What the Next Console Generation Could Mean for Switch According to One of its Key Developers

The next generation is nigh, but what does that mean for Switch? One developer has some ideas.

Feature by Kat Bailey, .

If there was one thing I took away from E3 2018, it was that the end of the current console generation is indeed nigh. Starfield was confirmed for "next-generation consoles" while Cyberpunk 2077 was demoed on a $2000 PC. Developers are clearly looking toward the next round of hardware, and that puts the Nintendo Switch in something of an awkward place as it continues through its sophomore year.

But Panic Button general manager Adam Creighton is upbeat about the Switch's future. Panic Button is one of the Switch's main port specialists, having been responsible for the transition of Rocket League and Doom, and he still thinks that there's plenty of room to grow.

"It's a really neat piece of hardware, and we're learning more all the time. We work closely with Nintendo and Nvidia, and it's an opportunity for us to do more and more with the hardware. It's interesting, it's still pretty early for the Switch as a gaming device, so I'm excited to see what happens on the hardware and the optimization front," Creighton tells USgamer.

Creighton and I talked at length about the Switch's future at E3 2018, particularly in the context of how it will fare in the next generation. I noted that third-party developers are already struggling to make some games work on the hardware without major compromises. Ys 8 and Valkyria Chronicles 4 are two games that look notably worse on the Switch.

But Creighton sees it as more of a game to game issue than a broader challenge for the Switch. "[I]t depends on whether a game is pushing a ton of content. You have a title like Wolfenstein that is supporting so many languages, voiceover, and everything else, so there's a lot more content there," he says.

Creighton and his team have most recently ported Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, which is due out next week, and they've had to deal with issues relating to memory constraints. Perhaps the biggest challenge, though, is that Wolfenstein 2 wasn't developed with the Switch in mind.

Creighton thinks a more collaborative relationship from the start will help immensely in the future. "As people get us involved earlier in the process, we're able to help them with decisions like assets and gameplay, and things like that with Nintendo Switch in mind. That has a benefit when it comes to what might come down the road later," he says.

But will it matter if the Xbox Two and PS5 are on a level far beyond that of the Switch? Creighton says it depends on the direction that Sony and Microsoft decide to go with its next-generation consoles.

Adam Creighton calls Wolfenstein 2 on Switch a "challenging, meaty, highly technical project."

"It'll be interesting because who knows what's going to happen with next-generation. Does one party do an even beefier, more powerful machine? Do they look at what's happening with Nintendo and try to do that? Will they do both?" Creighton wonders. "Nintendo in previous generations has made it clear that they're not competing on horsepower. Switch is a great example of delivering that without impacting the quality of the games. And they've made some great partnerships with Bethesda and others to bring triple-A content to their platform."

Creighton also points out that the Switch itself isn't necessarily a fixed platform. The New 3DS is one recent example of Nintendo willingly splitting its install base in the name of a power boost.

"[M]aybe when they evolve the hardware they'll amp it up one area," Creighton speculates. "Maybe that'll be graphics or hardware, maybe they'll add to the controller set so it has additional inputs similar to other platforms. So there's a lot of innovations to be had."

It's hard to guess what will happen to the Switch once new consoles start to appear. Recent history doesn't offer a lot clues—the Wii U was pretty much a dead letter from the start, and the Wii was well behind pretty much from the start. Should the next generation commence as expected in 2020, the Switch will be in the middle of Year 4, which is a pretty tidy run for any console.

Power may not even matter much anymore. After all, one of the Switch's biggest hits is Stardew Valley, which can run on almost anything. Fortnite is one of the biggest games in the world and no one would confuse it for a graphics showcase.

Asked what he hopes to see in the next generation of consoles, Creighton points to what any good developer wants: better tools. "It's all about really good tools. And not tools that make it 'easy' to put content on a device—that's a pipe dream, especially for high-end triple-A games. I want more tools, and more low-level tools for graphics debugging and things like that. I always like more horsepower—more powerful GPUs, CPUs, RAM, and things like that. Give us more options for doing things in games. I do enjoy additional innovation from things like Joy Cons, HD Rumble, touchscreens and all that, so I can have gameplay that makes sense in different contexts. Nintendo tends to do things like that and surprises us with what they come up with, so I'm looking forward to that."

In the meantime, Panic Button is wrapping up Wolfenstein 2 on Switch, which Creighton calls a "challenging, meaty, highly technical project." Creighton says that the final version has definitely improved since PAX East, and that the team is prioritizing the "overall experience" in terms of making it feel fun to play. "It's a game that does a lot. There are places where [frame rate's] going to dip, but hopefully not a lot because perceptually we want it to be a smooth, fun, non-interrupted experience."

Panic Button itself is growing, and its next Switch port is reportedly due to be announced very soon. Panic Button is also hoping to develop some of its own IPs in the very near future, some of which will undoubtedly be for Switch.

But no matter what, it's still the very early days for Switch, and there's no reason to suppose that Nintendo's hit platform will be losing momentum any time soon. Panic Button is counting on it. Wolfenstein 2 for Switch releases June 29.

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Comments 17

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  • Avatar for MetManMas #1 MetManMas 4 months ago
    I still dread the words PS5 and Xbox Another One. Like, I know they could've always been better, but I thought the PS4 and the Xbox One were good enough even before their HDier editions came along. Honestly, if I had the cash I'd probably splurge on a really good PC.

    Oh well, Sony's old platforms traditionally have had better continued support when the new kid's on the block than Microsoft or Nintendo have (I seriously considered going PS3 a few years back because of this*), so I'm not too worried about the well drying up just yet.

    As for the Switch, I'm sure it'll do fine. It's more dev-friendly than the Wii U was, and more than good enough for many games.

    * Only reasons I didn't was 'cuz that was the year PS4 got Bloodborne and Fallout 4 and I was interested in a version of Phantom Pain with prettier visuals and photo and video sharing. Also I had a growing interest in indies.
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  • Avatar for Gamer-Law #2 Gamer-Law 4 months ago
    The primary advantage the Switch has is portability. If the PS5 and Xbox Two continue their focus on increasingly powerful in-home hardware, the Switch can highlight its ‘game where you are’ ability. Personally, I am willing to forego graphical fidelity in games like Valkyria Chronicles 4 in exchange for portability. That preference will not change even if Sony and Microsoft launch more powerful consoles.
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  • Avatar for jumpin_jeeps #3 jumpin_jeeps 4 months ago
    I wouldn't be surprised to see a Switch-like hybrid portable Xbox that harnesses backwards compatibility to let it play all legacy Xbox titles on the move. There, I said it. (EDIT: just as part of their range, sitting alongside a full fat home console for AAA)Edited June 2018 by jumpin_jeeps
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  • Avatar for CK20XX #4 CK20XX 4 months ago
    If the Wii is any indication, Sony will release the Travel and Microsoft will release the Pohkit as accessories for their stay-at-home consoles. Both simply won't be able to measure up to the Switch. Sony will release a forever underutilized technical marvel of a device, while Microsoft will take the concept of portable console gaming too far and create a handheld that fits in your pocket by collapsing into a singularity.
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  • Avatar for SuperShinobi #5 SuperShinobi 4 months ago
    There's still the cross-gen transition period after the next gen launches, which will last 1-2 years. The PS3 still got games like MGS 5, Battlefield Hardline and Destiny: Taken King in 2015. Possible Switch ports can be based on the last-gen versions of cross-gen games. If the PS5 is released in 2020 and the transition period is similarly long, the Switch could still be getting multiplatform ports in 2022.Edited June 2018 by SuperShinobi
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #6 riderkicker 4 months ago
    We want the PS5 and Xbox TWO to do better than what we have now, we want 4k at 120fps, we want more power from them. But reading about conditions in the gaming industry on this site made me think of the cracks that keep getting bigger in the industry, from work conditions, to marketing, to the consumer, and many more. Of course I will be wrong if we make it to PS6 by 2026, but right now many factors are keeping us from imagining gaming in the second quarter of the 21st century.

    Nintendo is doing its own thing, and that's always fine by many of us, considering they've lasted this long. The Switch will definitely have a new model in a few years, but they have an idea of where video gaming is going, and they may as well be better equipped considering they're not bothering with the arms race.
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  • Avatar for docexe #7 docexe 4 months ago
    The power differential will certainly grow with the next generation, but I think Switch will be fine. It's portable nature puts it in a market niche of its own after all.

    Besides, there is the possibility that by 2020, Nintendo releases a "New Switch" or something along those lines.
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  • Avatar for bigbadboaz #8 bigbadboaz 4 months ago
    Yep. It's pretty clear the Switch is already succeeding on its own terms. I tend to be very against Nintendo's "low-powered hardware" philosophy but there's little doubt this go-round is working out great. I almost think the machine has reached critical mass already in terms of being able to get through its lifecycle in strong form.

    Besides, with the nVidia hardware Nintendo will be able to do backwards-compatible revisions - whether a midlife refresh or an actual Switch 2 - just like the x86 big boys. If the power gap in 2020 ends up being huge, it won't have to stay that way.
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  • Avatar for Fourfoldroot #9 Fourfoldroot 4 months ago
    Indeed. Switch is a handheld, the others home consoles. Just because you have a TV out on the Switch it doesn't change that fact. The tech choices were made with that user case in mind. Don't see why they are always compared in articles like this.Edited June 2018 by Fourfoldroot
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  • Avatar for daverhodus #10 daverhodus 4 months ago
    I hope these guys are working on Nier.
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  • Avatar for daverhodus #11 daverhodus 4 months ago
    @MetManMas Yeah, PC and Switch is enough for me atm. I get the majority of the high end games running at max settings, and Nintendo's exclusives.
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  • Avatar for RaymondDoan #12 RaymondDoan 4 months ago
  • Avatar for Sturat #13 Sturat 4 months ago
    @SuperShinobi I agree that cross-gen releases should help the Switch continue getting games after the next generation starts, but since Switch is less powerful than the PS4 and I expect the games of 2021 to barely run on a PS4, this will only work if the games are designed from the start to scale all the way down to the Switch, and that will only happen if sales of non-shovelware third party titles continue to increase. The original Wii took a sharp downturn after a few years because the hype ran out, consumers weren't savvy enough to recognize which third party games weren't garbage, and the number of first party releases choked out the market for other quality games. I haven't seen Nintendo avoid this problem since like, maybe the Gameboy Advance?, so I'm not convinced they can avoid it on the Switch.
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  • Avatar for Mikki-Saturn #14 Mikki-Saturn 4 months ago
    I feel like I'm just not ready for new consoles. By 2020 or 2021 it will have been another 7-8 year generation - which is pretty long (historically speaking), but it feels to me like the whole industry is slowing down, and this make the console changeover feel too soon. I mean I feel like the PS4 is just now reaching it's stride, like the console is not "used up" yet. Maybe I'll feel differently by the time 2020 rolls around.

    It's disappointing to think that some of my most anticipated games for the last several years (Cyber Punk and the next ES which I just assumed they were making) may not even come out on current hardware, let alone be designed and optimized for it, and that therefore these games will wind up costing me hundreds of dollars, in that they will oblige me to buy new hardware which I am not sure I'm ready for (or I could, you know, exercise some self restraint. Ha! Yeah right. Let's not waste time on absurd hypotheticals.) But anyway, I guess it's far enough out that my feelings might change, and so there's no point in worrying about it yet.

    As for the Switch, I do think this will be a problem for them. Downports to the Switch may happen, but it will be completely obvious that the Switch is the most inferior hardware at that point - to savvy people like us it is already clear that the Switch cannot match the PS4 et al, but I think the Switch comes close enough, especially with Nintendo's first party offerings (like Breath of the Wild) that more casual consumers don't notice or don't see the disparity as big enough to be a problem. However all that will change once the next generation comes out. Then there will be no hiding the Switch's graphical short comings. Consequently they will have to double down on portability as their unique feature. I think that might work, but I'm not too sure.
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  • Avatar for Flipsider99 #15 Flipsider99 4 months ago
    Nintendo is smart, because it feels to me like the graphics arm race with consoles is a dead end. I'm sure graphics will continue to improve, but the difference just feels like it's getting less and less, and at a certain point it's going to be just too expensive for most game companies to keep going down that road.
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  • Avatar for Wizzgamer #16 Wizzgamer 4 months ago
    The PS5 isn't going to make a difference to the Switch as it's a handheld console so why would it. The PS3 and 360 releasing didn't effect the DS and PSP so. Getting sick of articles like this the rival to the Switch is the iphone not PS4 and it's already technically 9th gen as the Switch is a 9th Gen handheld.
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  • Avatar for pika77 #17 pika77 2 months ago
    In case you didn't notice, Switch isn't competing with PS4 and XBox One. It's competing with PS5 and XBox Number, because too many within Nintendo said they want AT LEAST a 7 year lifespan, which means any kind of successor (not including numerous revisions it stands to get like 3DS did) isn't going to be seen until at least 2024. Chances are it's going to have a 10 year lifespan, so around 2027 is when its successor will come out, not during PS5 and XBox Number's release.
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