Why Microsoft needs to bring more Xbox games to Nintendo Switch

Switch (Image credit: Windows Central)

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

In a recent interview with IGN, Xbox head Phil Spencer discussed a range of topics, including PlayStation 5 compared to Xbox Series X, upcoming games, and the possibility of more Xbox games heading to Nintendo Switch.

Microsoft has provided some support for the Nintendo Switch in recent years, with titles like Ori and the Blind Forest, Cuphead, and the upcoming Minecraft Dungeons. However, Microsoft may be shying away from that in the future. But we (really) don't think it should.

Microsoft on Xbox and Nintendo Switch support

Russell games

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

In the interview, Xbox head Phil Spencer discussed the possibility of future Xbox games heading to Nintendo Switch, noting that they don't want to set an inconsistent expectation with consumers. From Spencer:

I think more and more about what does a full Xbox experience mean on different platforms. Right now, it seems like when any game comes out there is that 'is this one going here, is this one going there.' I'd rather be able to set more of an Xbox-level expectation for our fans on where things are going to go.I thought we did that with our first-party when we talked about games shipping on Xbox and PC. And I got some blow-back from certain people in certain groups on that, but at least we set an expectation on that. I'd rather see us get to that point on the different pieces of hardware we're on, so I guess I'll kind of leave it there.I definitely have a ton of respect for the role that Nintendo plays, and I love having great games on their platform. I don't really love this idea that for every one of our games, there becomes this little rumor on it 'is it going to end up on the Switch or not.' I feel we should set a better expectation with our fans than that.

I certainly appreciate the sentiment that inconsistency can frustrate consumers, but the Xbox platform already suffers from that a bit and will do so even more in the future.

Some games will be on Project XCloud, and many won't. Some games are on Xbox Play Anywhere and share saves with PC, but many don't. Some Xbox Game Pass titles on PC have achievements, but many don't. And so on. I hear those frustrations all the time in my DMs on Twitter.

While these might not create the same kinds of PR headaches, the question over whether an entire game will move to another platform does, and I think there's a pretty easy answer. I think any game that can potentially run well on Nintendo Switch's modest specs should consistently hit the platform.

When it makes sense, Xbox games should come to Switch

Source: Windows Central Xbox Game Studio Rare has its heritage bound up in Nintendo. (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The Nintendo Switch has a few high-fidelity titles on the system, namely things like The Witcher 3 and DOOM, but the general expectation is that more intensive photorealistic games are unlikely to hit Nintendo Switch. It simply isn't powerful enough to run them, unless you're willing to accept a severely compromised experience. In that vein, I don't think people would expect Hellblade II, Halo Infinite, or Gears of War 6 to hit Nintendo Switch, but there are literally tons of games that could quite happily run on Nintendo Switch. And keeping them off the system feels largely arbitrary at this point.

The Rare Replay Collection, for example, would be a great collection to port to the Nintendo Switch, given that many of those franchises were born and thrived on Nintendo systems in decades past. The upcoming cartoon-style side-scroller Battletoads would also find a happy home on Nintendo Switch, as would Ori and the Will of the Wisps, given that Ori and the Blind Forest already hit Nintendo Switch. Gears Tactics could probably find a good home on Nintendo Switch, as well, with some graphical tweaks.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

For other games, like Bleeding Edge and Killer Instinct, bringing them to Nintendo Switch with cross-play would surely increase the userbase of those games, leading to a better experience for Xbox and PC gamers as well. Sure, graphics may have to be compromised for it to be viable, but it's probably a worthwhile tradeoff for an increased player base.

Many of these older games have likely peaked on their established platforms, meaning that by not bringing them to Nintendo Switch, Microsoft is effectively leaving money on the table. Nintendo has already been amicable with allowing the full Xbox API on the Nintendo Switch for achievements and the like, engaging people in Microsoft's ecosystem regardless of platform. It just makes sense. The Nintendo Switch is a portable experience Xbox can't offer right now.

Even if Project XCloud gets a full global launch, it won't have any Nintendo Switch-like handhelds to provide a truly ergonomic experience, asking you to trade access to your phone or buy peripherals on top. On the flip side, Nintendo Switch can't offer a full-blown HD or 4K experience with higher-end graphics like Xbox can, so there's not exactly a competing hardware experience Microsoft needs to worry about.

Why not?

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Software sales lead to more investment in games, Xbox Game Studios, and Xbox hardware itself. I understand why Microsoft might not want to set an expectation that Xbox games aren't "Xbox" anymore, but the company has effectively already done that by supporting Steam and PCs, in general. The only hardware experience Xbox competes directly with is the PlayStation, as a living room-oriented 4K TV experience, while offering little on the handheld side to compete with the Nintendo Switch.

If consistency is the problem, why not just be consistent in supporting Nintendo Switch when it makes sense? Delight fans, broaden the Xbox brand, and heck, many of us would probably even double-dip on some games. I know I would.

What do you think? Good idea, or a potentially slippery slope? Let us know in the comments.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!