1. Why Port Games to Nintendo Switch?
  2. Key Considerations for Nintendo Switch Porting
  3. Compliance Testing and Quality Assurance
  4. Memory Management
  5. Gameplay Compatibility
  6. The Benefits of Outsourcing Nintendo Switch Porting
  7. What to expect from Nintendo Switch 2
  8. Our experience with the Nintendo Switch
  9. The conclusion: do not ignore the Switch!

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Porting a game to the Nintendo Switch can be a big challenge for developers, but it offers a huge opportunity due to the console’s large player base. With nearly 108 million consoles sold as of March 2022, the Nintendo Switch is a market giant. 

Planning is crucial when it comes to Nintendo Switch game porting, as developers need to ensure that the game mechanics and performance can adapt to the hardware and control scheme of the console. Many developers choose to work with external porting teams to handle the process, allowing them to focus on game development while experts handle the porting. By porting games to the Nintendo Switch, developers can reach a larger audience and tap into the platform’s growing popularity. 

Why Port Games to Nintendo Switch?

The Nintendo Switch has emerged as a powerhouse in the gaming industry, with a dedicated and growing player base. As of July, the console has sold nearly 37 million units, making it an attractive platform for developers to port their games. But what exactly makes porting games to the Nintendo Switch so appealing?

First and foremost, the potential audience reach is a key driving factor. With millions of Nintendo Switch owners worldwide, porting a game to the platform opens up the opportunity to tap into this vast player base. By reaching a larger audience, developers can increase the visibility and success of their games.

Furthermore, the quality of the port plays a crucial role in the game’s success on the Switch. Players expect a high level of performance and gameplay experience, and a well-optimized port can meet and exceed these expectations. By providing a seamless and enjoyable experience on the Switch, developers can attract more players and boost their game’s popularity.

Benefits of Porting Games to Nintendo Switch:

  1. Access to a large and dedicated player base.
  2. Increased visibility and potential for higher sales.
  3. Opportunity to tap into the growing popularity of the Nintendo Switch platform.
  4. The potential for enhanced gameplay experience and performance.

The Nintendo Switch provides developers with a unique opportunity to expand their audience and boost the success of their games. By tapping into the console’s large player base, developers can reach millions of potential players and increase the visibility of their titles. With the right optimization and a high-quality port, developers can provide a seamless and enjoyable gaming experience on the Nintendo Switch.

Key Considerations for Nintendo Switch Porting

Porting a game to the Nintendo Switch requires careful consideration of several key factors to ensure a successful and optimized experience for players. Developers must prioritize compliance testing, quality assurance, GPU optimization, memory management, and gameplay compatibility to meet the platform’s technical requirements and provide a seamless gameplay experience.

Compliance Testing and Quality Assurance

Compliance testing is a crucial step in the Nintendo Switch porting process. Developers must ensure that their game meets the platform’s technical requirements, including performance, stability, and hardware and control scheme compatibility. Thorough quality assurance testing is essential to identify and address any bugs, glitches, or performance issues before releasing the game on the Switch.

Serhii Pletenets, Pingle Studio’s game designer, working on Nintendo Switch devkit

GPU Optimization

Optimizing graphics performance is vital for a successful Nintendo Switch port. Developers must optimize their game’s GPU usage to ensure smooth and visually appealing graphics on the console. This involves considering factors such as resolution, frame rate, texture compression, and shader optimization to achieve the best possible visual experience for players. The developers should always consider two possible quality levels for the graphics on Nintendo Switch – 720p in portable mode and 1080p when docked – and optimize their game’s visuals to work well on both modes. 

Memory Management

The Nintendo Switch has memory limitations that developers must consider when porting their games. They must carefully manage memory usage and find strategies to fit the game content within these limits. This involves efficient asset streaming, dynamic memory allocation, and optimization of data structures to ensure that the game runs smoothly without exhausting the console’s memory resources. The original Nintendo Switch only uses HDD memory, making memory management challenging coming into 2024 and requiring some special render and tech art expertise to handle. 

Gameplay Compatibility

Developers must assess the compatibility of their gameplay mechanics and user experience on the Nintendo Switch platform. They should compare and adapt the game’s controls, UI, and overall gameplay to ensure a consistent and enjoyable experience for players. Additionally, considerations for the Switch’s unique features, like motion controls, touchscreen functionality, and local multiplayer capabilities, should be considered to leverage the console’s unique capabilities.

The Benefits of Outsourcing Nintendo Switch Porting

Outsourcing game porting to a specialized team can provide several benefits for developers looking to bring their games to the Nintendo Switch platform. By partnering with a Nintendo Switch porting company, developers can leverage the expertise of experienced professionals who specialize in optimizing games for the console. These porting experts have in-depth knowledge of the Nintendo Switch’s hardware capabilities and can ensure that games are optimized for performance and gameplay on the platform.

One of the main advantages of outsourcing Nintendo Switch porting is that it allows developers to focus on other aspects of game development, such as design and marketing. By entrusting the technical aspects of porting to professionals, developers can save time and resources, ensuring a smoother and more efficient porting process.

Furthermore, working with a porting company with a proven track record in Nintendo Switch game porting can provide developers with valuable insights and best practices. These companies have likely encountered and overcome common challenges associated with porting games to the Nintendo Switch, allowing them to offer valuable guidance and support throughout the process.

Outsourcing Nintendo Switch porting to a specialized team can offer developers access to expertise, time and cost savings, and valuable insights. By taking advantage of these benefits, developers can ensure a high-quality and successful port of their games to the Nintendo Switch platform, reaching a larger audience and maximizing their game’s potential for success.

What to expect from Nintendo Switch 2

The long-awaited next-gen version of the Nintendo Switch is expected to be on the market in 2024. There is not so much info from the developers on the hardware characteristics (there’s not even a name for the new console, so everybody refers to it as Switch 2), but based on our development experience with Nintendo Switch and gaming devices market trends, here’s what Sitch gamers and developers can expect from the new console:

  • SSD.
    This type of storage device has proven itself to be the next step in memory management for PC and console games. A proper use of SSD is what makes traveling huge game worlds so fast and smooth without loading like it’s realized in Insomniac’s Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart on PS5.
    SSD has become a new industry standard for gaming devices – some games no longer run on HDD. So, we are sure the new Nintendo device will have it completely for the system or gaming storage. That’s why developers must pay special attention to SSD memory management.
  • OLED screen.
    Nintendo released an OLED version of the SWITCH console in 2021. Despite no other hardware changes, the gamers appreciated the change in screen technology. OLED proved to be a great compromise between visual performance and resource consumption for the portable mode on Nintendo Switch, so we are sure the new console will have an OLED screen.
  • New GPU.
    Current versions of Switch provide 720p quality in handed mode and 1080p in docked, so the reasonable upgrade expectation for the new console would be 1080p in handheld and upscale to 4K when docked. This will definitely require a solid update of GPU technology. The new Nintendo Switch console is rumored to have an NVIDIA Tegra SoC system and support DLSS, which, if true, will be a huge step up in visual quality for this platform. So, we, as developers, can prepare to adjust our GPU performance work to NVIDIA’s architecture.
  • New controllers.
    Nintendo Switch got a lot of criticism for its input devices known as Joy-cons. The portable nature of the Nintendo controller often causes uncomfortable gameplay situations. And the infamous drift issue on Joy-cons made many loyal gamers consider other gaming options. So, we expect a new approach to the input device for the new Switch console so that similar issues can be easily fixed and drifting components can be easily replaced.

Our experience with the Nintendo Switch

As a global outsourcing partner, we couldn’t wait to work with the new Nintendo console when it was announced in 2016. When we got our first devkits, the Switch projects became a massive part of our expertise. Since the console’s release in 2017, we had a chance to work on 40+ games for this platform. Some of our favorite Nintendo Sitch projects are: 

  • Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed Switch porting.

    Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed Nintendo Switch gameplay screenshot

    The main goal Illfonic set for us on this project was to find a balance between stable productivity and bright but resource-consuming visual effects crucial for game design. To do this, we developed an optimization strategy for culling, optimized character navigation, and developed the LODs system for static and skeletal meshes, morph target meshes, and animated faces. This helped us reduce the load on both CPU and GPU.

    We also did a lot of work on optimizing the animation files, in-engine textures, movement components, and some AI functionality, which resulted in an optimal build size for the game and a much faster loading process.

  • Five Nights At Freddy’s: Security Breach Switch porting.

    Five Nights at Freddy’s: Security Breach Nintendo Switch gameplay screenshot

    Our work on this game perfectly exemplifies a Beautiful Corner approach for optimizing games. Since our goal was to optimize the game’s PC build to run on Nintendo Switch, we took a piece of the game, declined all the visual elements to the lowest quality, and started finding a balance between the picture and performance via iterative work on textures and resource-consuming elements.

    We agreed with Steel Wool Studios and Devoted Studios on the expectation of the game’s look and performance, and we eventually provided the expected result. We also did a lot of work on sound optimization, rebaked the light and made it static, and also changed the Hard References content uploading logic, which wasn’t a great fit for Switch.

    As a result, multiple parts of the game look even better on Switch than on the original PC build.

  • Strayed Lights porting.

    Strayed Lights gameplay screenshot

    We aimed to port this fantasy adventure to all the relevant consoles, including Nintendo Switch. Most optimization works were the same as for other consoles, but for the Switch version, we did some extra job on sounds. The reverb sound effect, crucial for one of the game’s mechanics, caused a significant load on the CPU, so we rebuilt its functionality and optimized the sound banks. We also applied the voices prioritizing system, changed the Global Voice Limitation conditions for every platform, optimized the audio containers, and selected the best-fitting audio codecs for Switch.

    We also did a lot of optimizing for the dynamic processing effects, giving us more CPU on Switch.

The conclusion: do not ignore the Switch!

Despite the hardware limitations, Nintendo Switch remains a huge part of the gaming industry and culture coming into 2024. Gamers still pay huge attention to Nintendo’s platform for various reasons, whether its portability, gameplay mechanics, or special original titles. Considering the current popularity of the platform and rumors of an upcoming technical upgrade, game developers should not ignore the huge audience of this console and port their games to Nintendo Switch.

So, if you need a decent Nintendo Switch expertise for your game – make sure to drop us a line!