Doomed to the Past
The biggest third party announcement for the Nintendo Switch back at its reveal event in January was that EA was working on a FIFA game. That was it. After virtually no third party support on Wii U, and a generation of cash-in games from third parties on Wii, I had made peace with the assumption that third party support for the Switch would be like the Wii at best and like the Wii U at work. Everyone was surprised when Bethesda announced DOOM and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus for the Switch; past Nintendo systems had rarely, if ever, received support from a third party like Bethesda in the way of mature first-person shooters. There is a catch, however, and it has some folks up in arms despite it being totally inconsequential.
A New, Untapped Audience
In a recent interview with Venture Beat, Bethesda’s Pete Hines said that the Switch is a “new audience” for their games.
“What that means respective to the installed base or to other stuff—we’re not coming from the same place with Skyrim in terms of, “Everyone on this platform already knows the Elder Scrolls series.” There’s some amount of—this is new to folks. We have to introduce it to them and explain what it is. It’s the same with Doom. There is some crossover, but there’s also a new audience that isn’t sure what these games are. They haven’t played a Doom or a Skyrim.”
The Switch has a large install base that’s itching to play these types of games. There isn’t a single first person shooter available on Switch. The closest thing is Splatoon 2, and while that game is a lot of fun, it doesn’t even come close to offering the type of visceral experience found in DOOM.
Good games in under-represented genres sell really well on Switch. We saw this when Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap sold the best on Switch compared to its counterparts. I have no doubt that DOOM, and later Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, will sell well on the platform as long as the install base understands the trade-off that will be happening.
Much Ado About Nothing
The current hullabaloo about DOOM is that the game will run at 30 frames-per-second and 720p both docked and undocked. For comparison, the Playstation 4 and Xbox One versions of the game run at 60 frames-per-second. It may be a small section of the Internet that’s outraged, but it doesn’t make it any less silly.
The brilliance of DOOM doesn’t come from the amount frames the game chugs each second, but what you do in those frames. DOOM is super-fast and chaotic in a way that shooters haven’t been in a very, very long time.
It’s also absolutely stunning to look at. From what we’ve heard from recent preview events, the game looks incredible on Switch. There only seems to be a slight drop in graphical fidelity — which is to be expected — but the game holds up really well otherwise. Here’s the important part: DOOM on Switch needs to run at a consistent 30 frames-per-second. If it does that, you’ll be too busy running around like a man possessed to really notice the difference in frames-per-second. It’s where inconsistency in frames-per-second ruins a game like DOOM. It’s going to be a huge problem if the game drops below 30 frames-per-second when a bunch of enemies are on screen.
And assuming it’s locked and loaded at 30 frames consistently, why does it matter that it’s not 60? It looks a little smoother? The core experience of the game will not be different. Some of the greatest games ever made run at 30 frames per second. Take The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as an example (although it does chug a little bit in one secluded area — something DOOM cannot afford).
Switch owners should welcome and enthusiastically support third parties that make an effort to put their games on Switch. If DOOM was reported to run at 20 frames-per-second and 540p, the detractors would have an argument. But as it looks today, a couple months before the game releases, DOOM will be the biggest and most visually-impressive third party title to hit the Switch.