Switch Pro: developers tell us what they want from the rumored Switch upgrade
While it hasn't been officially announced by Nintendo, we've been hearing plenty of rumors that suggest the company will release a third variant of the Switch this year. However, unlike the Switch Lite – which was very much focused on expanding the market at the lower end of the spectrum thanks to its more affordable price – the mooted "Switch Pro" will improve on the base console in new and meaningful ways, offering a more premium experience.
We're sure Switch owners have plenty of hopes and dreams for an upgraded Switch, but what about the people who will create software for this enhanced system? What new features would they like to see which would make their jobs easier, or allow them to take their titles to the next level?
We spoke to a bunch of Nintendo Switch developers to ask them exactly what they'd like to see in the rumored Switch Pro.
More powerful hardware
When it comes to the most requested feature from a development standpoint, "more power" is perhaps the most obvious option.
"I’d love to see a model that has a 1080p screen and the necessary processing power to run Switch docked performance in portable mode," says Thomas Kern of FDG Entertainment, the company responsible for bringing the likes of Oceanhorn and Monster Boy to Nintendo's console.
"It would also be good to see improved hardware to boost framerate just enough to keep existing Switch titles, such as Witcher 3, running at 30fps – or even 60fps – without frame drops. I think technically that’s feasible."
Joel Kinnunen, vice president of Trine studio Frozenbyte, has similar hopes. "Devs always want 'bigger, faster, better', so a beefier CPU and GPU would be nice."
Andres Bordeu, founder and game designer at Rock of Ages studio ACE Team, would also see increased power as the biggest benefit of a new Switch console.
“We probably differ from many independent developers since our projects, while still indie in nature, also aim to deliver incredible visuals powered by the latest tech and we invest a lot of time in research and development. In the indie community, we consider ourselves power users of Unreal Engine 4, which is used to build many Switch games, so a more capable GPU is something that definitely enables studios like ours to bring their creations to Nintendo’s platform.”
Philip Barclay of The Messenger developer Sabotage concurs. “As developers and huge fans of the Nintendo Switch console, one of the things that would be great for a 'Pro' version would be to support additional hardware rendering techniques for larger resolutions. If the Pro version ups the GPU, we could start to see even more amazing content in Switch games.”
Omar Cornut, Technical Director of Wonderboy: The Dragon's Trap developer Lizardcube, is more cautious and warns against hoping for more powerful hardware. "I have to say I love my Switch and I wouldn't want to change it too much; it's a perfect fit for the games we are making. More powerful hardware is convenient, but it also creates a tendency to drive the average game budget higher in order to be competitive, and this has knock-on effects on developers' ability to experiment.
"That said, technical progress is unstoppable; as a player, I wish for the extra power to allow for more Switch games to hit steadier and higher frame-rates across the entire lifetime of the console. A few more gigabytes of RAM and CPU cores would also facilitate porting of cross-platform projects."
The 720p display on the Switch is hardly what you'd call cutting edge, so it should come as no surprise to learn that developers are keen to see that improve as well – although reports that suggest it could come with a 4K panel are frowned upon; Kern doesn't expect to see 4K on the new system himself, saying: "I don’t expect anything 4K, and I personally wouldn’t want 4K on Switch."
Cornut feels that boosting the Switch's resolution could result in an awkward balancing act. "When higher resolutions are available, the tendency is to sacrifice frame-rate. I would much rather have a console where most games are 1080p in stable 60 FPS rather than added support for 4K when docked, which would lead us down the line to more games aiming at 20-30 FPS."
More power under the hood and an improved screen seem to be obvious picks, but some developers want to see other elements of the Switch hardware get the upgrade treatment.
"As the developers of a racing game, we'd be really happy to see support for analogue triggers on the Switch's Joy-Con," says Edwin Smith of Feral Interactive, which ported GRID to the Switch with impressive results.
Cyrille Lagarigue, of Streets of Rage 4 developer Guard Crush Games, would also like to see the control setup expand with the Switch Pro.
"Personally, I'd like Nintendo to take advantage of the ingenious way the Joy-Con slide on the side of the Switch to propose more Joy-Con variants, for bigger hands, or maybe a left Joy-Con with a D-Pad and no joystick for 2D games! Having a Switch Pro would be a great opportunity to add this kind of devices; Pro means more choice!"
Faster internal storage
As we know from the hype surrounding the PS5 and Xbox Series X, the topic of memory speed is going to be a key one in the next-gen war – and Lizardcube's Omar Cornut would love to see some kind of improvement in this area for Switch, too.
"I hope for the internal storage to become a little faster as well as maybe raising the minimum specs of supported SD cards. We have to be considerate of loading data both from internal storage or from a variety of SD – some fast, some slow – and aiming for lowest common denominator can create lots of constraints on game design; for games with large streamed worlds, for example."
Faster RAM would potentially allow for more immersive titles on Switch Pro, which would allow it to maintain some degree of parity with Sony and Microsoft's upcoming systems.
The topic of wireless audio also cropped up when we spoke to Switch developers, with many citing the lack of Bluetooth audio support as being a real negative to the current console. The console lacks a microphone, too, which means that Switch players are missing out when it comes to online multiplayer.
"I’d like to see an aptX low latency Bluetooth chip implemented that supports Bluetooth headphones," says Kern.
Dotemu's Fabien Borel – who is currently hard at work on Windjammers 2 – couldn't agree more, and adds another wish for the Switch Pro. "I think everybody will appreciate the possibility of support of Bluetooth devices such as headphones – and having some kind of achievement system, without it being mandatory for game companies, which is awkward!"
We'll leave the final word for Jérôme Fait of Young Souls developer 1P2P:
"We would be happy if the new one brings better specs, a sharper and brighter screen and maybe better Joy-Con with an official cross D-pad; a 5G connexion or better WiFi and Netflix, and if it could print money [laughs] – but I think that the Switch is perfect as it is."
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