With the polarizing release of the Nintendo Switch OLED leading many Switch owners to stick with their original models, interest in an eventual upgraded version remains high. A potential Nintendo Switch Pro could help bridge the gap in tech between it and competitors over on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S.
However, one developer in particular feels that Nintendo shouldn’t feel pressured to develop more powerful hardware. World War Z lead designer Dmitry Grigorenko, from Saber Interactive, spoke to Nintendo Everything, where he was asked what he’d like to see in a potential Nintendo Switch Pro.
While he suggested he’d like to see better hardware and less patch size limitations, Grigorenko gave an interesting answer: “I don’t think the Switch needs a more powerful version that badly. Saber and many other talented studios have already proven that there is no such thing as an impossible port. Nintendo consoles were never about hardware, they were always about something that boosts your gameplay experience, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.”
Grigorenko of course has credentials to back up his statement. Saber Interactive developed the impressive Switch port of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and more recently brought the graphically demanding SnowRunner to Nintendo’s handheld. Saber is also developing the Switch port of another visually stunning title – Kingdom Come: Deliverance.
Other developers are in the same boat as Saber Interactive, developing so-called “impossible ports” for the modestly powered Switch. Perhaps the most prolific is Panic Button, who created very solid Switch ports of Warframe, Subnautica and Doom Eternal to name but a few.
All come with compromises to accommodate the Switch’s less powerful hardware of course, such as a 30fps framerate target and sub-HD resolutions, but the work done to get these games running on Nintendo’s handheld hybrid is nothing short of impressive.
The case for better Switch hardware?
We’re not going to say Grigorenko and like-minded individuals are wrong. He is in fact absolutely right that the last few console generations, for Nintendo, were never about powerful hardware. The Wii, for example, didn’t support HD in an era where that was cutting-edge display technology. It still defied expectations and became the best-selling home console of that generation.
Similarly, Nintendo Switch is undoubtedly underpowered compared to its competition, and doesn’t support 4K resolution as they do. It doesn’t feature a lightning-fast NVMe SSD, bags of storage space, or even a decent online infrastructure. But that hasn’t stopped the Switch family of consoles to shift over 89 million units (as of June 2021).
However, that astronomic sales figure can likely be attributed to Switch’s novelty as a handheld hybrid, as well as Nintendo’s usual penchant for developing some of the best looking and best playing games on the market. Getting “impossible ports” on the Switch isn’t necessarily a good thing, and many of them – like Mortal Kombat 11 – stick out like a sore thumb in just how inferior they look compared to the competition.
Of course, the Switch is arguably the console of choice for less graphically demanding titles. Indie darlings like Hollow Knight, Dead Cells, Celeste and more both play and look excellent in both handheld and docked modes. However, the cracks do start to show when booting up one of these so-called “impossible” ports, many of which could be deemed unpleasant to play in handheld mode thanks to soupy, sub-720p resolutions.
Better hardware, such as what we might see with a Nintendo Switch Pro, could afford developers the opportunity to port to Switch with fewer compromises. Who doesn’t want to be able to play Doom Eternal at a high framerate like we’ll be able to on Valve’s upcoming Steam Deck?
The audience for a Nintendo Switch Pro is certainly there, even if the lack of one hasn’t stopped Nintendo and other developers from creating and porting excellent titles to the handheld. But if better hardware can help developers bring more consistently great ports to the console with less irksome limitations, then we say bring it on.