Cloud games for Nintendo Switch have big problems

Cloud games for Nintendo Switch have big problems

How is cloud gaming on Nintendo Switch? The upcoming Kingdom Hearts games for Switch, which include 1.5, 2.5 and the most recent Kingdom Hearts 3, will be available exclusively in the cloud on the Nintendo platform.

Square Enix is ​​asking $ 90 for the entire collection or $ 50 for a single title. Will the graphics quality and input lag be good enough for this solution to work? And will this approach be suitable for playing on a portable console?

Kingdom Hearts game demos are available on eShop, along with those of other games that can also be used exclusively on the cloud such as Control, Guardians of the Galaxy and Hitman 3. We have tested them all and the results are shaky, for say no worse.

First of all, the fact that demos are available on eShop is to be commended: it implies that all of you have a chance to see how these games work on Switch based on your internet connection. Everyone can then run our own tests, the only limitation is that there is a counter of 15 minutes per game per user.

The cloud infrastructure is provided by a company called Ubitus, so essentially they look like PC versions modified and run on remote servers. Control inputs are sent from the Switch console to the cloud, processed, and game images compressed and sent back to the console.

In an ideal world, all these games would have received their respective ports on the Switch, but technically very advanced titles would not be possible on the Nintendo console, even with heavy compromises. In practice, therefore, for advanced titles such as Guardians of the Galaxy, streaming would be the only possible solution to have a playable result. This situation is particularly evident with Control, which thanks to this solution makes ray tracing possible also on Switch.

DF's Tom Morgan and John Linneman share their respective experiences on the ever-growing library of cloud-based Switch titles.

Watch on YouTube. Together with John Linneman we tested these titles individually. I used a 65Mbit BT fiber connection together with the shared mega-band line at Eurogamer HQ. John used his 100Mbit home connection instead. Based on what we've seen from the video captures taken from the system in a docked configuration, Switch titles run at native resolution and 720p video streaming (except for Hitman 3 which appears to arrive at native 1080p resolution but downscaled to 720p before being sent back to the console. via the internet).

The bandwidth seems to be limited as macro blocks are seen in high color saturation scenes and very fast scenes, and therefore the unconvincing visual result when using a large living room screen. Kingdom Hearts 3 particularly suffers in these situations.

What about input lag? It seems variable from game to game, but overall it's acceptable. Testing Control on the physical hardware of a PC we have an average of 93.2 (decidedly and unusually high), while on Switch via the cloud it can reach 149.7 in performance mode with unlocked frame-rate. And this with a wired ehthernet connection. Unfortunately, the Nintendo Switch's Wi-Fi module isn't very good, especially for a cloud gaming system. In fact, playing in Wi-Fi adds 30-35ms of input lag.

At this point we arrive at a total latency that is around 200ms, which is comparable to that of the Kinect. And here one of the main limits of this concept jumps out: Switch is a console designed for mobile gaming and extending its use to cloud gaming has a significant impact on the quality of the experience.

In the video attached to this page you will see Richard and John sharing their experiences with each title, but here are the conclusions:

Kingdom Hearts 3 runs at 720p and 60fps locked. His particular art style and heavy use of saturated colors do a bit of a fight with video enconding: compression seems very poor. Kingdom Hearts 1.5 and 2.5 Remix are such old and technically simple games that there would be no need to use the cloud. Switch is expected to run these titles on its native resolution hardware and 60fps. Incredibly, however, the streaming cloud versions run at 720p30. Guardians of the Galaxy is a truly resource-intensive game that can only run on the Switch via the cloud. But there are still technical elements off course, and the game runs at 720p30. Hitman 3 has two modes but it's not totally clear what changes between the two. Both appear to operate at variable resolution and a target frame-rate of 30fps. Every game tested that is capped at 30fps exhibits erratic frame-pacing. The appearance is therefore not tempting and according to these demos, the Kingdom Hearts collection is the one that presents the biggest problems. Control, on the other hand, is not too bad: there are quality and performance modes just like on other consoles, and while the 720p30 quality mode has frame-pacing issues like other titles with a 30 hunger-rate cap, it's nice to see that there is. is ray tracing. The performance mode runs at 720p60 and is interesting too, except that the frame-rate is lower than we would have expected.

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There is a lot of data to analyze here, but what is evident is that although the latency is comparable to that than other streaming-based systems, the image quality is below expectations. The quality of video encoding needs to be increased, as do the performance of 60fps games and frame-pacing for 30fps ones. If publishers want to make these versions of cloud games palatable, they should enable 1080p60 gaming via streaming to begin with. The cloud cannot match local gaming, but it can increase graphics quality and performance.

This system must be acknowledged: thanks to it, it is possible to play games on the Switch that otherwise could not run on the console. but even moving beyond image quality and latency, there are major problems with this concept. First of all, the fact that less than flawless experiences are being sold at a high price.

After that, a system like Switch that makes portability its strong point, loses it completely when to enjoy these cloud experiences you have to use a home connection in fiber via Wi-Fi or cable. We tried a couple of 4G cellular titles and the results were tragic.

Ultimately, the market will sanction the success or failure of these cloud titles for Switch which are certainly usable but not advisable from our point of view. The good thing is that demos are available to everyone so you can try if they fit your connections and needs.

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