One of E3 2021’s biggest surprises Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, a single-player action game from Eidos-Montréal and Square Enix. Mere days after the game’s initial reveal during the Square Enix Presents E3 showcase on Sunday, Nintendo announced during its E3 2021 Direct showcase that the game would also be launching for the Switch.
But there’s a big catch that the company neglected to mention.
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For a major AAA release to launch across Xbox, PlayStation, PC, and Nintendo day and date is a big deal. The problem is that the Nintendo Switch version of Guardians of the Galaxy is not the same as the others.
If you look at the footage in the game’s reveal trailer for Nintendo Switch, it looks great, almost ... too great. What was shown in the trailer is likely not an accurate representation of what most people will experience when playing this game.
That’s because Guardians of the Galaxy on Nintendo Switch is only the Cloud Version, meaning you’ll need to stream it in order to play.
Hope your internet speeds are fast
“Footage representative of visual quality under optimal conditions,” the trailer’s fine print reads. “Persistent high-speed internet connection required.” But most viewers probably missed this detail that breezed by at the beginning of the trailer, right?
Guardians of the Galaxy on Nintendo Switch will not run from the system itself, but rather from a distant server that streams the game remotely, similar to what Netflix does. Only, streaming a video game is much different than a TV show because of the level of interactivity involved. Pressing play on an episode of The Witcher is very different from booting up an action game where you’re constantly pressing buttons and sending information back to the server which then has to output video based on your inputs.
With an action game, you’ll absolutely notice a lag, and that delay could be worse depending on your internet speeds. If you’re one of the unlucky people who lives in an area where high speeds aren’t available, this game will be pretty much unplayable.
Game streaming is still in its infancy and has a long way to go before it becomes ubiquitous like so many companies want it to be.
Think Google Stadia, Amazon Luna, or xCloud. The main reason for that is because most people — in the United States, at least — don’t have fast enough internet speeds to properly stream games effectively. That gets even more challenging as games get bigger and their graphical fidelity increases in equal measure.
Even in major U.S. cities, fast internet speeds are hit or miss. And for more rural areas, internet might be much slower or even nonexistent. So, you can see the problem with trying to standardize video game streaming.
This isn’t the first time a cloud game has been available on Switch. Most recently, Hitman 3 came to the platform, along with Control — both of which were hard to play due to the input lag caused by streaming.
The nice thing about these Nintendo Switch cloud games is that you’re able to try a portion of them (typically the opening segment) to ensure your internet speeds are up to snuff.
But with Control, the opening segment has no combat. Predictably, it performs differently when there are multiple enemies on-screen. You might’ve thought your internet could handle the game based on the trial portion only to be met with an unplayable experience after purchasing the full version.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Nintendo Switch reveal trailer pretty much skimmed over that important “cloud version” detail. In fact, upon first viewing, we totally overlooked the fact that it was a cloud version. Some would say the trailer was a bit misleading, but it’s clear that the Switch wouldn’t be able to run a game with graphics like this.
Why even publish a cloud Version on Nintendo Switch?
Well, the Nintendo Switch simply isn’t powerful enough to run many current games — at least not at a performance we’ve gotten used to. Some developers are able to work their magic to make graphically intensive games run on the system, such as Saber Interactive with The Witcher III: Wild Hunt.
But for the most part, many third-party AAA releases end up skipping Switch due to the system’s lack of power. And that’s why so many of us are hoping for a more powerful Nintendo Switch Pro system, to have more parity with the other platforms.
How great would it be for most third-party games to launch on Nintendo, Xbox, PlayStation, and PC all day and date with one another? We might not be too far off from that, but until then, some of us will have to settle for the inferior cloud versions of games on Nintendo Switch.