The Wall Street Journal Tech Live event was a lively one for Xbox boss Phil Spencer, who made it clear that Microsoft has lofty ambitions of breaking into mobile and on-the-go gaming markets.
In an interview at the conference, Microsoft Gaming’s CEO spoke about the company’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, stating he would “love to see” Call of Duty on Nintendo Switch (via The Verge’s Tom Warren).
Spencer stated that one of the key reasons Microsoft wanted to acquire Call of Duty publisher Activision Blizzard is to tap into the mobile games scene. Call of Duty: Mobile is still doing well from a fiscal standpoint, so it makes sense that Spencer is inspired to take this a step further by porting CoD games to the Switch and extending operations in the portable gaming sector.
But is it even possible for one of the biggest FPS franchises to function properly on the Switch, given the significantly weaker engine?
Truly modern warfare
Call of Duty has long dominated the FPS scene. With a whopping 17 titles under its belt, the first-person shooter series has been praised for its sharp graphics, complex gunplay, sprawling maps, and excellent co-op capabilities.
While these factors have cemented Call of Duty’s spot as one of the most popular game franchises of all time, they might spell trouble for the Nintendo Switch. As a Switch port is unlikely to be able to maintain standards this high.
This isn’t an issue that is exclusive to Call of Duty. Time and time again we’ve seen ports of popular console and PC titles crashing and burning on the Nintendo Switch. The supremely-ugly Ark: Survival Evolved port, for example, was so bad that it needed a total overhaul, and wrestling simulator WWE 2K18 never quite bounced back after its Switch release was plagued with game-breaking bugs.
Another primary risk of porting a game to the Switch is that the Nintendo console is simply not built to handle games of these sizes. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the latest entry in the Call of Duty series, weighs in at over 100GB on PS5, which is a huge leap compared to the 8-10GB average size taken up by a Switch game.
Even games made for the platform tend to struggle; Bayonetta 3 weighs in at a modest 15GB and starts to chug thanks to the slower load-in speed of the device, in this case largely due to the fast-paced and frenetic on-screen action.
If the humble Switch can’t handle its own games, how is it supposed to cope with the demands put in place by CoD’s heavy-duty IW engine?
Hope on the horizon
That being said, it has been done before. One of the most successful PlayStation to Switch ports, Alien: Isolation, went from occupying 8.2GB of space on the PlayStation 3 to more than doubling its size for the Switch port, and it worked like a charm.
Perhaps there is hope for a solid CoD offering for the Switch, if, much like what was done for Call of Duty: Mobile, a brand new game is created with the Switch device itself in mind.
This will no doubt take time and money to develop, but if Spencer and Microsoft are serious about bringing the FPS heavyweight to portable devices, they may want to play to the Nintendo console’s strengths rather than expecting it to keep in step with next-gen consoles and save Microsoft the potential embarrassment.
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Jasmine is a freelance writer and podcaster based in the UK. Whether it's a Sims 4 lore deep-dive or a guide to securing kills in Dead By Daylight, her work is featured on TheGamer as well as the door of her mother's fridge. When she's not aggressively championing the Oxford comma on Twitter, you can find her scoping out the local music scene or buying gaudy Halloween decorations all year round.