The Nintendo Switch may not feature the most powerful hardware, but Microsoft seems to think that the hybrid console still has what it takes to run Activision’s premiere shooters on a native level. Following a report from the UK’s Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) that stirred doubts as to whether the Switch could even run Call of Duty games outside of the cloud, Microsoft has responded in confidence that the system should be able to run them fine, explaining that the engine is optimized for a wide range of hardware that goes back as far as 2015 and how Activision’s developers are good at that sort of thing. Microsoft noted that the Switch is already host to other major shooters, including Apex Legends, DOOM Eternal, Fortnite, and Crysis 3.
From Microsoft’s response to the CMA’s remedies notice:
CoD includes both the free-to-play title Warzone and buy-to-play releases. The game engine that powers Warzone is mature and has been optimized to run on a wide range of hardware devices (ranging from the Xbox One console released in 2015 up to the Xbox Series X). Warzone supports PC hardware with GPU cards that were released as far back as 2015 (i.e., prior to the release of Nintendo Switch in 2017).
The Activision development team have a long history of optimizing game performance for available hardware capabilities. The Parties are confident that in addition to Warzone, CoD buy-to-play titles (e.g., CoD: Modern Warfare 2) can be optimized to run on the Nintendo Switch in a timely manner using standard techniques which have been used to bring games such as Apex Legends, DOOM Eternal, Fortnite and Crysis 3 to the Switch. Activision estimates that this could be done with a period of around (unspecified) months.
From a CMA provisional findings report:
Activision’s internal documents note the technical limitations of the Nintendo Switch console. For example, one Activision document notes in an early-stage assessment that, to produce a CoD title on the Nintendo Switch, the CoD game would need (unspecified) (whereas most current CoD titles require from 125-175GB of storage on console or PC). The document also refers to Apex Legends’s (unspecified). Another Activision document analyzing potential studios (unspecified) CoD assesses the additional work required and notes technical issues in other games.
We have also seen evidence that large shooter games do not run as well on Nintendo’s consoles due to its technical differentiation. One third party submitted that graphically intensive shooters may often be targeted originally at PlayStation and Xbox due to the specific characteristics of their console performance, and that porting to the Nintendo Switch may require financial investment and compromises on graphical quality, or the use of cloud-gaming solutions.
Publishers’ views similarly indicated that developing a game for Switch is a significantly different task relative to doing it for Xbox and PS due to its technical differences. One publisher stated that it encountered technical difficulties when bringing a game to Nintendo Switch but no difficulty in bring the same game to Xbox or PlayStation. The publisher noted that the Switch’s limited graphics and storage are technical limitations that affect the performance of competitive games more than that of game(s) brought to Xbox or PlayStation. Another publisher stated that several of its games are not available on Nintendo as Nintendo has different capabilities from PlayStation and Xbox.
However, we consider the evidence above shows that, relative to the Xbox and PlayStation, the Nintendo Switch (i) does not currently offer the same suite of graphically intensive games that PlayStation and Xbox compete on (with the exception of a few games such as Fortnite and Apex Legends), (ii) may not be capable of offering certain graphically intensive multiplayer games (such as CoD), and (iii) does not offer a similar user experience (eg, in terms of storage, graphics, and framerate).