Since well before the Nintendo Switch’s launch in March, observers have wondered whether the system would receive strong software support from major third-party publishers or whether it should instead rely more heavily on Nintendo exclusives and games from smaller independent developers. Now new comments from overwatch director Jeff Kaplan seems to confirm how porting modern games to such low-powered hardware can be a difficult bottleneck to get through.
In a Reddit AMA thread last month, Kaplan vaguely said that “getting” [Overwatch] on the Switch is quite a challenge for us, but we are always open to exploring possible platforms.” In a follow-up interview with the British emphatically newspaper published today, Kaplan explained. “I think the problem is that we’ve focused our min specs in a way that we should rethink performance and how to get to that platform,” he said.
That’s a striking admission, especially considering that the near-year-old overwatch doesn’t really require a top-notch PC to play; Blizzard requires at least an Intel Core i3 processor and GTX 460 or better. The game’s strong visual design also makes it technically playable at extremely low resolutions, which could make a port workable even if a full 1080p image couldn’t be achieved on the Switch.
While we love the Switch’s hybrid portable/console form factor, that design comes with an Nvidia Tegra X1-based system-on-a-chip that can’t quite compete with other modern console and PC specs. And while a planned Switch port of a five-year-old title like Skyrim is fun, it’s disturbing to see Kaplan admit it’s hard to get a recent, relatively cheap 3D title to work on the system.
At the same time, Kaplan left the door open for a while overwatch Switch ports in future and repeat he “always nice”[s] to tell people that we are very open-minded about what platforms we could be on. Just because we’re not on a platform right now doesn’t mean we won’t reconsider it in the future, so we remain aware of all these things.”
Kaplan also said he wasn’t exactly thrilled to tackle the logistical headache associated with adding a fourth overwatch platform (on top of PC, Xbox One and PS4). “It’s already a challenge to maintain and patch three platforms at the same time, something that we’ve finally been able to achieve,” he said. emphatically. “Add a third” [console] ecosystem just adds a lot of complexity for us.”
That gets to the heart of the pitfalls and potential for third-party software support for Nintendo Switch: All things considered, publishers won’t want to go through the headache of supporting another new platform unless they see huge, untapped potential. audience of Switch owners first. But with Switch supplies still routinely sold out at retail, and GameStop forecasting high demand by the end of the year, that potential audience of Switch owners might reach too high a level to ignore in no time.