990s and refers to a collection of games, of varying quality, packaged up and released in bulk. Now that was referring to the plethora of games being released onto a floppy disk and CD-ROMs, but the term has remained around ever since. These days it generally gets applied to developers who release a lot of games, that either barely meet the definition of a game or uses assets made by other companies and lately AI tools. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not stating that if a company releases a lot of games that what they are offering is shovelware, but it is important to note the term.

What Shovelware used to look like vs what it does today

So why is that term important, well on the eShop there are three main ways that a developer can be considered a shovelware developer. The first is the easiest way, they make a game, then make one little change and then re-release in a new form, then repeat this for months if not years. If you have ever checked the sales page on your Switch or the top sellers, there is a chance you will have seen AAA Clock in there, this particular ‘game’ is not a game, but a clock. The catch is that the developer RedDeer.Games has released 39 versions of that single product, with each version being the same base game, but now released in a bundle. This is not hyperbole, the developer has repackaged the release so much, even their bundle names are beginning to sound the same. There is the base release of course, then the Deluxe Edition, the Ultimate Edition, the Amazing Edition, the Magnificent Edition, the Superb Edition, the Game of the Year Edition, and even the Director’s Cut Edition. Now put the world Ultra in front of all of those and you have even more variants. Each week, more and more bundles are released and they are often the same developers, RedDeer.Games have released a staggering 597 games onto the Switch, at the time of writing and the bulk of them are just repackaged titles.

AAA to many choices

The second main cause for the amount of garbage that is filling up the eShop, asset flips. Now before I dive in here, let me be clear, the purchasing of assets from stores that create them is perfectly fine and is a practice that has been around for a decade and change now. These asset stores can help solo developers or small teams, get those few extra items that maybe they don’t have time to make, they are a crucial part of game development for many developers. Asset flips on the other hand are shameless piles of feted garbage, that should have never been released on the Switch, or any other platform to begin with. So what exactly is an asset flip, well they are games that are 99% or more, the same as something else, think if you took Super Mario Bros. Wonder, but swapped out all the playable characters for the Koopalings, that would be an asset flip. The Switch is sadly home to a number of them, but one of the earliest attempts at cashing in on this trend made use of ‘Full Game Kit – Hammer 2’ from the Unity asset store.

Which came first?
What is in a name?

This pack is made up of levels, characters, weapons, vehicles and all the other bits and bobs that make up a game. The idea for them is that you would take the parts, but then use them to create your own original work and two different developers just skipped that last part. Pix Arts and Art Games Studio took that asset pack, made sure it ran on Switch and then put it up for sale as ‘Hammer 2 Reloaded‘ and ‘The Bullet: Time of Revenge‘ respectively. Both are identical, they are the same characters, world, weapons, each and every part of those two ‘games’ is the same and neither are worth playing. They are but two examples of games that are asset flips but they are not the only ones. There are also titles like Express Courier Pro Urban Bike Delivery Simulator 2024 and The Ghost Sniper Simulator (Tactical Shooting & Eliminator) that take assets from various sources and label as new games, even when they are clearly just poor clones of popular titles. Perhaps the best example is that there is a game called Rocket Car: Ultimate Ball League Machines from the makers of Ghost Sniper Simulator, which is just a horrible attempt at copying Rocket League. This is made even funnier when Rocket League is free and the bland clone is almost $20 to buy. All the games above have taken assets and asset packs and done the barest amount of work so that they can technically be called a game and its an insult to gamers the world over and just buries any decent games from being spotted.

One of these is not like the other

Now we come to the third part that is broken about the eShop, the games made by exploiting AI. Now the use of artificial intelligence is a topic that has many pros and cons and is not going to be solved here. AI in gaming is generally done in two ways, the first is that AI tools are being used by developers to tidy up the work they are doing, doing animations between key frames or rendering out new frames in already completed games. The second is when AI tools are used to create all-new assets, ignoring the work that was done by real creators first. One such example of this practice is done by a studio called Aldora Games, a developer who creates visual novel type games and uses AI tools to create them. How can I state what they are making is done using AI, easy most AI created images have a sense about them, where something just doesn’t feel right, even the most well crafted image has this. Second, most AI programs fail at something, be it giving people feet where there hands should be, or if they do have hands, they get 7 fingers on it. Take a look at the image below and tell me how many things you spot that are wrong and this is just one example from their catalogue.

Too many reindeer

Now again the use of AI tools that actually assist a creator, is inherently a good thing, but when you use those tools to produce your entire game, you end up with something like the above. While making games like this is something that no developer should do, they are just taking advantage of the lessened restrictions that Nintendo have put in place. Nintendo were clearly wanting more developers to bring their creations to the Switch, but rather than being selective on what is released, they went for the everything route and its how we got to here.

If you are old like me, then you likely remember the Nintendo Seal of Quality, a program that Nintendo were running alongside their earlier consoles, at the start it was the sign that Nintendo approved of the games being released for their system. That program and the restrictions it required developers to meet, were legendary in the games industry, which is why so many studios started dropping support for Nintendo hardware. It wouldn’t be until the early 2010s, that Nintendo finally loosened those restrictions, the problem is that they didn’t loosen the restrictions but almost removed them entirely. The best reason I know for this to be true is that on a lark, I myself applied to be a developer for the Wii U, and Nintendo called me to talk about it. Before those restrictions were reduced, I would have been instantly rejected.  So while I don’t want to see Nintendo bring back the Seal of Quality and all those restrictions, I do want to ensure that they remove the “Seal of Quantity” that they have been content to embrace, in an unofficial capacity of course.

On the left quality.. the right is just a quantity release

With the Switch’s successor on the horizon, there is a lot work that Nintendo needs to do, in order to make its online store worth exploring. Given how the current eShop on the Switch behaves, a general overhaul of the design would be great, but that is only the start. They can add all the new features and functions that they want to the shop, but if all the games listed on it are being buried under this shovelware, then it matters not. Nintendo need to bring back a level of quality control, gamers who are buying the system either for themselves or for someone else, shouldn’t have to wade through trash to get to the good stuff. Because for each great game that is released, there are a handful of shovelware releases that diminish the value of the platform and in the long run, that is bad both Nintendo and more importantly the player.

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About The Author
Luke Henderson
So, I have been gaming since controllers only had two buttons and because I wanted to, I started my own site. Now of course, you can find me writing for Vooks as well
  • laharl1313
    June 5, 2024 at 6:02 pm

    Hmmm, I feel like this was written using AI:
    “ just one example from ‘there’


    If it’s just a typo…

    can I suggest CoPilot?!!!

    *curls up in a ball and hides from imminent AI invasion*

    Seriously though, this was a great article. Thank you!!

  • conditionals
    June 6, 2024 at 2:55 pm

    My favourites are the games which have a TBD release date but provide a demo, so they’re constantly at the end of the ‘coming soon’ eshop page. Stuff like Void’s Ballad has been TBD for about 3 years… that’s a whole lot of time spent in prime position at the end of the list next to the big announced first party games. Feels like a loophole. I doubt it will release before Switch 2.

  • Arkhe
    June 7, 2024 at 12:49 am

    A way to block/ignore developers/publishers might be a way to go.
    Could probably automate that if a lot of people blocking a publisher could cause their products to fall in the recommendations?

  • Squidamus
    June 20, 2024 at 11:49 am

    This is a fantastic article, and a problem worth solving – and it’s not easy because even Steam has had trouble with this…. some things that come to mind include…
    – somehow forcing these clones to bundle into only one offering
    – limiting submissions with barriers of entry (limited amount of submissions, adding costs)
    – flagging devs and publishers (user tags or reports (ai, asset flips), or Nintendo themselves for known offenders, or, marking trusted devs/publishers)
    – limits to demos per dev/publisher (with one date submitted only once)
    – mandating certain disclaimers (use of AI, etc)
    – user controls (blocking certain tags or devs/publishers)

    It’s hard to imagine how this won’t come down to some level of hard-to-define curation… AND/OR, some definitions of quality that can be reliably tagged or applied to devs/pubs/games and I’m sure some very early devs might be caught in the crossfire (think Zachtronics with GOG) – but ultimately, these need to be separated out somehow, because its too messy and the biggest shame isn’t how annoying it is, but that very great and legitimate indies get drowned out.

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