OPINION: Nintendo knocked it out of the park with its latest Direct presentation, announcing several games such as Mario Strikers: Battle League, Nintendo Switch Sports and Xenoblade Chronicles 3. But it also revealed an increasingly worrying trend of limiting new games to the cloud.
It’s important to point out that cloud technology isn’t new for the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo first announced the technology as far back as 2018, as it was used to get Resident Evil 7 running on the portable over in Japan. But while many thought Nintendo would use this technology sparingly, the library of cloud games has increased substantially in recent months.
In terms of future cloud releases in 2022, Edge of Eternity, Dying Light 2: Stay Human, A Plague Tale: Requiem and the entire Kingdom Hearts trilogy are all expected to land on the Switch. The latter one is particularly shocking, since it includes two games from the PlayStation 2 – if The Witcher 3 can be optimised to run natively on the Switch, then you’d expect Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts 2 to be playable too.
I’m worried that this trend will continue, especially since third-party game developers have started to make games for the PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles, which are significantly more powerful than the Nintendo Switch.
Don’t get me wrong, I think cloud technology is a great solution for getting high-demanding games running on low-powered hardware, especially when we’re talking about the likes of smartphones and laptops. But requiring a constant internet connection arguably defeats the point of the Nintendo Switch.
I personally find Nintendo’s hybrid most useful when travelling via plane or train, allowing me to play games away from my PS5 and gaming PC. For such a use case, cloud games are borderline useless, as I won’t be able to connect to a strong Wi-Fi network. And even if you do use the Switch primarily as a home console, there’s no guarantee that your home internet connection will be fast enough to meet the demands of cloud streaming.
There have been many people online claiming that they’ve encountered lots of noticeable lag when streaming games via the cloud on the Switch. These are issues that Switch users shouldn’t have to worry about. The biggest strength of consoles over PCs is that you can start playing games without having to worry about system specs and settings, but the Switch’s use of the cloud cancels that out.
So what’s the solution? Nintendo only really has two options. Firstly, it could be more strict on which games are allowed to use cloud technology. It’s absolutely shameless that players are being forced to play the first two Kingdom Hearts games via the cloud when the Switch should be able to run it natively.
The second solution is to finally launch the Nintendo Switch Pro console, which has been rumoured for a couple of years now. Bloomberg reported that a new Switch with a more powerful Nvidia processor has been in development, although many fear those plans have been shelved following the release of the Nintendo Switch OLED.
But Nintendo’s growing reliance on the cloud proves that the Switch is in dire need of a performance upgrade. Forget about hitting a 4K resolution, I just want to be able to play every game in the Switch’s library without needing a constant connection to the internet.
I don’t mind having the odd game made available via the cloud on the Switch, but we’re starting to get to the point where every major third-party AAA game requires a cloud connection, and that isn’t acceptable. If gamers wanted to use the cloud, they’d sign up to something like GeForce Now or Google Stadia instead.
Nintendo can’t argue that the technology isn’t available to make a Nintendo Switch Pro either. Just look at the Steam Deck, which is apparently capable of playing the vast majority of PC games at a 720p resolution. Sure, it’s more expensive and larger than a Nintendo Switch, but I’m sure Nintendo can find the perfect performance sweet spot with a new Nvidia chip.
Nintendo insists that the Switch is barely mid-way through its life cycle, which implies we’ve got another 3 or 4 years until Nintendo releases its successor. But with the original Switch starting to show its age and becoming increasingly more reliant on the cloud, I think Nintendo needs to act sooner. We need a Switch Pro.