The Switch Needs to Lock Down 1080p Gaming Before it Tackles 4K
Nintendo announced a new Switch model today, and it's not the Switch Pro that's been rumored for ages. Instead, it adds a slightly larger OLED screen, a better kickstand, and an Ethernet jack. In terms of performance, it's exactly the same as what they're already selling.
On the one hand, I'm not surprised. As I wrote back in March:
One thing that gets thrown around a lot is that this is going to be the model that plays games in 4K, and my position on this is no, absolutely not. Most games on the new PlayStation and Xbox consoles don’t even run at 4K, and even high end PC games tend to cap out at 1440p, so expecting a portable console like the Switch to pull this off is a bit of a dream, in my opinion.
So do I want a more powerful Switch? Absolutely! I just think that some parts of the press (specifically the tech press/pundits, not gaming press) treat resolution as the top indicator for how good games look, when this is far from the case. If Switch games were seen as lagging behind other game consoles by only doing 1080p games at 60fps, then I’d be on board that a mid-gen upgrade should increase the output resolution, but as I’ve argued above, the max resolution is not the limit on Switch games right now.
So while the internet is debating whether the Switch needed 4K output (some pro and some con coming from the same sites, even), I continue to not think that's the point of adding power to the Switch. Most Switch games don't even run at 1080p, and the ones that do hit 1080p typically run at 30fps. There are exceptions, of course, but I think ti's fair to say that even if you have a plain old 1080p TV, the Switch has tons of headroom to improve performance for you too.
I'm not going to be getting a new Switch this fall, mainly because I don't care about the new features myself, but let's be frank, also because inventory is sure to be low on this and it's going to be yet another console I can't get my hands on even if I want. Nintendo will eventually release a new game console with more power than the current Switch models, and when they do I hope to be able to play my current Switch games at higher frame rates and with fewer resolution drops than I get today.
Which gets us to the screenshot at the top of this post. That's an actual screenshot from Mario Golf: Speed Rush, which just came out last month. It's a first party Nintendo game, and while it does run at a decent resolution in some cases, it drops hilariously low at other times. I'm no Digital Foundry, so I can't get a 100% accurate pixel count, but my amateur attempt revealed this moment in the game running somewhere between 225p and 320p.
I'm not here top bash this game or anything, but when this relatively simplistic-looking game needs to drop to Nintendo 64 resolutions to keep up it's frame rate (which it does, thankfully), maybe we should use more power to hit SD and HD resolutions reliably before we make the jump to 4K.
Here's a few screenshots I took when the resolution went to its lowest points. It seems to be rain that pushes things too far, but it rains a lot in the game, so this isn't some anomoly you'll never actually see.