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Feature Article

Overwatch Dev Talks Origins Of Switch Version, Technical Challenges, Cross-Play, And More

Switched.

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Blizzard's popular hero shooter Overwatch comes to Nintendo Switch on October 15. It's the first new platform for the title since its release across PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC back in 2016. It's also a new challenge of sorts for Blizzard, as Nintendo's hybrid system is relatively less powerful than the other hardware

Ahead of the launch of Overwatch for Switch, GameSpot spoke with the title's principal producer, Wes Yanagi, about a variety of topics related to the game, including the internal playtest that convinced Blizzard that bringing Overwatch to Switch was a good idea.

"Working closely with a set of developers on the Overwatch team, we eventually got to a first fully playable version of the game. The game was still in a buggy state and we had work to do on performance, but at the end of that playtest, everyone had an excited look on their face," Yanagi said. "It was at that playtest where we all concluded, 'Wow, this is amazing, and we have to make this happen.'"

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Also in the interview, Yanagi spoke about the technical challenges of bringing Overwatch to Switch (the game runs at 900p docked/720p undocked with 30FPS in both situations), what players can expect from the gyro-aiming feature, and how it would be rad for Overwatch characters to come to Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Yanagi also talked about Blizzard's relationship with Overwatch on Switch's developer, Iron Galaxy, which is the same studio that developed Diablo III's Switch version.

Outside of those topics, Yanagi also told GameSpot that Blizzard is thinking about how to potentially bring cross-play to Overwatch, though it sounds like it won't happen soon. "The truth is that implementing cross-play for Overwatch is more difficult than people realise," he said.

Finally, Yanagi spoke briefly about the possibility of Overwatch coming to mobile platforms down the road. You can read GameSpot's full interview below.

What was the reaction internally when you got Overwatch running on Switch? At what point did you decide you wanted to pursue it beyond an internal test? What convinced you?

Our team started discussions to bring Overwatch to the Nintendo Switch a little over a year ago as the Switch version of Diablo III was getting ready to launch. The developer, Iron Galaxy, did such an amazing job on the Diablo III port, and being huge fans of the Switch, we decided to reach out to them and go through the evaluation process of what it would take to bring Overwatch to the Switch.

Working closely with a set of developers on the Overwatch team, we eventually got to a first fully playable version of the game. The game was still in a buggy state and we had work to do on performance, but at the end of that playtest everyone had an excited look on their face. It was at that playtest where we all concluded, 'Wow, this is amazing, and we have to make this happen.”

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Will Overwatch for Switch have all the same heroes, maps, modes, and updates as the other versions?

That is absolutely our goal. We want to bring the authentic Overwatch experience to the Nintendo Switch. All 31 heroes, 28 maps, game modes, etc. will be on the Switch. The one caveat is we are not enabling Competitive Play until the start of Season 19. This will allow time for players to migrate into their natural skill bracket for more even matches.

What resolution and frame rate can players expect from Overwatch on Switch for docked versus tablet?

Resolution for this version is 900p docked and 720p undocked, with both running at 30 FPS.

What were some of the technical challenges of bringing the game to Switch, given the console's relatively lower power and feature profile compared to Xbox One, PS4, and most PCs.

We spent a lot of time working on getting performance to a solid place where players would feel like they were playing Overwatch. Most people think of graphics when talking about performance, but there are a lot of other systems like audio, physics, hero abilities, and animation that contribute to the overall frame rate. We spent a lot of effort profiling and optimising all those areas to make Overwatch perform smoothly on the Switch.

"The truth is that implementing cross-play for Overwatch is more difficult than people realise." -- Yanagi

Can you talk about your working relationship with the developer, Iron Galaxy? Why did you choose them and how involved is Blizzard in the game's production?

Iron Galaxy has been an awesome partner to work with on this project. They have a group of super talented developers with lots of Switch dev experience. Overwatch connects to many different systems like the game servers, Battle.net, and Nintendo servers, so we have a core group of Overwatch devs that were involved with the game’s development to help with those efforts.

Are you using the Nintendo Switch's dedicated app for voice chat?

All versions of Overwatch are using the same voice chat system that runs through Blizzard servers. If you have a headset with a microphone, you can just plug it into your Switch and start chatting.

Will the Nintendo Switch version have any exclusive content or Nintendo-themed content?

There’s nothing exclusive to the Nintendo Switch version. We want to keep the core features the same between all the versions of Overwatch, but I’ve seen some amazing fan art and movies produced by the community in the last few weeks.

The Switch version of Overwatch has gyro-aiming; can you talk about what this is and how it works? Will players using gyro aiming play against those with traditional inputs?

First of all, gyro-aiming is completely optional, but I think if you dedicate a couple of hours to learning it, you might find you prefer it. One way to use gyro-aiming is to primarily use the right stick to aim and slightly nudge your aim to get a more accurate shot. Most players will probably use this method. You can also use it in detached Joy-con mode, where you point the Joy-con at the screen like a laser pointer. In this mode, some players are able to crank up the sensitivity and get almost mouse like aim. I’m excited to see what really good players can achieve with this.

What are your thoughts on cross-play and cross-saves? With the Switch version, it seems like this could be particularly helpful for people to be able to play wherever they want.

Cross-play is something that would definitely be compelling for players, and as a player, I would love to see it happen. The truth is that implementing cross-play for Overwatch is more difficult than people realise. We are exploring how to bring this to Overwatch, but do not have anything to share at this time.

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With the Switch version, Overwatch is now a mobile game of sorts, but have you thought about adapting the game for smartphones and tablets, too?

Briefly, but my brain exploded when thinking about how to map all the controls to the touch screen. It sounds like a fun idea, but a very challenging one for Overwatch.

Now that Overwatch is coming to Switch, people will surely begin to speculate about Overwatch characters in Smash Bros. What do you think about that?

As a player and big fan of the game, I think that would be awesome. It would be an honour if Nintendo chose to bring one of our characters into Smash Bros.

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Overwatch launches for Nintendo Switch on October 15. The boxed version will include a download code for the game as well as a three-month subscription for the Nintendo Switch Online service. Those who pick up and log into the Switch version by December 31 will receive a Golden Loot Box that contains at least one guaranteed Legendary item.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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