Nintendo Switch could be a great home for MMORPGs

Good news for gamers who are more interested in a Final Fantasy massively multiplayer online experience than they are in owning a PlayStation 4: there are currently discussions happening around bringing Final Fantasy 14 to both Xbox One and Nintendo Switch

The game’s director Naoki Yoshida has said previously that he’d like to see the game come to both of these consoles as well as PS4 and PC but now he’s made clear that the talks to make this happen are in progress. 

Where Yoshida seems to be having issue in furthering these talks at the moment is in making Nintendo and Microsoft allow instant patch updates as well as make them understand the “online and QA regulations.” 

Our final fantasy

As a result, Yoshida believes the conversations will “take a long time”, but if anyone has the patience to pursue and develop a slow burning project and take roadblocks in their stride it’s the director of an MMORPG. 

We know that MMORPGs work fairly well on Xbox One and PS4, but Nintendo Switch is a console where their success has yet to be proven. Arguably, though, thanks to its hybridity it’s the console with most exciting potential for the genre.

We’ll very soon find out whether Nintendo Switch will play as nicely with MMORPGs as previous home Nintendo consoles have as Dragon Quest X is expected to launch on the console in Japan this fall.

There are more than a few reasons why the Switch could be the dream console for fans of MMORPGs.

First of all, LAN parties would be easy to organise and execute among your fellow Switch owners. As the console supports traditional wired LAN connections as well as wireless local connection for up to eight active players, the Switch presents a great opportunity for players who would prefer to play together in the same room rather than chat over their headsets. This has the potential to make MMORPGs a much more directly and conveniently social genre.

Grind and go

The convenience would extend beyond sociability, of course. Being hybrid, the Switch is pretty much the perfect console for those who wish to grind for a while but aren’t able to stay by their home console or PC to do so. 

Say, for example, you know you’re going to have a long wait somewhere like an airport or you’d really rather go down to your favorite coffee shop on a sunny day rather than hole yourself up at home. These aren’t places you’d usually think of for getting some hardcore leveling done but with the Switch anywhere that has a fairly stable internet connection becomes somewhere you can dip in and play.

The fact that the Switch supports large MicroSD cards also means that even though these games are likely to be large, it’s not hard to have everything you need with you. 

Arguably, this convenience could also lead to more healthy habits of play. Knowing that you can pick up and play in far more places could potentially mean that those who are truly invested in their game would spread their play time across their day in a more reasonable way, rather than binge-playing for multiple hours without rest when they have the chance.

Mo' MMORPGs...

Of course, this could also go completely the opposite way and the removal of barriers to access to these games could make things worse for players who are prone to addiction.

The need for a constant internet connection is also problematic.

By their very nature, MMORPGs require that you be constantly connected to the game’s server. So even though the Switch would enable you to play these games on the go, you’d still be pretty limited in the places where you’d be able to play it reliably. 

Public WiFi access is increasingly widely available in the UK and US, but that’s not true of everywhere else and even then the internet access you get isn’t always at the solid and strong standard you’d need to play a long gaming session. 

There's also the fact that MMORPGs require almost constant patching. As constantly evolving games where little problems are constantly picked up and fixed on a day-to-day basis, Switch owners would have to be prepared to install an update pretty much every time they play, which does make the whole 'pick up and play' element less attractive. 

There's also the fact that Nintendo would have to allow these frequent patches to happen and not hold back the game's development.

Mo' potential problems

So though the console is arguably more convenient, this convenience does have a caveat, at least as far as games that require a constant internet connection are concerned. 

Dragon Quest X was highly anticipated for Nintendo 3DS because of the convenience offered by the handheld's portability but many fans complained that the game was an incredibly poor port. The Switch is an improvement on the 3DS both in terms of performance and screen size so you would hope it wouldn't present the same frustrations in terms of lag and actual gameplay that were reported for the 3DS.

At the very least you'd hope this time they'd be anticipated and solved beforehand. 

There’s also the matter of cross-platform play. This is, of course, a stickler that’s not limited to Nintendo – it’s a problem for all consoles. But at the moment the Switch has a smaller player base than both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 which makes it a less attractive option in terms of playing online. 

If you have a PC or console that’s likely to present you with a world filled with more players to interact with, it’s harder to appreciate the many benefits the Switch offers unless it’s an exclusive like Dragon Quest X. It’s hard to imagine someone saying “Yes, excellent. It’s much more convenient for me to play this sparsely populated MMORPG and with all my friends on other consoles I don’t have to talk to anyone!” 

If Square Enix and the various console manufacturers were able to agree some kind of cross-platform gameplay element (which is highly unlikely, nigh on an impossibility looking at the way the market sits currently) the Switch could potentially eventually dominate. 

Of course, worldwide MMORPG success on Switch wouldn’t just be good for players, it’d be incredible for Nintendo. MMORPGs (or good successful ones at least) are renowned for their ability to hold large and dedicated player bases for incredibly long periods all the while generating good income. 

We’ve recently seen Phil Spencer comment on the benefits games becoming services and if third party collaboration was to go through a dry patch (something which isn’t impossible considering Nintendo’s track record), having a dedicated player base spending money on its console would certainly offset any dips in release frequency.

By finding a place on the Nintendo Switch MMORPGs could become much more accessible and reach a much wider player base. When I look at MMORPGs I see physical burden. This isn’t just because it’s an acronym with more letters than something designed to abbreviate has any right to have. 

No, it’s because MMORPGs are large, sprawling worlds with a variety of systems at play that require serious commitment to get true satisfaction. This is something that would be marginally less daunting if it at least felt easy and convenient to access.  Who could resist having a second and more exciting life to access practically in their pocket?

Emma Boyle

Emma Boyle is TechRadar’s ex-Gaming Editor, and is now a content developer and freelance journalist. She has written for magazines and websites including T3, Stuff and The Independent. Emma currently works as a Content Developer in Edinburgh.