One of the longest-running threads on the internet is how damn badly people want games on the Switch. Like, not just games, but "games," as in all of them. Now non-Nintendo fans are mad about “port-begging,” because Switch fans are so into the new console that they don’t want to play games on any other platform. From Persona 5 to Yooka-Laylee, and even Wii U games, the demand for Nintendo ports of third party games is at an all-time high.
That demand has been exacerbated by a laundry list of reluctant publishers, several of which understandably standing on the sidelines to see what would happen. Then the thing sold millions of copies in no time, and the floodgates opened. We’ve written about this several times before, but many companies straight-up expressed regret at not getting in on the ground floor at the first place. Ports started showing up from companies like EA and 2K; even Rockstar joined in. Unfortunately, while some ports turned out just fine (with a caveat or two), some ended up being pretty awful, poorly optimized or full of concessions that made the games fall flat.
One such game, and perhaps the ugliest example, is WWE 2K18. This port was announced at an earlier stage of Switchmania, but at an awkward time, well after the other console versions were pretty much ready to launch. And the original version already struggled with a notorious, heaping pile of glitches and problems. After reviews of those versions came and went, 2K was oddly quiet about the release date of the Switch version, despite it still being slated for 2018.
Suddenly and quietly, WWE 2K18 came out for the Switch this month, with all of two days notice. The only news preceding that being the ridiculous storage requirements, even worse than some of the other current-gen ports that had way less technical problems. And sure enough, as soon as it did drop, the negative press rolled in. The game just completely craps the bed in docked mode, aka the entire point of why anyone would want WWE 2K18 in the Switch in the first place. Certain modes don’t work well and the game actually crashes, a rare occurrence in general for most games on the platform.
My worry, which is not an uncommon worry since this thing was announced, was that history would repeat itself. Back in the Wii days, publishers would mandate a lazy, underpowered port for games, which would inevitably sell poorly, and be used as justification for not supporting the platform. In reality, these were bad games, and players don’t want obviously bad games. It was a blatant, constantly repeating cycle of confirmation bias. It sucks to even want to use the word “lazy” in this context, but that’s what this practice is. When other developers can get their games running on the Switch with more obvious efforts to scale the games down appropriately, they work. It’s okay if a game like DOOM, Skyrim, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, or Rocket League don’t look as good as long as they run well, and that’s exactly what they do.
With Switch ports, publishers need to put the effort in. If they want to get on the Nintendo gravy train, they need to put up or shut up and either make an original game that is built for the Switch, or optimize the game and make sure it runs. It’s a matter of respecting the audience and having proper accountability. Gamers are more savvy than ever, and if a publisher puts out a shoddy port then shrugs and says, “well we tried, people just don’t want it,” they’ll see right through it. And it won't be the platform losing these publishers money, it'll be their own poor performance.