It’s not all about graphics…
It’s been a fun month for Nintendo. So many huge announcements with expectations for their Switch console constantly on the rise. Yet as these expectations emerge, the desire by some to pick apart the Switch for not “matching PlayStation 4 and Xbox One” ultimately feels out of place – dare I even say misguided. To some, there seems to be some unrealistic expectations being heaped on Nintendo Switch – and it’s not being helped by publishers and developers.
The reveal of id Software’s DOOM (and subsequent press coverage) has really brought into focus the debate around how capable Nintendo’s console really is. In the span of 24 hours, various communities tried their hand at feverish speculation. With no official word from Bethesda or Nintendo – the performance and specs became a wild west of speculation – this is something that only ends up harming the console’s image.
Everyone from Digital Foundry through to IGN and Gamespot couldn’t come to a conscientious on what they were playing. Specs and speculation varied wildly between websites, feeding an undercurrent of discussion among Nintendo Switch’s main detractors – who took to these videos in their droves to denounce the Switch version of the game as “inferior”.
It’s a funny reversal of fortune for Nintendo. Back in January, there were genuine concerns that the company wasn’t going to be able to attract third-party developers on board. Bethesda’s Skyrim was the closest thing to a true AAA third party game – but the lack of third party support harkened very awkwardly back to the Wii U. Now, however, the Switch is practically drowning in third-party offerings. Everyone from EA (Fifa 2018), through to 2K (WWE2K18, NBA 2K18) is on board. offering up versions of their games. There’s even the prospect of Final Fantasy XV and Wolfenstein 2: New Colossus coming in 2018 – something that would have b
And here’s where an interesting narrative has emerged.
While sharing the same name as their PlayStation 4 and Xbox One cousins, these games are parred back to meet the Switch’s hardware specs. It’s no secret that Nintendo Switch can’t compete directly with these consoles in terms of graphical grunt but to some gamer. It’s a stance that’s been repeated over and over by the company. Yet as more and more titles emerge, many gamers seem to be feverishly raising their expectations – expectations that can’t hope to be matched.
Part of the reason this is happening is that developers and publishers aren’t being entirely open. WWE2K18, for example, will be missing one of its key selling features – the ability to compete with eight wrestlers in a ring. This wasn’t announced when the game impressively came to light – but instead came to light via an awkward edit on the games Nintendo page. It creates the illusion of being misled – of awkward asterisks. Fifa 2018 won’t feature the Frostbite Engine that powers its PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions – but a custom engine in its place. Bethesda refused to confirm which version of Elder Scrolls: Skyrim gamers would be getting when the game landed on the console – raising eyebrows and distracting from the discussion that should have been happening.
DOOM, in particular, has become a lightning rod for this discussion – if only because it’ll mark the first true attempt to slap a modern high-end console game onto Nintendo’s hardware. The discussion over framerates, Vsync and resolution ultimately betray the whole point of Nintendo Switch – the console isn’t fighting to match its more capable cousins.
Yet by not giving details and explaining where the compromise is, Bethesda has ultimately fed the detractors who see that indecisiveness as developers trying to have their cake and eat it. It means websites idly speculate and fill column inches with information that only clouds the discussion and raises expectations that ultimately won’t be met. By not giving details and explaining where the compromise is, Bethesda has ultimately fed the detractors who see that indecisiveness as developers trying to have their cake and eat it. It means websites idly speculate and fill column inches with information that only clouds the discussion. It puts more pressure on these versions and makes any flaws feel that much more prevalent. Basically, the developers aren’t doing themselves any favors.
I’m not saying these developers should roll out the whole store in a “These are the missing features” type way. But people who own Nintendo Switch’s know what they’re in for. Nintendo gamers are arguably the least picky of the three main consoles – more so now that Switch is so obviously behind the pack. There’s no need to revert to the kind of tricks and obscuring of facts. Nintendo themselves should be encouraging openness to avoid this kind of idle discussion.
Maybe it’s because I come from a generation of gamers that grew up with oddball console ports. I remember countless games which arrived on Nintendo 64 completely different to the experience PlayStation 1 users got. There was a time when the experience between two consoles was vastly different – leading to almost entirely different games. It didn’t stop me from enjoying those games (for the most part) and I suspect the same for many other people. Simply getting those games onto a console in a working fashion was an impressive enough feat.
In an age where gamers have become so used to seamless ports and different console versions being so similar – Switch is something a throwback to a time when that wasn’t the case. Sometimes to get that game you love onto a console you can take with you anywhere, compromise is the only option. If the core experience is refined enough, that’s all that matters – that should be the first thing being talked about by Nintendo and its partners when showcasing these games.
Does DOOM at 30fps really ruin the experience? Not from the videos shown off. Does it matter that Fifa 2018 won’t match the sheer graphical grunt when you can play Fifa on a train? Not even slightly. Why are websites so desperate to compare Switch version of DOOM to the consoles that they rip blurry stream footage that’s not even slightly indicative of the final product? Because the industry is obsessed with graphics and performance, almost to the point where gamers will discard a game for not matching their lofty expectations. That works against Nintendo Switch – completely undermining the consoles key selling point.
We’re still very much in a learning period with the Nintendo Switch. Certainly, the arrival of so many blockbuster titles has begun to shift the way gamers see the console. I just worry that the more developers aren’t upfront about the process of getting games onto Switch, the more people will use that as a negative. Perhaps developers need to shift their focus from this to the fact that they’re doing some amazing work just getting these games on the console and in a working manner.