Do you love stats? Are you always wondering how well that new Nintendo Switch game is prior to making a purchase? Then get ready for a very insightful Owner Outreach. With The Switch Effect today is Ben Barden, founder and coder for World of Switch. World of Switch is a website dedicated to the Nintendo Switch and focuses on stats, reviews, and an exhaustive database for all Switch Games released in Europe and the U.S.
Ben, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hello, and thanks for getting in touch! The brief version: I live in London, I work in tech, I enjoy gaming and I love the Switch!
What was the first console/game you ever owned?
First computer was the ZX Spectrum – not sure what the first game was as we had a few. First console was the NES; first NES game – Super Mario Bros. 3.
Growing up, did you always have a passion for statistics and reviews based around gaming?
Shortly after getting the NES, I started looking at gaming magazines and I always enjoyed the reviews. I’ve had an interest in statistics for a while; games statistics are more of a recent interest. I’ve had a couple of jobs where I created tools such as reports or sales statistics, and also a side project – an ad network – where the stats were part of the overall site.
Let’s talk about World of Switch. For those unfamiliar, can you provide some background on how this website came to be and what readers can expect to find?
I got the Switch on launch day (3rd March) and spent a whole month playing Zelda. When I finished Zelda, I checked out the Switch eShop and found it difficult to know which games to pick up next. I decided to start a small blog with a page listing the current Switch games and their prices, as I wanted to keep track of the games in a format that could be easily looked at in a web browser.
I started writing weekly blog posts to show which games were in the eShop charts, and also to show if games had moved up or down since the week before – a feature I hadn’t seen other sites doing, at least not for the Switch. Those posts took a bit of work to put together, so I wrote some code and created a small database to speed things up a bit. Once that part was working, I moved the game lists into the same database, linked those into the charts, and that was the start of the site (I closed the separate blog a couple of months later.)
Some of the site features include: a history of eShop charts, updated every Saturday; game pages with average scores and ranks; current and future game lists; plus a Top Rated section that ranks games in a few different ways, to give newer games a chance against the all-time greats.
Can you describe the process of maintaining such a large amount of data on a nearly daily basis?
Adding and updating games is currently a manual process. At the moment, I’m checking the eShop every day, adding in new releases and upcoming games. It might sound like a lot of work, but I’ve developed screens where I can easily add new games to the database and update all of their details. Every time I add a new game or change some details, I’m using those screens, and I’m often coming up with quick timesavers – tweaks I can make to the code to speed up the process. This comes from years of experience of working in tech, of developing and testing websites, and of knowing how to make a process fast and simple for a user. It helps to not just be a coder, but to try out what you’ve built. You then see some of the pain points, and you’ll also know how much work it might be to change things around.
How do you go about gathering the information in regard to review scores, prices, etc.?
Prices and release dates are part of the game details I mentioned above. Reviews are a bit different. When I started out, it wasn’t much work. There weren’t a lot of games around yet, so there weren’t too many reviews. Plus, I started with a small number of sites to gather reviews from. So it was simple enough to bookmark the sites I wanted to go to for reviews, and visit them a few times a week.
As I’m sure you’ll know though, the Switch has been a runaway success – by my count, there’s nearly 400 games available (in Europe). There are more sites publishing Switch reviews. There are a few sites who are diligently trying to keep up with most of the releases and write reviews for as many as possible. It’s a big job, and I’ve got a lot of respect for the reviewers who take the time to review loads of games. Naturally, this means I’ve got a lot more reviews to keep up with, too. It wasn’t really workable to keep visiting each site and picking up the reviews manually.
I had some time off over Christmas, so I built a tool that visits each of the World of Switch review partners once per day, looking for any new reviews. The tool relies on an RSS feed that only contains Switch reviews (or mostly Switch reviews). It tries to match the title of each review to a game in our database – trickier than it sounds. Then it checks if we already have a review of that game from the site we’re looking at. If not, it fills in as much as it can, and I can quickly fill in the missing details. Some sites don’t have suitable RSS feeds, and most don’t include the review score in the feed, but the tool still saves me a lot of time, even without everything working perfectly.
The best part is when a review is created without any work from me at all – there are only two sites I can do this with at the moment, but it’s still very satisfying when it happens!
It’s time to “switch” gears. Let’s talk briefly about the Nintendo Switch! Given that your site is dedicated to the Switch, we still want to ask: What are your thoughts on Nintendo’s newest console?
I think the Switch is awesome! I love seeing how many games are available, and how many companies are supporting the Switch. It’s easy to see the stark contrast to the days of the Wii U – but let’s not forget the N64, which was ignored by many in favor of the PlayStation, despite the N64 having some of the best games ever. I also love how positive people have been about the Switch. I’d have bought it no matter what, as I’m a big fan of Nintendo consoles, but it’s great to see the Switch doing so well.
Since the release of the Switch, what are your top three favorite games?
Zelda and Super Mario Odyssey were a blast, and I can see them being at the top of my list for a while. I also loved SteamWorld Dig 2, but it didn’t take me long to complete – I think I finished it in a weekend. I’m currently playing Skyrim and that’s probably my third favorite game, partly because I haven’t played it before and there’s so much to do.
What upcoming game(s) are you most looking forward to?
The first SteamWorld Dig is high on my wishlist, as I’ve not played it before. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, as I didn’t get it for Wii U. Bayonetta 1 and 2 – more games I haven’t played. Shovel Knight: King of Cards should be fun. Mega Man 11. Mega Man Legacy Collection 1 and 2. Mario Tennis Aces. Ys VIII. Yoshi. Metroid Prime 4! There are so many games to choose from!
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share?
Nothing really, except to say thanks for the interview and keep up the good work with the site!
Thank you again for taking the time to speak with The Switch Effect. Make sure to visit and follow World of Switch today!
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