On the 15th October (not long before the Halloween update is likely to drop, come to think of it... more on that later), Overwatch makes it debut on Nintendo's portable console, boasting some new motion control features to shake up the game play for Switch players.
This is all info we knew already, but I got the chance to have a chat with principal game producer Wes Yanagi and lead game producer Matthew Hawley to find details on its planned performance, plans for future support and whether cross-platform progression could make it in future.
Why did you decide to port Overwatch to Switch?
Hawley: I'm super excited we're on the Nintendo Switch platform, it brings a whole new way to play Overwatch. The gyroscopic aiming alone and being able to play on the couch internally has been a lot of fun, and I'm really excited for other people to get that opportunity as well.
Yanagi: I think for us it was a real eye-opening experience when we had our first play test in the play test lab, and people were actually facing each other and having a good time and making eye contact after you got revenge on a kill from somebody else!
Why did you decide to include motion controls? Are they optional?
Yanagi: They are optional. I think when we did a little bit of research into some of the other games, it was really popular, and Nintendo also encouraged us to investigate into doing it. So we put it together, and the motion controls are actually super interesting - we have one designer on the team who uses it in a really unique way that I personally hadn't tried before, most of the time I think people instinctively use it kind of to tilt the Switch or tilt the controller and give fine-tuning aim, and this designer actually used it detached. The right Joy-Con he points at the screen kind of like a pointer, like an old Wii-mote, and then you have really really accurate tracking that way, and you use the other Joy-Con normally. I started trying experimenting with that and it's actually really, really eye-opening how good you can get using it in that mode.
So what's it like playing Overwatch handheld? Does it feel a lot different from playing on another console or TV?
Yanagi: It's a totally different experience being able to take it with you. Especially with the motion controls, it really helps you get that fine aim. The other thing is, we actually got the opportunity to do a demo with Nintendo at its headquarters and I was really paranoid about making sure everything was running OK. On the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto the train had WiFi and I was able to connect up to our servers and play while I was riding on the train. It was one of those moments where you go, wow, this is super cool. And I couldn't do that on any other platform.
Is it something you've wanted on Switch for a long time?
Yanagi: I've been a Switch fan since it came out and it was kind of one of those things where I thought, yeah it would be really cool if we could get the game up and running on this.
Hawley: It's a really fun opportunity for Blizzard in general as well, we don't have very many games on Nintendo platforms but we're all huge Nintendo fans and many of us grew up with a NES or SNES at home. Now to have Blizzard's second title on Nintendo Switch after Diablo 3, it's a pretty awesome moment for us internally, we're really excited to continue to build our relationship with Nintendo.
What's the audience you're aiming at with the port to Switch? Nintendo fans? Existing Overwatch fans?
Hawley: I think we started with us, we wanted to play on Nintendo Switch because we love Switches! But when you go from there, there's a whole audience of folks who may be interested in Overwatch who only own a Switch and want to come into our universe and now they're going to have that opportunity.
About the game's performance, it was reported the game is going to be 30fps on Switch. Is this true? And what were the technical challenges involved in this porting the game?
Yanagi: So really what we wanted to do when we started this whole thing was to really deliver on that authentic Overwatch experience. Our goal was making sure it could run smoothly and look the way that we're happy with. So, it runs at 30fps, docked at 900p and un-docked at 720p, and it runs really smoothly. I think when you play it, and you get your hands on it, you just go, yeah I'm playing Overwatch.
So it was a case of making it run as smoothly for the Switch as possible?
Yanagi: Yeah, and really making sure it felt great to us.
Will there be all the same competitive game modes and other content we're used to on PC and other console versions?
Hawley: As we do with Windows PC and other console platforms, we are going to try and commit to getting every patch that goes out to any of the platforms to launch simultaneously with the same full feature stack in every version of Overwatch that exists. We really want feature parity between all versions of the game.
Does that include all the seasonal events?
Hawley: It does, and actually when we go live on Switch there's some other fun stuff happening on the Overwatch servers that day.
Any teases as to what that fun stuff might be?
Hawley: I think that kind of connects the dots, we'll leave it at that. We're excited for October 15th!
Something that's come up a lot since the announcement is the idea of cross-platform progression, a few games have introduced cross save, which Overwatch obviously doesn't have yet. Is there a possibility that you'd bring that to the Switch? What are the technical limitations of that sort of feature?
Hawley: Cross play and cross progression are something we've learned a lot about in the last couple of years, particularly looking at our other game Hearthstone, which has multiplatform support. We don't have anything specific to talk about today, other than say there are business and technical challenges to getting all that to work correctly. Our focus really has been just trying to get Overwatch on the Nintendo Switch so we can have all new ways to play and welcome the Nintendo community into the Overwatch community.
Is cross save something you'd want to look into in the future? Is it something Blizzard has thought about with Overwatch?
Hawley: Yeah, I mean this is something we've talked about, the industry's been evolving on this in the last couple of years and we've been actively monitoring and paying attention to what's been going on, we're just not in a place yet from a technical or a business side that we can make any sort of commitment on that front.
Talking about other technical challenges, Switch doesn't have an in built voice chat system, will Overwatch use its own system for that?
Yanagi: We're going to use the same system that we use on the other platforms, so you can just plug your headset into your Switch and it should just work.
Lastly, I have to ask, when will I be able to buy the Overwatch Switch case?
Hawley: [Laughs] I'm not actually sure!
Yanagi: I'm not sure either, we'll have to get back to you on that!
And when will Tracer be coming to Smash?
Hawley: That's a really fun idea [laughs], but not something that's up to the Overwatch team.
Yanagi: As a huge Smash fan, there are any number of characters I would love to see in Smash, but we'll let Nintendo take care of that!