Porting a game to the Nintendo Switch can be a big challenge for developers and often comes with quite a few hurdles, which begs the question, why engage in Nintendo Switch porting? The simple answer is the market is giant. As of March 2022, the Nintendo Switch has sold nearly 108 million consoles, making it a huge opportunity for developers to take advantage of the large player base.
Now we know why it’s worth porting games to Switch, let’s go into a deep dive on how to port a game to Nintendo Switch. Interestingly enough, Nintendo Switch game porting requires you to plan. By that we mean, consider the game mechanics and performance, will they adapt to the Nintendo Switch’s hardware and control scheme? Will it be an enjoyable handheld experience? Ideally, the development of your game title should keep the possibility of a future Switch port in mind, as this can make the porting process later, much more accessible.
Often when developers are considering how to port a pc game to Nintendo Switch, they believe in going with a partner that specializes in this process, much like us at Pingle. The benefits of an external porting team handling your porting means that you can focus on the game development and support, whilst the outsourced team focuses on ensuring the title performs and controls well on the platform. When it comes to how to port a game to Nintendo Switch, why not let experts in the field handle your port?
Reasons for Porting a Game to the Nintendo Switch
As we mentioned previously, the Nintendo Switch is an incredibly popular gaming console that currently corners the market and is the key mobile game device. If you’re wondering “Should I be porting my game to Nintendo Switch?” consider an additional 108 million potential players having access to your game title. It’s a brilliant way to corner a part of the market that is sometimes overlooked.
Some titles are elevated by being ported to the Nintendo Switch, due to the dynamic and flowing control schemes. Take something like Diablo III, which single-handedly proved the benefits of porting a PC game to Nintendo Switch, with its often revered control scheme that turns a point-and-click dungeon controller into almost a twin-stick action game.
Diablo III multiplayer on the Switch platform.
Ultimately, even older games can be relaunched on Switch to success, with PC titles like X-com 2, The Witcher 3, Doom, Alien: Isolation and Dark Souls remastered receiving great success on the platform. It isn’t just about reaching a larger audience, you’re also reaching an audience that may not have had access to your game title previously. A lot of Nintendo Switch owners tend to only be consumers of Nintendo content, so may not have had access to PC or other console titles until they arrive on the Switch.
Major titles have successfully come to Switch by Pingle Studio including but not limited to My time at Protia and PC building simulator.
Key components of porting games to Switch
It doesn’t matter whether you want to know how to port a console game to Nintendo Switch or a PC title, there is always the challenge of balancing quality visuals with decent performance on the hardware. The goal ultimately is to find a core balance between visuals and performance, ultimately as developers, we know that compromises generally need to be made somewhere to have the title function on the Switch, however it is about finding the perfect middle ground.
Generally, with Nintendo Switch ports, the aim is to maintain 30 frames per second. Even if we’re porting a console game to the Nintendo Switch, the main goal is to keep a consistent performance when it comes to frame rate. With a handheld console, users do not expect 60FPS+, but they do expect a consistent performance to accompany the portability the console offers.
The porting process involves breaking down Visual FX, Textures, and assets and assessing what can be optimized to provide more headroom for performance. Games that are built using Unreal Engine tend to have a substantial advantage here, as the Engine allows for extensive revision and optimization.
With all of that in mind, we can look at the capabilities of the Switch Hardware in more detail and offer more insight into the porting process.
Engine & SDK Updates
Updates to the SDK base tend to come unexpectedly, the team must be working with the latest version available. Difficulties can arise when an SDK update comes midway during a porting process. The difficulty of working through that situation depends heavily on what engine the game is using.
If your title is using Unreal Engine, this situation is generally easily resolved as Unreal Engine offers avenues that make changes fairly straightforwardly. Unity, on the other hand, involves a lot more hands-on time to resolve those changes without introducing too many bugs. To sum up, factor in the possibility of these updates in your schedule as well as the cost of porting a game to Nintendo Switch.
Generally, with porting a game to Switch, Graphics/Performance is the part most users and reviewers focus on and it’s a pivotal part to get right.
There is no getting around it, GPU optimization on the Switch requires you have access to very skilled technical artists who specialize in optimization. If your team or outsourced team can focus on shader optimization as well as asset optimization, you’ll be on track for a solid porting experience.
Potentially one of the biggest hurdles of porting to Nintendo Switch is the strict memory restrictions. Your game can only use up to 3.17GB of memory. This needs to be understood before the process begins, as the goal is to find ways to make the contents fit within these hard limits. This can prove more challenging and more time-consuming with large open-world games.
An easy rule of thumb when deciding whether to port to Nintendo Switch or not, is how hard will it be to port the title over? Generally, if a game’s mechanics, art style, and content can remain mostly untouched but just require optimization for the Switch hardware – that means the game is ideal for the porting process. Whilst you can still port games that don’t meet that criteria, those titles often require a lot of reworking of the systems of the game and those compromises result in a less desirable port.
These are all the key components that need to be considered when discussing how to port a game to Nintendo Switch.
Pingle Studio – Masters of porting games to Nintendo Switch
At Pingle Studio, we understand that the process of porting a title to Switch can often be confronting and daunting for developers, however, we have quite a bit of experience, allowing us to minimize the compromises required to get your title flying on the hardware. We’ve got a lot of stories of going through this process, but none more interesting than My Time at Portia and PC Building Simulator.
Porting My Time at Portia
At Pingle we were responsible for porting an update for “My Time at Portia” across multiple platforms, including the Nintendo Switch. This presented some extensive and unique challenges, one of the main issues being we had no access to the original project’s technical and design documentation, which is like looking for your keys in the dark with a flashlight – workable but challenging.
Ultimately our team of 12 professionals came up with some unique solutions that demonstrate our problem-solving prowess. Our team searched fandom resources for quests, descriptions, navigation, and lore which let us put together a framework for the job at hand. Essentially this lets us implement the community’s content and solutions, into the console build. Our team and the game’s community, worked hand in hand to make the port happen! Is there anything better?
Another major hurdle for this project was the schedule presented to us didn’t provide us with time to go through and test the game. A simple solution our team found was once again to lean on the players themselves and find streamers and YouTubers who had completed the title and could point the team in the right direction.
Porting PC Building Simulator
Some of our experts were responsible for bringing the addictive gameplay of PC Building Simulator to consoles, including the Switch. We had to overcome constant freezes, data leaks, and slow performance. We were able to overcome these hurdles in clever ways like cutting the number of processes by using duplicate assets and getting rid of meshes as well as optimizing the code and reducing poly counts.
Our team are not only technical marvels, but they’re capable problem solvers who think outside the box and know how to work within the hardware limitations of each console – making Pingle Studio a collective you should consider if you’re looking to outsource your porting.
There are a lot of hurdles to porting games to Switch but the benefits far out weigh the effort and responsibility required to successfully do it. At Pingle Studio, we are a team of professionals that have extensive experience in the field of porting and can guide and assist you every step of the way with your porting project. When it comes to how much it costs to port a game to Nintendo Switch, the rate can vary from title to title, depending on the needs of the developer.
Our team of dynamic experts have successfully ported multiple titles across all platforms and are fantastic communicators, making us ideal to work with on projects of all sizes. If you’re considering porting your title, or your title is in development and you want some tips on optimizing it for a future port, consider contacting us at Pingle Studio.
You can contact an expert from our team here and we’ll assist you ASAP.