What do you do with the Nintendo Switch if you’re not Nintendo?
The system is much less powerful than its competitors, which makes cross-platform games tricky. You’re going up against Nintendo’s own games, which are backed by Nintendo’s marketing muscle and promotional brilliance. Every Nintendo system is designed to sell Nintendo games first and foremost, and the company doesn’t seem to care if you’re along for the ride or not.
But here comes Bethesda, and it has a strategy for Nintendo’s latest system. The rest of the industry is going to be watching very closely.
The challenge of Doom
I’ve been playing Doom on the Nintendo Switch for the past few hours, and I’m a bit obsessed with the port. The controls are uncomfortable, and I hope Nintendo finds a way to support first-person shooters better.
The visuals are also hacked down; this is by the far the worst looking version of Doom. The framerate hitches from time to time, especially during busy gunfights. It can take a while to get used to playing on the Switch, especially if you’re coming from the PC version and you have a beefy rig.
But for all that, it works. It’s a playable version of Doom on the Nintendo Switch. It’s fun, and after a bit of playing the graphical issues fall away. You can get lost in it, just like the other versions of the game. Bethesda, god bless ‘em, made it happen.
The question is whether there’s a market for visually compromised games that may or may not be good fits for the Switch’s controls. Bethesda is attempting the same thing with its port of Skyrim for the Switch, and after playing Doom I’m curious about how the controls feel, how legible the text will be in handheld mode and how long those loading times may be. It might be time for developers and publishers to look into adjusting the menus and text of games based on whether you’re playing in portable mode or in tabletop mode.
EA has already taken a wait-and-see attitude with the Nintendo Switch, and most of the other big wins on the software side of things have come from the indie space. Bethesda is perhaps the largest publisher making a substantial bet on porting multiple games to the Switch, and the rest of the industry is going to be watching to see if fans want working but compromised versions of games they may have already played elsewhere.
Square Enix, for its part, is also enthusiastic about the platform. The Switch is an opportunity for games with smaller budgets, which matches Bethesda’s port-heavy strategy. Capcom has expressed similar thoughts.
SquareEnix:— Takashi Mochizuki (@mochi_wsj) November 8, 2017
-Switch's one ideal platform to put middle-range games, which got tough to achieve business success. SquareEnix's good at making these games, so would work on these aggressively https://t.co/kPQx0l8IIb
Doom on the Switch is ... well, it’s what you’d expect from Doom on the Switch. The question is going to be whether that’s good enough, and whether other companies will want to emulate that approach.