TOP 5 Game Porting Tips for the Nintendo Switch

Why game publishers and developers are still about to port their smash titles to Nintendo Switch? The main reason, indeed, is the huge potential audience reach. And that is precisely the qualitative porting that is a decisive factor in the game’s success on Switch.

That’s not news that here at Room 8 Studio, we are keen on Nintendo Switch. Having a solid background in porting different kinds of games to this console and co-developing for Switch with Ubisoft, we’d like to share some advice that may help you tackle porting a title to Nintendo Switch and avoid the massive hustle. Whether you decide to go with internal specialists or, due to lack of the necessary tech expertise or team scale, entrust a porting project to an external team, these tips may equally be of service.

Compliance testing and QA 

One of the pillars of successful game porting to the extremely popular Nintendo Switch is well-prepared for compliance testing. Almost all console vendors (manufacturers) want to ensure each submitted game is stable on a platform in terms of its performance, does not have bugs, and adheres to its technical requirements. That’s why a game submission process is regulated by the mandatory and recommended rules set by the vendor and described in the guidelines.

Having the Switch dev kits is not enough; you should carefully study the compliance guidelines, going in-depth with all the platform requirements. And what is also critically important is to have skilled QA staff as part of your porting team to ensure the game is working correctly and manage bug lists. 

Summing up the above, our tip #1 is ‘Compliance testing and QA.’ To avoid the time, financial, and other resources losses, your primary goal is to be prepared for a complex submission process in advance or entrust your project into the hands of a certified team on the platform that has competenсу in porting to Switch and submission process.  

Engine and SDK updates

This can even be called not tip #2, but the ruleconstantly update to the latest version of the SDK available when a team starts to work. Sometimes, new updates of Nintendo Switch SDK come unexpectedly when a team is in the middle of the porting process, and you need to deal with it.

With open source Unreal Engine, you can easily pull up all changes from the latest versions to the newest ones without getting enormous bugs. It requires a bit more time with Unity-made games; since it’s proprietary software, you can’t manage all issues as quickly as you want, and, at times, the only thing that you can wait for updates to an official release. But the most unpredictable option is a work with a custom engine. Here matters the availability of dev specs and documentation, in which all changes are registered.

GPU optimization

Bear in mind that a considerable part of the time and efforts will be spent on a GPU rendering optimization. The small tip inside this pro tip #3 on optimizing your render pipeline is to make a transition to Forward Rendering.

It’s essential to optimize game graphics properly and meticulously, especially in genres where the gameplay is built around the vivid impressive art, like in the 3D diving adventure ABZU. That lays somewhere between making assets less polygonal and still great. Another working area inside the GPU optimization is shader optimization. 

Having some rare specialists like high-skilled technical artists, who will be responsible for the alignment between the art (2D/3D and VFX artists) and development teams on board, helps a lot. They are irreplaceable for large porting projects, art-genre games, or strong AAA/AA titles with impressive graphics, where there is a massive scope of asset optimization work. Studios that focus on porting games can usually gather a dedicated team whose skill-set and creative expertise will meet the requirements of your project, including narrow-focused art or dev professionals, or even amplify your project with the industry expertise of a creative producer it’s needed.

Memory limits 

Start from the point (you need to proceed from the fact) that Nintendo Switch has strict memory limits. Your game can use not the whole four declared gigabytes but approximately 3.17 GB. So, tip #4 is to think over strategies and solutions to fit all game stuff into this memory limit. 

The crucial thing is to make the stream smooth and predictable when the levels and assets loading process is unnoticeable to the user. That’s especially important in open-world games.

Compatibility with Switch. Game UX testing and assessment

Tip #5 is to make a full-scale analysis and assess if the gameplay suits the Nintendo Switch platform specifications regarding game process controlling and the user experience. You should also compare the UX on Switch with the experience a player gets on the original platform and ensure they will savor each moment of gameplay with similar impressions on Nintendo Switch.

A title that suits Switch will not require too much rework and hard compromises concerning game art, sounds, mechanics, etc. This may seem obvious and easy, but in practice, the ability to correctly estimate a game’s success on a new console comes only with the experience of porting numerous titles. To give you an example of how choosing the right title for porting to Switch by Game Publisher Annapurna Interactive and correct estimation by the Room 8 Studio team turned a project into the fastest turnkey porting we ever did, we suggest reading this article

The bottom line 

Bringing games to the platform where millions of players are waiting for great new releases – it’s a win-win combination. We shared some secrets behind the successful release of a title on Switch in terms of business and the technical side of the porting process. 

Engaging the expertise of a specialized porting team with a focus on Nintendo Switch will help you to save time and costs, cut the project management overhead and, what is most important, ensure your game runs natively on the new platform. A long-term porting partner can be an extension of your core team that thinks your titles’ success keeps consistent throughout the projects.

Have a project in mind? Please, contact us using the form below to see how we can leverage our experience to port your game to Nintendo Switch or create it from scratch. 

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Vadim Krayevoy
Head of art division
Vadim Krayevoy