The Sports Desk – Sports Games & The Nintendo Switch
Nintendo recently announced more details about its next major platform, the Nintendo Switch (formerly known as the NX). Excitement is higher than usual for your average console – being able to seamlessly play high-quality games at home or away is an attractive feature.
What does this mean for sports games and those of us who play them? From what we currently know about the system (scroll down for the official reveal video), I have questions about how the Switch may handle sports titles.
The Controller & Multiplayer
First off, I'm concerned about the controller in regards to sports games. One of the main features about the system is its detachable controllers for multiplayer. While using the controller in its standard configuration gives players access to a normal array of buttons and triggers, disassembling the controller and giving another player one of the Joy-Con's sections cuts the controls available to any one player in half.
Sports games require a lot of button presses to perform their often complicated gameplay functions, and it doesn't seem like the Joy-Con controller – when split into sections – has the ability to perform the necessary inputs. For example, you have to hold a single Joy-Con section sideways, which also further cuts down on the buttons available since using the controller in this configuration makes pressing the shoulder button hard since it's now all the way over on the side. Moreover, whomever gets the right section has to put up with that section's analog stick being more centered than the one on the left Joy-Con section.
From what I know about the Joy-Con controller, it appears that each sports title would need to accommodate a different, and seemingly pared-down control scheme. When it comes to third-party developers creating their sports titles across multiple systems, studios generally want to make the same experience over all the different platforms. This streamlines the development process and cuts down on cost. If they have to tinker with the Switch version of their game because of the Joy-Con's sections, however, that's a possible reason to take more time to develop and release the Switch version or not even do it at all.
Multiplayer could be restricted to only using the announced Pro controllers that don't disassemble in order to ensure the full complement of controls, but that would undercut the Switch's stated ease-of-use objective in the first place.
A big question for the Switch is how much power it has and how it handles game storage. The system uses a custom Nvidia Tegra processor like the one used in its Shield line of PC streaming handheld units. The current line of thinking is that this means the Switch will not be as powerful as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. If this is true, it makes me wonder if the Switch has the ability to run sports titles – from graphics, to A.I. computations, to framerate, etc. – on par with the competing platforms.
Furthermore, it appears that the Switch uses small game cards you insert into the screen unit. With games routinely taking up 40+GB on our hard drives, hopefully sports games on the Switch, either from an overall modes/footprint standpoint or from a computing power one, don't have to pull back from the myriad features and modes that are practically mandatory for a normal sports title these days.
Speaking of features, sports titles, with their fantasy online modes (like Ultimate Team) and other online multiplayer aspects, demand a full-fledged online infrastructure. Traditionally, the online infrastructure for Nintendo platforms has been lacking compared to other systems. Chat functionality, finding players easily, and other amenities aren't up to snuff with Microsoft and Sony, and this needs to be addressed with the Switch if the console is to achieve parity. If not, that's alienating a sizable chunk of sports players who love online multiplayer.
There are still a lot of details Nintendo has to reveal regarding the Switch – facts that could easily render these concerns moot. Until then, there are questions that could put the company in a similar position as its previous home systems, with its new platform as a second-rate home for sports titles. Hopefully, the system can retain its identity without alienating developers and/or sports fans with its offerings.
Missed some of the previous Sports Desk entries? Take a look at the past installments via our Hub page by clicking on the banner below.
Infinite Air (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC) October 25
Franchise Hockey Manager 3 (PC, Mac) October
Football Manager 17 (PC, Mac, Linux) November 4
Motorsport Manager (PC, Mac) November 10 (check out more about the game in this previous Sports Desk)
Steep (above)(PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC) December 2
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