EA did something interesting with its official pitch for FIFA 18 on the Nintendo Switch. It said it is the "most technologically-advanced portable FIFA experience ever", and only showed one glamour shot of a docked Switch running the game (which didn't focus on the visuals and blurred out the TV). Its entire focus was on the most comprehensive FIFA to ever grace a portable, including the FIFA Ultimate Team mode.
Speaking to our chums at Eurogamer, EA Bucharest producer Andrei Lazaresco continually stressed the point about the Switch delivering an impressive portable experience, also stating that it was a 'custom' build and not a port of non-Frostbite entries. While the PS4 and Xbox One versions are operating with the Frostbite engine - which drives the story mode missing in the Switch entry - Nintendo's console is offering something different.
From a technical standpoint, the platform is not on a par with the PS4 or the Xbox One. You can't just take that [the PS4 version] and put it here [on Switch]. It doesn't work like that. But, I get the question. When people get their hands on it, they will enjoy it. Regardless of The Journey or not, this is packed with features, and all of them you can take them on the go. That is by far the most important thing.
So what does this mean on a gameplay level? Eurogamer shared some thoughts in a video.
In a brief one minute trailer for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim we saw Bethesda pull the same trick, albeit to a lesser degree. Though about a third of the trailer showed full-screen footage, we saw a lot of the Switch in tabletop mode, primarily to show off amiibo scanning and the Joy-Con motion controls.
Both of these third-party showcases have taken a similar approach - to get around the hybrid nature of the Switch and its graphical grunt being below PS4 and Xbox One, they're prioritising the angle of "get our cool game on the go". The messaging points to a portable / tablet that can also slot into your TV if you so desire, but look at it in portable mode.
That's what Switch is, of course, though what EA and Bethesda are doing is flipping the focus. Nintendo's first-party marketing pitches the Switch as a console that you can then take with you and play anywhere. Functionally the messaging is the same, but in 'switching' the priorities third-parties are setting realistic expectations for gamers.
With Xbox One X now announced, Microsoft and Sony will have a mid-gen fight over graphical fidelity tied to value, with the cheaper PS4 Pro offering upscaled 4K (for the most part) against the pricier grunt of the X. Microsoft's new system may be the smallest in its family in addition to having that power, but it's still a darn sight bigger than a Switch and isn't powering a screen.
Yet the gap in power between Switch and the likes of PS4 Pro and Xbox One X isn't a new issue for Nintendo, nor is it necessarily a problem. The Wii sold over 100 million units despite being an SD system against HD rivals, and those are the sorts of numbers Nintendo believes it can hit. First-party games, too, will continue to stack up and impress not through their pixel count but artistic direction and Nintendo flair; The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild shows the visual power of art design, while the Pixar-esque graphics in games like ARMS, Splatoon 2 and Super Mario Odyssey can draw admiring glances from gamers and consumers of all types.
Nintendo, then, is likely to continue to push the console as a TV + on the go concept for a good while, as its own efforts showcase that this small tablet can do impressive things within its hybrid context. There will likely also be key exclusives from third-parties that do the same, whether the soon-to-appear Mario / Rabbids spin-off or other surprises on the way this week. Then there are Indies, which produce smaller-scale projects in supported engines like Unity, who will likely be keen to try their luck on the eShop and will make games with less of a focus on CPU and GPU-intensive experiences. There will be studios keen to leverage the possibilities of the Switch concept and the Nintendo audience, and will do so with unique content.
Yet E3, even though it's barely begun, has started to establish a core truth. 'Triple A' multi-format blockbusters are unlikely to come to Switch in the same form, even when they do get 'custom' versions (to borrow EA's oft-repeated phrase). Many will skip the hardware, some will get alternative versions. It's understandable, too - not only is a docked Switch pushing its luck in delivering GPU intensive big-budget games, but there's the downclocked portable performance to also consider. We've already seen issues with games like LEGO City: Undercover (at launch, updates may have improved matters) that struggle to deliver strong portable play, while NBA Playgrounds (again, pre-update) is even running at a sub-720p resolution when undocked. Some developers, in prioritising the 'portable' Switch, enable themselves to set realistic goals for themselves. They can focus on delivering the most 'advanced' portable iteration of a game, or on porting critically acclaimed titles that are, nevertheless, long in the tooth.
Some won't want to hear this, but that's the reality of the situation, and it need not be considered a painful negative. It's been the reality for over 10 years that Nintendo hardware focuses on building unique libraries, while a PC, PlayStation or Xbox is also needed to enjoy most big-money games. Yet like with Wii and, yes, the Wii U, Nintendo and developers with the ambition can do wonderful and unique games for the system. It's all about realistic expectations, accepting graphical limitations while embracing the Switch concept.
As long as Switch owners are prepared for some developers to treat the Switch as a portable powerhouse and not a 'home console', there should be plenty to enjoy over the coming week.