Zelda: Breath of the Wild Underlines a Big Problem for Nintendo Switch

Don’t fret — I’m not here to talk negatively about Zelda: Breath of the Wild. First, I haven’t played it yet, so I wouldn’t dare share an opinion, positive or negative. Second, it looks absolutely stunning, and nothing would make me happier than playing it. But since embargo has been lifted on March 2nd and reviews started popping up, a seemingly minor issue reviewers are having with the title could have serious ramifications for the success of the brand new Nintendo Switch.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has frame-rate issues.

Think about that sentence for a second. I know it won’t impact most people’s enjoyment of this specific game, but what it signifies is worrisome. This is a title that started its development on the ancient hardware-wielding Wii U, and still runs on that system. This is also a game with a cel shaded art style that, while beautiful, can be great at hiding unpolished textures. And most importantly, it’s a game developed by Nintendo, who knows the ins-and-outs of their own hardware better than anyone.

If Breath of the Wild can’t top 30 frames, and dips well below that on hefty situations (some reviews have said the game is unplayable at certain points), what kind of software will third parties be able to bring to Nintendo’s new system?

The real-world application of this image could turn out to not impress

The lack of third-party support is a problem Nintendo has had for over a decade now and the company promised to rectify this issue numerous times when the Switch was first unveiled. But if Breath of the Wild can’t hold its own weight, AAA titles developed for Xbox One and PS4 are pretty much out the window unless the hardware has some untapped potential Nintendo couldn’t figure out on its premiere launch title. As it is, though, there’s simply no way Red Dead Redemption 2 can run on a system Breath of the Wild struggles with.

Even if you buy the Switch as an addition to your other systems and don’t care about mainline AAA support, it’s still a problem, because most developers won’t spend the time or energy to develop a separate game just for the Switch unless the system sales are insane (what the industry calls “install base”). So, the chance for the Switch to be yet another Nintendo franchise-player is real. I know some third party games have been announced, of course they have; a lot of publishers like to bet on the hype of a brand new system. But you have to think two or three years down the line.

As you enjoy Zelda: Breath of the Wild and anticipate future Nintendo titles, keep in mind the third party support could not be as huge as Nintendo has lead us to believe.

Also, as a side but somewhat important note, the exact NVIDIA chip that powers the Switch is still shrouded in mystery for reasons that escape me.