30 Switch Specs Before the Reveal – Dev Interview Part 6

Hey all!

Before the Switch Presentation tomorrow, we have one final interview from our developer source in our developer interview series!

For those wondering about the authenticity of our source, in short, our source is an longtime independent developer who has released games on Nintendo systems since WiiWare, who is currently developing/porting smaller-scale games for release on Switch. As such, they have a devkit, and know many details on Nintendo’s hardware, development knowledge, and some info not known to the public, even after a system’s reveal. For a longer introduction on our source, read part 1 of the series.

Disclaimer:

Even if true at one point, information, decisions, and announcements at fast-moving companies like Nintendo may change at a moment’s notice, and sometimes a third party developer may have outdated information, as that info may change last-minute or not be announced immediately.

With that said, credibility is very important to us. For those doubting our source’s authenticity, you only have one day to find out, but we trust our source and put our credibility on the line with it.

On To The Details!

This interview goes over what we can expect from the Switch presentation, some interesting features and technical talk about Switch, clears up misconceptions, as well as what to look forward to in Nintendo’s future.

30 Key Points From Our Discussion:

-When docked, the Switch dock has an opening for the top of the screen. Why? The Switch may use the top of the screen to display notifications and the time while in docked mode.

-Switch may eventually support Wii Remotes and Wii Remote accessories, such as nunchuks, Classic Controllers, arcade sticks, etc. (currently supported in devkits only)

-Switch VC will include Wii and 3DS games, besides GameCube games. This will allow the Switch to finally fulfill Nintendo’s vision of being one system you can play all legacy Nintendo games on.

-With Wii U games halting development 2 years ago, all projects have moved over to Switch, so Switch will have a massive library of content from Nintendo. The dev assumes Nintendo has nearly 40 projects in the works to come out over the next few years. Thus, they believe Nintendo could do fine during Year 1 even without third party support. Third party support will be there, though.

-Third party support will be more console exclusives like the Wii had, rather than ports/cross-platform titles, though these will be there as well.

-Expects Watch Dogs as launch title, interested in if Ubisoft can make Mario/Rabbids work well, but interested in seeing it.

-Joy-Cons can be used as Wii Remotes. Dev refers to them as the “Wii Remote 3.0” with 2.0 being the Wii Remote Plus.

-Switch tablet may have sensor bar built-in like Wii U GamePad did, for Wii Remotes/Joy-Cons.

-Multiple Joy-Cons can be used at a time for multiplayer (4-5 players with additional Joy-Cons). “So Switch can sell itself to more people at same time while 3DS was focused on 1 player – especially showing off the 3D capabilities.”

-Switch will have local Download Play like 3DS did.

-To get around the SD card storage limitation, Nintendo could produce a SSD cartridge that would fit in the Game Card slot. Though this is unlikely, because Nintendo would likely intend you to use it for Game Cards only.

-Cartridges are much better than discs because of faster data access, allowing games to be played faster without being installed, and running at a faster rate than standard HDDs. Additionally, devs have a choice to use a larger writable portion on a disk if they need it. Dev’s comment:

Just yesterday, I again was just proud of Wii U being the only one system left where you can just insert the disc and start to play the game, when you are forced to download and install things on all other platforms and PC.

True. I think cartridges are so revolutionary. Discs are the past now. Cartridges read faster than discs too, so you have faster data times and no need to install, right?

AND you could directly write on a card… or even install a patch directly on a card… IF Nintendo would want to go that path… things that are not possible with discs.

Yeah, that’s true. Concerning Nintendo’s history, they probably will not allow direct writing on the cartridges to save costs. So it may be read-only, with a small chip for save data.

On Nintendo DS and 3DS, the developer always had the choice of which card they want to use. Also which amount of readable and writable memory they want to have! You know, games like Animal Crossing love to save tons of info… all the letters and all the image designs and sentences and places and every list ^^

I thought they were all read only, with just the save data chip.

Yeah, it’s always the big part that is not writable and a small part (but as much as necessary) which is writable.

-Switch accessories will offer endless possibilities to developers and players. One accessory is a camera.

-Dev doesn’t think 4-player splitscreen would work well on Switch portable mode, regardless of Nintendo’s patent.

-Dev doesn’t think VR is possible for the Switch tablet, as it would be too heavy for the head and the screen resolution is too low (at 720p or even 1080p). Hopeful that Nintendo comes up with a solution though, and doesn’t doubt that other devs are trying it regardless.

-Switch games can run at full graphical fidelity in portable mode – it is up to the developer. Running at full power will decrease battery life, though, so that is why developers should make optimizations for portable mode. But Nintendo gives developers the option to use the full power of the Switch in either mode.

-Latest Switch dev documentation is still in Japanese. Coding is in English, but support documents, and code comments are all written in Japanese. By the time the English version releases, it is 3 months old, so he must work with the Japanese version for the most up to date code. Wii and 3DS were same way before they released originally. But Nintendo’s developer support staff are very helpful.

-In the dev’s opinion, it is okay to make graphical compromises for portable mode to increase battery life, such as resolution, Level of Detail, draw distance, even framerate, because the screen is so much smaller in portable mode that the average person will not notice it once playing or without direct comparison.

-Regarding the Unreal Engine 4 Switch settings leak, it is real. The settings for portable mode will save an hour of battery life in most cases.

-Developer states that you cannot compare Switch spec numbers like MHz to other devices, even other Tegra chips, because it is like comparing apples to oranges. The Switch chips are brand new technology, thus have new features and efficiency not seen in current gen game consoles, giving it an edge in that regard. Thus, a Nintendo console with lower specs will perform better than its specs indicate (like Apple’s iPhone compared to Android). In developing its consoles, Nintendo always starts with base chips from other companies (CPU, GPU), but then heavily modifies and customizes them for its console’s purposes. This is what Nvidia’s CEO meant when he said the console is “very Nintendo.” It is more about the features the chips have than the clock speeds, and Nintendo packs much more features in their chips that even gaming PC’s do not have. The developer’s Switch devkit is capable of processing some data and effects many times faster than his own PC and GPU can, because it is made for that kind of efficient processing. He compares the situation to how a 3DS has low specs, but offers performance far above what can be expected from just the numbers themselves, thanks to special features and optimizations the chips have. For example, 3DS is capable of compressing textures and memory many times faster than his own development PC. If devs know how to properly utilize the hardware, they can do amazing things with it. In this regard, it can be as powerful as or more powerful than an Xbox One with proper optimization – But even if not, devs have many ways to work around any raw power limitations.

-Regarding game ports, however, dev acknowledges that unlike other developers’ statements, Switch is not that easy to port to. But not because of power. This is because Nintendo Switch is a totally new kind of hardware with a lot of new features, and the Switch (home to portable) part takes a lot of dev time and research to get working properly. Developer’s comment:

It is like the motion controls for Wii… Nintendo wanted them used in the games… but this task was too heavy for most devs. It’s the same for Switch – but even more so. So while it’s not an issue to get PS4 Pro games on a Switch, even the major companies need to take some money to develop it for Switch because it is a unique thing with unique features and services.

Developers most times just lie for marketing purposes… They think they need to say specific things that people want to hear from them… so they get some likes. Nintendo Switch is, as I said not that easy… It’s an awesome system but development is not so easy. It is horrible even with Unreal or Unity to make a REALTIME CHANGE of quality settings, resolution and even more… That’s a huge part everyone needs to implement… All textures resampling and so much more… You can’t imagine how much work it is to get these changes to run in realtime. And I’m SURE there will be LOTS of problems… like trees that are there in console mode, then disappear in mobile mode because they are far away – but never returned when switching back to console mode. Because the system thinks why should more things be loaded to memory when switching back. Nintendo gave devs the option to hold the dock’s graphic power while in mobile mode to make it easier for devs or if some problems occur with the switching… BUT THIS EATS THE BATTERY sooo quickly… I guess 3rd party Switch games will eat much more battery and be more buggy during the first year.

-Some games will be designed only for mobile mode. As in a game that requires touching with multiple fingers or precise drawing would only be possible in portable mode, so it will only be able to be played in portable mode. Likewise, if a dev’s game requires the whole power of the Switch, they can make the game home console only. Don’t expect these types of games for launch though, since Nintendo is focusing on games that can be played in both scenarios.

-Switch devs can choose to render in 4K or use 4K assets. Doesn’t know if this means you can play in 4K, though. This was an option for developers on Wii U, as well, but Nintendo just didn’t make the output option available in the system menu for consumers. Doesn’t know if Switch will allow the 4K setting for consumers, but the setting is there for developers.

-HDR effect in games is attainable without HDR on TV’s, and has been for years. Uses this tech.

-Switch owners can play Virtual Console games for free as part of a subscription to Nintendo Network (not sure if free or paid). Nintendo is in discussions about letting players get VC games or ports for free or a discounted price, if they already own them.

-Virtual Console will offer simultaneous multiplayer for the first time on a portable Nintendo console.

-Switch dock doesn’t add additional power, just allows Switch to run at full power in TV mode. But Switch may be able to be upgraded later with more powerful docks (the supplemental computing device), and that way could eventually even beat Xbox Scorpio. Dev also said it’s a possibility that we can get more powerful tablets later too, as with the New 3DS. Games would likely be cross-compatible, but it gives players more options.

-Switch feels smaller and better than a Wii U GamePad, but is bigger than a 3DS XL.

I guess press people will be surprised by how small Nintendo Switch feels. While it IS bigger than the 3DS XL, it just feels very portable and small… feels lot smaller than a GamePad but with same screen size…. It just feels new ^^ something new to experience. And it has that ‘I AM A TRANSFORMER ROBOT’ feel because you know that you can detach Joy-Cons and so on 😄

-Dev hopes the Switch will not have region lock, but does not know for sure. Dev kits are not region locked. 3DS was region-locked last minute, because of pressure from Ubisoft and EA. The reason is because by region locking, they could sell games for higher prices in Europe, whereas otherwise people would import games for cheaper than buying the regional version new. Only reason Xbox One and PS4 didn’t region lock is because the console manufacturers forced it. Nintendo is in a better position to follow suit now.

-The Switch system shown on Jimmy Fallon may have been a press kit (same as the Wii U or 3DS units you see at expos), rather than a final regional version. So this may be why the CE logo was on it, but it may not appear on the final product, meaning the logo is not yet a confirmation that Switch is region-free, until we see an actual retail/consumer unit.

-Internally at Nintendo, Switch is referred to as the “4DS” because it is the 3DS successor. Though this contradicts Nintendo’s outward marketing, the company sees it this way internally. It is more of an evolution of 3DS than Wii U, as 3DS was more successful and had more third party support. Dev’s comment:

Switch… you need to start to think about it as a handheld, a successor to 3DS… Everyone will buy the 3DS successor, because 3DS is the greatest handheld of all time… And there are sooo many devs for it ^^

And once you feel how great that is as a handheld… you can start to add the thought of console games in your head… and see what it adds ^^

I guess the moment when you realize what Switch really is… is when you play the game on TV, and then take it in your hands and move outside of the apartment… THEN it starts to click in your head and you start to feel what Switch really means ^^ Guess that is what the press will experience at the event too

So the Switch is the 3DS replacement? Interesting. The way they’re marketing it, they want it to replace Wii U though, since 3DS is still selling strongly. But regardless, we probably won’t see other new hardware this year. At least not before Switch launches. I think E3 at earliest.

Hm… that’s one problem I saw from the beginning (years ago) – That people see NX (Switch) as Wii U/Console replacement. It’s why I always try to tell people that it is a handheld device… but let’s just wait until if/when they show us something like a Switch Mini and a Switch Pro version.

-Switch is only the beginning of the NX platform. There will be more hardware to come, such as a “Switch Mini” and “Switch Pro”. Presumably, Switch Mini will be a portable-only Switch (possibly the oval shaped one we saw before.) The Switch Mini may be more akin to how the 2DS is compared to the 3DS, with the Joy-Cons integrated into the tablet. The Switch Pro would be a more powerful 4K home-only Switch. Switch XL is also possible, and would be like 3DS XL to 3DS. The larger screen size would allow for more players on one splitscreen, as seen in Nintendo’s recent patent. The new hardware will likely not be revealed until E3 2017 or 2018, however, but will all likely be released by the end of 2018. New hardware may have a different name than Switch, but will all have the same platform.

-The NX developer platform also allows for more options besides “Portable” and “Console”. We speculate that this means there are other settings specified for the other NX hardware not revealed yet. This could also mean the new hardware having different form factors or levels of power.

-Switch is a rebirth for Nintendo in some ways, but in other ways, keeps some of Nintendo’s technology they’ve developed over the past 15 years (since GameCube).

Dev’s comment:

So Switch is like a rebirth for Nintendo. So that could be 2 versions for Switch, besides the tablet we know.

I heard that ‘rebirth’ thing from another guy too. And maybe Nintendo wants to market it that way… but from what I see with all the services, they don’t kill their past. Now is just the time for the technology to move to the next step… as they always do. And in Switch there is technology that Nintendo developed and advanced within the last 15 years or more… so I don’t see it as a restart/rebirth/reset – just evolutionary. And just look: THIS IS THE END OF THE DISC ERA.

And Nintendo, with portables… made and was loyal/true to it from the beginning ^^

(GameBoy… Nintendo DS… Switch)

Final words from our source follow:

What can we look forward to with the Switch Presentation? Will we be surprised by any of the features?

I just heard that Nintendo will not show everything. Some features and services might be announced at E3 then… so devs still aren’t allowed to show everything ^^

What are you most excited for?

I’m excited for all the games of course! And how many and which features they will show this time… so I know what to talk about myself as a developer. I see a huge number of 3rd party games – exclusive titles for 2018, tons of games. So maybe we will see some of those.

I’m hoping to see some good games! I’m very interested in the 3D Mario one in particular. And it looks like Zelda will launch in March for sure.

That together with other big titles would be the reason why Nintendo moved the release from Xmas to March’17 … I for one see Switch as a HUGE SUCCESS. Not sure about the masses, the global audience… but for gamers it will be a GREAT new piece of fun!

So let’s see what Nintendo wants to show us on Thursday/Friday ^^

I’m excited!!

Me too 😃

So there you have it, folks!

Will our source’s interviews be proven correct at the Switch Presentation? We hope so! In the meantime, we’re just gearing up for the surprises now.

Till next time!