As we all know, not every Switch screenshot is created equal. Screenshots taken when your console is docked are going to look subtly different to those captured in handheld mode, not only because of the resolution difference but also due to the fact that the console is operating at a weaker power level when it's away from the TV. As developers have had more time to get to grips with the Switch, we're seeing the gulf between these two standards grow even more noticeable.
That's spurred us on to change the way in which we handle Switch screenshots in our reviews. Traditionally, we've simply captured a bunch of screens during gameplay – both in docked and handheld modes – and uploaded them onto the site without any indication of the mode they were taken in. Moving forward, we're going to be more transparent about which mode the screen was taken in so you can see for yourself the difference between the two modes – this is going to be especially interesting to those of you that own a Switch Lite and therefore will only ever experience games in handheld mode.
Below you'll see two examples. The top one was taken in docked mode, as denoted by the message and icon underneath:
This next screen, however, was captured in handheld/undocked mode, which is made clear by the message in the same place. You can also probably tell that the resolution and image quality is much lower than the docked screenshot, which goes to show why it's now more important than ever for us to clearly indicate which mode each screen was captured in.
Hopefully, you'll instantly see the benefit of this new approach. We sadly can't roll this out on past titles, so it will only be reflected in reviews moving forward. There may also be cases where we're unable to capture screenshots directly from the game (some titles deactivate the Switch's built-in screenshot function), and in these situations, we have no option but to use press screens supplied by the publisher. These shots will not carry a docked/undocked message.
Let us know what you think of this new system – and if you find it helpful – by posting a comment below.
Reminds me of the “top” and “bottom” borders magazines used to put around screenshots of DS game around 2006-2007. Such great times for gaming.
It looks good and clear, good job , nice icons too
Damien have some choccy milk
Because you epic
Yeah, I like the quick and clean notation. Now I expect twice as many pictures, Damo
...Wait, there's a difference in quality?...I never knew that...is it the same for videos?
I like this idea, but what I really love is that you guys used Samurai Shodown screenshots. Looking forward to the review and finally playing the game. Hoping it can be played at midnight!
Great idea, thanks for the transparency Nintendo Life! Though if I can suggest a minor improvement...could handheld screenshots be somewhat smaller in relationship to the docked mode? Seeing an image which was designed to be seen on a 7"/5.5" display on a big screen monitor can be somewhat...jarring. And misrepresent how the quality may be appreciated when seen at a smaller size.
You can even see this being done in many Switch trailers, where they show handheld play within a Switch's outline to make the video/image content seem sharper (which it in deed is when viewed on such a tiny screen)
Some switch ports which looks absolutely stunning, even on handheld, look noticeably less impressive when you stretch out what's essentially a 400p-540p-720p image across the entire screen.
Some games actually change the image more than just resolution. I remember noticing in Collection of Mana how the emulated Game Boy screen went to the very top and bottom edges of the Switch's own screen, but not the television screen. Very noticeable if you compare two screenshots taken in each mode.
I just wish the video capture was better, no matter what it is 720p 30fps which with some games looks strange when they are in 60fps (I don't mind them being in 720p)
And let us capture longer than 30seconds
As for screenshots they are fine, it works like IT should be.
This is a very cool addition, nice work!
I get the picture
This is great news.
@Damo , now that you have your screenshot policy fixed, when are you going to fix your policy on promoting Etsy intellectual property thieves while Nintendo Life profits from the affiliate links? Don't you think there's an issue with people using Nintendo's intellectual property for profit without licensing agreements from Nintendo? Whether it's Big Corporate or small-time crafters, theft is theft, and Nintendo Life should not promote and profit from those participating in theft.
I had no idea the screenshot quality differed between handheld and docked mode. It makes sense, but also doesn't — to me.
A side by side of the same "scene" in docked vs handheld would be great too to see the full difference.
Appreciated. Some of ypur preview images have looked substantially worse than the games, even factoring compression and data loss that happens when uploading to web. Now if only Switch could improve it's video capture feature. Looks awful, should be able to handle DMC1 but can't.
I prefer mouse hovering. Docked will be the default and when on mouse over the portable screenshot is shown.
Makes sense and really useful.
everyone liked that
@NPC411 If they haven't done so after your 8 previous inquiries, they're not likely to respond on the 9th.
Now this is an improvement in stability I can get behind.
This was well needed.
Anytime I play alone, I play 99% in Handheld mode, as it leaves my tv free to let me watch something else at the same time. I only ever really play on tv when I have friends over, or if I take it to friend's houses. So, in Singleplayer, tv mode doesn't mean a lot to me when I game alone. But I would still like to see the difference between Docked and Handheld mode. Tho, that won't sway me to start playing more in Docked mode when I play alone. I'll still play in Handheld only mode when I play alone, as it's more convenient for me.
I'm not really a resolution queen but I'm sure plenty of people appreciate this. You guys do a great job, I appreciate how careful NintendoLife is with every aspect of the website. You guys blow NintendoEnthusiast and Nintendojo out of the water. Especially the way the comment section works. No connecting to Facebook or Google or confusing steps just to comment on something.
@Gravitron Thanks for the lovely feedback!
Does anyone know how to put pictures from my computer in a forum post? I had a look at the posting help for html tags but it only seemed to reference online pictures
Well this is great 👍
@sgarcia-dev yep couldn’t agree more - this is really important for handheld images. Some people may be put off by looking at handheld images on a far bigger screen than the Switch screen. This is misrepresenting the game. NL could put images in a mock border which should remind the viewer it’s on the small screen
Good choice! More transparency is always good.
This has been a needed change for a while, given how drastically different certain games can look between docked and handheld modes. Good change.
Which games disable the screenshot function, though? I don't believe I've come across any examples of this happening in my time with the Switch.
@Gravitron yeah they get a lot of criticism (from me also), but there's no denying the NL experience is a super sleek and accessible one.
I really like how the site is presented, and that's one of the main reason I've been on here for 4-5 years (can't even remember lol).
The only tweak I think the comment section needs is having replies directly under the comment they're referring; that would be awesome.
Any improvement always welcomed and glad lots of people chuffed about this.
However with my rubbish eyes I must confess I can't see much difference between the examples (I still struggle to distinguish 30 and 60 fps!)
Good to know, Thanks!
Very good change!
Lovely to see yet more great, user-focused ideas on here. Good work!
Someone else might have said this and I missed it, but why not do both and use a slider. A lot of tech sites use a slider to go between 2 photos. It's a little more work, but not super tedious. And since you could easily take the same shot in both docked and handheld, seems super easy. Anyone considered doing this?
A good idea & clearly marked. Well done.
@sgarcia-dev This suggestion makes sense, though I'd point out that the screen sizes that people are viewing the site on can vary greatly - anything from a phone screen to large external monitor is possible. Unless there's some way to make the screenshots scale differently depending on the physical size of the screen the site is being viewed on, then it might not be practical to implement your suggestion.
@Ralizah Smash Ultimate disables clip recording, but not screenshots.
wow! what a difference!
Could they be a tad more subtle? I'm on mobile and they are very "in-your-face", with the unnecessarily long descriptions and all. A simple icon would do just fine, perhaps even overlaid on the image itself.
This is a fantastic inclusion. Just when ya think the site can't get any better!
@HobbitGamer Silence speaks volumes. It certainly seems like the kind of thing a news outlet would seek to clarify instead of sweep under the rug. It's no shock @Damo only wants to reply to positive comments instead of ones questioning their shady practices.
@Damo Don't Switch screenshots for both modes cap out at 720p? Why not invest in an Elgato or some other capture card because otherwise many docked images you post are going to be misleading.
Either way this is a welcome change and we appreciate it.
Screenshots are nice, but the more important question is how does it play and is it enjoyable in my book.
@NPC411 Why are you being hostile?
Good going. Btw: my 10th anniversary here is coming up in May. Will there be prezzies???? Just wondering.
Most of us who watch you tube video reviews will be used to comparisons between docked and undocked. Even screen shots and videos comparing Switch graphics against PS4 or Xbox.
Great idea, and docked should absolutely be the standard here. I play almost exclusively docked, on a large screen, and want to see what my system is capable of at its best.
@TossedLlama I disliked your comment for ya, but only because you should never ever toss a llama...
@NPC411 Your hostility towards fan-artists is unhealthy.
Can’t you just use a capture card to take screenshots of the games that disable the screenshot function?
‘Tis good. One change I’d appreciate for images, is having them fixed instead of randomly placed - as then the text in a review can refer to specific images, and it saves me having to refresh to potentially see some different screenshots. Cheers!
Maybe I'm just old, but I can't tell the difference between the two. I just don't have an eye for graphics.
@Joeynator3000 How could it not be different. Games run at different resolutions between handheld and docked. The only way it isn't different is for games that are capped at 720p in docked and also run at 720p in handheld, though I couldn't name any game off hand that does that.
Can't they just put the icon on the picture instead of having a big banner underneath? Maybe colour-code the icons too.
This is an excellent decision on NLife’s part.
I would like to see this used in reviews in terms of consistent side by side listed comparisons—docked and undocked technical performances, ie fps, battery consumption etc.
On an unrelated note, I am delighted to be comment #64.
@Deltath ...I mean, aren't all screenshots 720p regardless?
I've took plenty of screens on multiple games docked, and they all appear as 720p...
@NPC411 Songbird Ocarina—an online storefront that dealt in various handcrafted woodwind instruments, some of which based on those found in Ocarina of Time—was featured in Nintendo Power, but was not affiliated with Nintendo. That said, if an official Nintendo news outlet can promote an unofficial storefront, why shouldn't an unofficial Nintendo news outlet be allowed to do the same?
This sounds like a good idea, even if I can't really tell much difference between those two examples! 😅
@KayFiOS Thanks for bringing a constructive and engaging comment to the table instead of a one-line complaint. I fondly remember the Songbird Ocarina ads, and the difference is that Songbird Ocarina was not stealing Nintendo's intellectual property. Nintendo doesn't own every ocarina in existence, and though Songbird Ocarinas used a lot of allusions and imagery reminiscent to the Zelda franchise, they did not infringe upon Nintendo's intellectual property (if they did, you can rest assured Nintendo wouldn't have been running their ads).
The difference is that most of the Etsy products being promoted by Nintendo Life are not small-time, hand-crafted products merely alluding to Nintendo's intellectual property. Many of the Etsy sellers are lifting art assets and even the titles of the franchises and branding them on hats, shirts, lamps, wood pieces, and even clocks. Take a look at the most recent Etsy post regarding Animal Crossing, and though you will see many items merely alluding to Animal Crossing (which is well within fair use; artists have a right to expression and parody with which I have no issue), you will see many slapping K.K. Slider, Tom Nook, and Isabelle on apparel and objects without any consideration to who owns those characters. They don't even try to change the characters in any significant way; just lift or recreate the assets to look exactly as they should, slap them on some merch, and sell them for profit.
I am not against fan art or fan creations as long as those creations are not illegally profiting from Nintendo's intellectual property. If you want to use Nintendo's assets to make money, get the proper licensing from Nintendo. If you don't want to get the licensing, then your for-profit works should deviate from Nintendo's assets enough to qualify as artistic expression and parody.
What most people here may not realize is that Nintendo Life makes money from the affiliate links they post to these products. If the products fall under fair use, I have no issue with that. However, I do take issue with Nintendo Life making money from those blatantly ripping off Nintendo's intellectual property. It seems pretty raw for Nintendo Life to receive review copies from Nintendo and press access to official Nintendo events and then make money from those stealing from Nintendo. Nintendo Life sees fit to report on those being sued and ceased-and-desisted by Nintendo for intellectual property theft, but Nintendo Life doesn't want to be held to the same standard.
This is great and appreciated, but may I suggest you tweak the icons underneath the screenshots? It would really make it easier to grasp if the (Docked) caption was followed by a Switch in a dock, and probably without the Joy-Cons. As of now, just adding the Nintendo logo onscreen doesn't really convey anything meaningful, in my humble opinion.
Third tier is the way everyone I know does it which is taking a picture of the screen with their phone.
It fake angers me in such a bad way.
ooo a subtle yet important change i didnt know we needed. great job
@Joeynator3000 But the quality of the visuals aren't. Upping a 540p image of Xenoblade to a 720p screenshot makes it look worse, not better. Meanwhile downresing a 1080p screenshot to 720p will generally look marginally better.
For games that don't allow screencapping, would it make any sense to use one of those video capturing devices? Or would that be an even greater distortion?
@bilboa that can actually be done quite easily. I'm a web dev and there's a thing called media queries that let you change how a website is displayed based on the screen size (height/width/pixel density). You could rely on this to limit the handheld screenshot size to a specific size, and have it stop growing in size once it reaches a specific resolution.
You can't see the difference with your phone.
I would have thought this was a waste of time but almost everyone is happy about this.
Kinda surprised it took this long to implement something like this, seems like it should be standard for most review sites.
I'm still baffled by how hard it is to find out how a game runs on Switch. If I want to buy say, Assassin's Creed, it should be super fast to find the frame rate, resolution and some notes on the general stability. That would be a great tidbit to have visible in each review.
Presumably docked image quality also depends on the resolution output you have the switch set to? I just have a 720p tv so that’s what my switch is set to.
I know some games don't allow video capturing on the Switch (mainly older games and ones that are higher performance), but which ones don't even allow screenshots?
I haven't looked a review here in 6 months at least, but the ones I did see, the screenshots were more a case of media supplied photos accredited to a game, like the ones you'd see on a Nintendo.co.uk or .com web page. Ie the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon page, with the photos being the ones from it's gallery.
Oh cool. Dig that. Anyway..... Grand website! Keep up the good work!
What D-pad-enabled Joy-Con is connected to the Switch in that first photo?
Good call boys
I don't get why you would take screenshots in handheld mode when they're clearly inferior.
But what surprises me even more is that @NintendoLife are taking the screenshots with the Switch itself instead of with a capture card, for example. How unprofessional.
@shani If you own a Switch Lite, handheld is the only way you'll be able to play. And as you can see from the vast majority of the other comments, people like to see the difference between the two modes so they can gauge which way to play.
Oh, and capturing using the Switch's built-in capability is perfectly fine. We're not looking to analyse resolution here, but simply show, at a glance, what each game looks like in the two modes.
@SuperToe It's this one: https://www.nintendolife.com/news/2018/08/hardware_review_hori_d-pad_joy-con_controller_for_nintendo_switch
Ah... Thanks! I actually have the Mario-themed version but wasn't aware of the flat-colored variants, which I prefer but would have been an import for me here in the States. Sure would be nice if Hori or (god forbid) Nintendo would release a full-featured D-pad Joy-Con but I'm not holding my breath.
50 likes on an article is impressive. I think the highest I'd seen before today was 28? I'll go bump it one, myself.
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