Unreal Engine is one of the most powerful development tools of the modern gaming age and after a period of playing catch-up, Nintendo is finally on a level playing field because Unreal Engine 4 supports the Switch, the company's latest console.
Last month Epic Games Japan held a lecture entitled Switch & Unreal: Making Game Development More Unreal at Unreal Fest West ’17. Hosted by Epic's Takayuki Kawasaki and senior support engineer Noriaki Shinoyama, it also included insight from Nintendo’s Masaru Mitsuyoshi and Yusuke Fukushima. Nintendo Everything has kindly translated the discussion and outlined the following points.
Given the distant relationship between the two firms in the past, it's unsurprising that the lecture began there. Kawasaki explained that there had been a "mismatch in timing" - Epic couldn’t do business directly with Nintendo until it had established Epic Games Japan in 2009, which is one of the reasons the companies were so distant with one another. In terms of hardware, the Wii U was released just as Epic was ending support for Unreal Engine 3, which was another case of bad timing.
Despite these knock-backs, Epic's representatives explained that the company had always held a desire to support Nintendo consoles, and that is finally coming true with the Switch. Epic had been provided with development materials by Nintendo from the moment NX began development, showing how keen the Japanese veteran has been to make things work this time around.
The Switch's common architecture was also mentioned; in the past, Nintendo consoles had unique architecture so the company had to provide its own tools to developers. In comparison, the Switch the most open platform Nintendo has released.
Nintendo's Mitsuyoshi talked about the importance of having Switch in the main development branch for Unreal Engine 4; if the console had been set apart it could lead to multiplatform games being delayed on the Nintendo's console. Therefore, it had been one of Nintendo's key objectives to ensure that Switch was supported by the recent 4.15 Unreal Engine update.
Regarding development, it was stated that developers could make their games playable on Switch at the push of a button. Performance adjustments and optimizations are still required of course, but it's a lot more straightforward. It's also easy to add multiplayer support and customise how each Joy-Con works during gameplay. The differences between the Switch’s TV and portable modes can be toggled as well, with different rendering modes available to improve performance if needed.
Finally, Shinoyama ran a user-made Unreal Engine 4 game to illustrate the power of the engine on the console. Makaya Kenichi's Casa Barragan ran at 720p instead of 1080p, but if properly optimised it should be able to run at 1080p, it was claimed. You can view the original demo (shown running on a PC) below.
Given how many companies use Unreal Engine 4, the fact that it now fully supports the Switch can only be good news for owners of that console. It means that we should see more ports - and timely ones, at that - for the platform, thereby avoiding the lack of third-party content that plagued the Wii U.