The Switch’s growing library of non-portable games


Because the Nintendo Switch isn’t nearly as powerful as any of the other current-gen consoles, and especially not the next-gen, getting modern games onto it and having them both perform well and look nice can be difficult. Some developers have managed to do all they can to get the game working its best, and they should be commended for their efforts, other times it seems publishers just phone it in and it ends up being something barely even resembling the original product that also performs way worse than it would trying to run on an ancient PC half as powerful. There are also cases where the version brought to the Switch is just a mobile port because they’re convinced it’s just a phone.

Usually those ports, whatever quality they end up being, can still at least be somewhat playable at the very least in the system’s portable mode. However, there’s been the concept of cloud gaming with increasing relevance, and some publishers have decided to just go that route for some Switch games because they’re not even going to try to squeeze their ultra-demanding games onto a portable system. I’ve mentioned my issues with cloud gaming before, and while I think it’s a very cool concept, the execution could be better, and the infrastructure is lacking on average to support it. I’m fortunate enough to have a good broadband connection and enough relative positioning to some major server locations, probably, so I’ve been able to try out some cloud platforms. Most recently, I played a demo that generic-sounding game called Immortals Fenyx Rising and it worked out pretty well. I think cloud gaming really works for trying out games before committing to them, at the very least, so one wouldn’t have to sit through an hour or two download, maybe longer, to try out a game. Of course on a slower connection it won’t work as well and the demo download will take longer anyway.

Stadia’s main purpose is to make money off of this cloud gaming business, and their method is to just sell full games at full price (except for whatever sales they do) that can only be played on the cloud, unlike other cloud services that would allow you to play games you have either locally or through the cloud if it can’t be done locally for some reason. If someone has an incredibly good connection for the latter, they might even be able to stream it while it downloads then switch to the local version afterward. However, Stadia is stream only and that’s that. They do have a subscription to access games without buying them individually, but anyone wanting to play games without a subscription won’t be doing much with that service. At least the likes of Xbox Game Pass has multiple options to play games, download or stream, and there’s also the remote play thing like what the PS4 and Steam also have for playing. And Nvidia has their own service where they use their machines to run games that the user owns across multiple PC stores if their current devices are limited in some way, though the service has its limitations on what games can be played due to publishers being fussy about the whole thing.

Stadia’s model pales in comparison to the choice offered elsewhere, in that Stadia games stay as Stadia games. Looking at Google’s Takeout service to export whatever personal data they have, it seems exporting save files from Stadia is part of it, but how to get those saves to work on other versions of the game could vary. And now the Switch essentially has Stadia games, because they’re sold at a cost and aren’t downloaded locally. Given my experience with cloud gaming, a wired connection seems like a must-have, because getting a quality router that might be able to handle full HD streaming with low latency over wi-fi is likely expensive, and a wired adapter might be far cheaper if one knows where to look. This pretty much means the best experience for a Switch user to play one of these cloud games is docked, which means Switch Lite users may be at a disadvantage unless they can hook up the ethernet adapter to the charging port and have it work. And of course being away from home and general modern civilization is not an option for playing these, unlike any other game that’s been downloaded and can work offline. I’m not even sure if the 5G rollout would make cloud gaming feasible without wi-fi.

The long and short of it seems to be that publishers really would like Nintendo to make a normal console instead of doing these weird experiments with less powerful hardware, or else they’re going to treat it as a lesser phone. EA will still crank out “legacy editions” of FIFA on it, at least, doing the very literal action of just updating the people in the last version of the game they actually bothered developing in full and calling it a day, instead of what it just seems like they do with new versions on other systems, and for all I know that’s almost all they’re doing aside from making everyone sweatier. With the upcoming next-gen with all of its fancy raytracing, modern Switch ports will probably be less frequent than ever, outside of maybe some cloud versions. People also seem to really want the Switch Pro to be a thing, somehow making this device capable of 4K output at the very least, and maybe even raytracing on top of that. Given how big the current iterations of these next-gen consoles are, and even though a lot of that overall size is for the sake of heat management, I don’t see raytracing being a thing on portable devices for a bit, at least, unless someone wants to wear oven mitts while gaming. I’ve had phones get very hot playing games with far less graphics.

One more thing about buying cloud versions of games is that it’s another form of needing a constant connection to play singleplayer stuff. I was never a fan of that, especially for paid games. I’d like to be able to play games as long as I have some viable source of electricity at the very least, even if the world’s networks all crash hard and we have to deliver messages on horseback, yet somehow electricity would still work which is honestly a very weird scenario to happen. I’ve considered getting solar power for the sole reason of not needing to depend so much on the grid in case that all goes down as well. However, the more likely scenario of connected singleplayer games is that they take down the servers and then the game won’t work at all. Likewise, paid multiplayer-only games are something I’m not a fan of either for this reason, where so much depends on company servers now such as the entire player’s progress that trying to reverse-engineer it is the real end goal of the communities that build up around it. Some old MMOs have been reintroduced as free fan projects for this reason, which is neat in the name of preservation and to experience how things were designed back then. I don’t know if the same would happen for cloud games, namely those that are only in cloud form and on no other platform, but if so, it’d be more likely someone might try to grab a copy of the program itself and run it through an emulator or convert it to some PC standard than deal with the entire streaming structure.