Nintendo has been stepping to the beat of its own drum basically since it came onto the gaming scene. While this has led to big successes like the Wii and DS, it’s also caused major issues—as was the case with the Wii U. Nintendo’s quest to ‘dare to be different’ has primarily been obvious in the way its designed systems for development; basically, almost everyone except Nintendo’s studios have had issue with its systems over the last few generations starting with the N64. This became quite clear with the Wii and Wii U, seeing that both of these systems were simply in a far lower category than their competitors. But who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? That’s what’s happened with Nintendo and the Switch.
Epic Games, the company behind the insanely popular Unreal Engine, held a special lecture last month that was dedicated to the Switch during the Unreal Fest West 2017 event in Japan. It was eloquently titled: “Switch & Unreal: Making Game Development More Unreal”. Here, Epic Game Japan’s Takayuki Kawasaki and Noriaki Shinoyama were joined by Nintendo’s Masaru Mitsuyoshi and Yusuke Fukushima. The primary topic of the discussion was how Epic Games and Nintendo have joined forces for Switch development and how the engine was brought over to the system.
Basically, the reason why Unreal Engine is finally supporting a Nintendo system is because of two main factors: architecture and timing. As mentioned before, past systems have given developers some trouble compared to rival platforms. There were some requests for Unreal Engine 3 to come to Wii U, but Epic Games was already winding down support for that version of the engine by the time the console was released. With the Switch, the situation is a lot different. Both companies started communicating early-on in during Switch’s development cycle; in fact, Epic was in talks with Nintendo when the system was still being shrouded behind the mysterious codename: “NX”.
An example of UE4’s complexity…
Unlike past systems, Nintendo decided to make the Switch much more developer-friendly. The Switch is using PC architecture, so the porting process is very easy, especially with Unreal Engine 4. During the lecture, it was confirmed that developers literally can port their games over to the system with the “press of a button”. The development tools have been built with complete support for the Switch, even to the point of offering three different rendering modes. Of course, developers still have to tweak and optimize their projects, but they have total access to just about every inch of the Switch right at their fingertips. Local multiplayer support can even be turned on with just a few clicks—it’s all that easy.
Epic has also made it a priority to keep Switch support on-par with the other platforms, so developers won’t be held back due to waiting on updates. All of this points to one thing—Nintendo is really trying to change its ways.
After generations of being the ‘awkward, red-headed stepchild’, Nintendo has finally learned how to create a system that’s unique, but also plays along with the other platforms. With this ease of access, Unreal developers have basically no excuse not to bring their games over to the Switch. As long as the system keeps selling well, you can definitely expect the games to just keep rolling in.
If you want, go ahead and read the full report of the lecture here (via Google Translate).