'Overwatch' Switch cross-play: Blizzard is "really excited" about it

"But there's still a lot of work to do."

Three years after its monumental release in 2016, Blizzard’s online hero shooter Overwatch is finally making its way to the Nintendo Switch, but just what will it feel like to escort payloads on the go? We asked Blizzard a few burning questions about the game’s anticipated arrival to Nintendo’s hot portable console, from gyro aiming to cross-play support. Here’s what we learned.

On October 15, Overwatch will be released on the Nintendo Switch. The game, Blizzard producers Wes Yanagi and Andrew Boyd tell Inverse, was brought to the Switch with the “authentic Overwatch experience” as a priority.

“When you’re playing it and booting it, does it look like Overwatch? Does it feel like Overwatch? We feel we brought that over really well,” Yanagi says.

The game is an online first-person shooter packed with (as of now) 31 unique characters, all of whom have special abilities. Overwatch has been a hit since it was released in the summer of 2016 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. And that’s about what you’ll get come October 15, when players boot the game on the Switch. “All 31 heroes are gonna be there, all the maps, all the content you would expect will be on there,” confirms Yanagi.

But what about everything else about the game being on Switch? We asked all the tough questions, and here’s what we learned.

Hanzo in 'Overwatch: Legendary Edition,' coming to Nintendo Switch.


What frame rate and resolution will Overwatch run on Nintendo Switch

Yanagi says Overwatch will run 30 frames per second (FPS), at 900p docked and 720p when the Switch is undocked.

While those stats are a little underpowered compared to other consoles and PC, Yanagi says players won’t notice during play. “When you’re playing the game, it feels like you’re playing on any other platform,” he says.

HowOverwatch finally came to Nintendo Switch

To bring Overwatch to the Nintendo console, Blizzard sought the help of Iron Galaxy, a studio that previously ported Diablo III to Switch.

Work took “a little over a year now,” says Yanagi. It was in that year that Iron Galaxy and Blizzard endured “challenges around docked and undocked play,” as well as in Switch Online “that presented a new technical challenge for us.”

An unintended result in the test lab

As the port of Overwatch on the Nintendo Switch progressed, there was an unexpected result out of the game being on Switch. Basically, everyone began “hootin’ and hollerin’,” together.

“We had this awesome demo in the play test lab. Everyone’s hootin’ and hollerin’ because everyone’s just sitting together. That was such a different social experience where you’re playing in such close quarters with everybody.”

“I remember that playtest,” Boyd says, “Because we have a place where we get together and everyone sits at their own PCs. But when we did that first Switch playtest, there was a really interesting dynamic. People turned around, facing each other in the room and talking back and forth. It was really fun.”

Gyro aiming, which uses the Switch's motion control features, as shown in the reveal trailer for 'Overwatch: Legendary Edition' on Nintendo Switch.


How gyro aiming works for Overwatch on Switch

A feature not present in other consoles and PC is gyro aiming, in which players can aim or move their avatars with the Switch’s motion controls. The feature is optional and can be turned off, but Blizzard is hoping players try it out.

“We weren’t sure about it when we first investigated it. Nintendo encouraged us to explore it,” says Yanagi. “So we did, and it turned out really well. There’s so many ways to use a Joy-Con.”

One designer Yanagi met on the Switch team “used the right Joy-Con as a Wiimote” by setting the sensitivity (which can be adjusted) “where he’s pointing at the screen, almost aiming like a mouse.”

“We have various sensitivities for gyro,” adds Yanagi, “If you have it docked or if you have a Pro Controller as you’re aiming, you can tilt the controller in a pitch or yaw motion. We take any rotation into account too.”

If you may play at an awkward angle in bed or traveling, the game is also easy to readjust orientation. “We have an option to reset your aiming, so if your orientation changes you can adjust for that.”

Official screenshot of 'Overwatch: Legendary Edition' on Nintendo Switch.


Blizzard has “seen the power” of cross-play, but will it come to Overwatch?

Cross-play and cross-saves (or cross-progression) is a feature fans have been asking for since day one. With the Switch’s arrival, it’s a feature Blizzard is still looking into.

“Obviously we’ve seen the power of cross-play with Hearthstone, and that’s something we’re really excited about,” says Boyd. “but there’s still a lot of work to do for us on the platform side for us to figure out whether that makes sense for Overwatch.”

In-game team chat doesn’t use Nintendo’s app

"You do not need to use Nintendo’s app to communicate.

In an email, Blizzard confirmed that Overwatch on Switch uses Overwatch server side voice chat. “You do not need to use Nintendo’s app to communicate. However friending and social systems use Nintendo’s social systems to group up,” Blizzard said. “A player will simply need to plug in a headset into the Switch or their controller to utilize in-game voice chat.”

WhyOverwatch’s graphics are a good fit with Switch

Throughout all the speculation of the game coming to Switch, a frequent argument has been that Overwatch’s unique visual art style, which isn’t photorealistic, would be conducive to the Switch, still an underpowered console compared to beasts like the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (and their respective pro versions) and your friend’s’ $2,800 PC rig.

“It helps when you have a strong art style,” Yanagi says. “Because it’s really more [of a question of], ‘Does it look right?’ as opposed to something that might be photorealistic.

Overwatch in Smash Bros.? Not up to Blizzard

When asked which character from Overwatch they personally think would be a fit for the fighting game extravaganza Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Boyd and Yanagi both shared similar thoughts.

“It’s hard to pick your favorite hero,” Boyd says. “All of them have their own draw in Smash and it’s a really cool idea.”

Adds Yanagi, “They’re all my favorite, It would be an awesome thing to have but that’s up to Nintendo right now.”

But just for fun, here’s our top 11 picks.

Overwatch will be released on Nintendo Switch on October 15.

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