Nintendo has done a lot for gaming in terms of hardware innovations, but when it comes down to it, we really appreciate them for their fantastic first party titles that make even some of their least successful systems worth looking into. With all this great support from within their own company and developers they've purchased, honestly it wouldn't be all that surprising if Nintendo could push a system entirely on their own. But it's in their best interest to make a stable platform, so they go after third parties as well.
Early on, it's easy to say that Nintendo was successful in bringing in other publishers. Why? Because they essentially had a monopoly on the Japanese and North American market with the Nintendo Entertainment System (Europeans were too busy enjoying a variety of other platforms, including the SEGA Master System). Thanks to the NES' popularity, Nintendo was basically able to hold third parties hostage by basically forcing them to make timed exclusive content that could only be ported two years after the NES release. If it weren't for the SEGA Genesis, the Super Nintendo probably would have held a similar choke hold, but their policies lightened up in the light of competition. But after the SNES, Nintendo has been struggling for third party content. The Nintendo 64, not only limited the space that developers could work with, but also increased the costs of manufacturing software, compared to the PS1's cheap disc format.
Ever since the launch of the Gamecube, Nintendo has been chasing third parties to get content on their system. And to a certain extent, it had worked. Nintendo Gamecube saw quite a few third party exclusives, including SEGA's Billy Hatchered, Activision's Lost Kingdoms series and Konami's Metal Gear Solid remake. Nintendo even had third party developers produce titles under Nintendo's own franchises like Star Fox Assault and Donkey Konga. Capcom's exclusivity deal, called Capcom Five, is the epitome of how all these deals turned out for third party publishers. The deal promised five Gamecube exclusives. One was was canceled, the best three titles of the deal were ported to the PlayStation 2 for better financial performance, and one title, P.N.03, remained exclusive but wasn't received well from reviewers or consumers. With each platform, Nintendo continues to promise third party support. The Nintendo Wii saw plenty of third party exclusives, but it missed out on tons of the AAA experiences from the other platforms due the competition essentially being entirely different. Thanks to poor sales of third party titles that did hit the platform, the Wii is now in a dry spell from a third party perspective
In all of this, Nintendo's handheld platforms have not seen any sort of problem in third party support. The Gameboy, Gameboy Advanced and Nintendo DS have had humongous line-ups of third party content. With the Nintendo 3DS early in its life, we can't judge third parties' future on the platform based off the current software releases, but the past shows proof the system will succeed in third party realm, right? Well, recently multiple titles have been delayed or flat out canceled. SEGA's Crush3D has been pushed back due to the struggling 3DS market according to gamesindustry.biz (we can probably assume the same for they recent Shinobi delay), Assassin's Creed: Lost Legacy was canceled, and Saints Row: Drive-By is looking likely for cancellation as well. And finally, Capcom recently canned Mega Man Legends 3, although I'm sure the 3DS' troubles weren't the only factor in that decision. Will these titles determine the future of the 3DS? No, but it does show multiple publishers are disapproving of the market.
Next year we will be seeing the Wii U launch. At E3 this year, they made a similar third party promise as they always have. Company names and franchises were thrown around, as well as the promise of third party ports, but its the same thing we've seen with the Wii and the Nintendo 3DS except with PS3 and Xbox 360 footage instead of just logos in a power point. The promise of HD visuals and a possible feature rich online infrastructure gives hope that this time around things will be different. But based off Nintendo's word alone, I wouldn't hold my breath.