Over the holiday season we’ll be republishing a series of Nintendo Life articles, interviews and other features from the previous twelve months that we consider to be our Best of 2020. Hopefully, this will give you a chance to catch up on pieces you missed, or simply enjoy looking back on a year which did have some highlights — honest!
This interview was originally published in January 2020.
Against all the odds, Nintendo Switch has hosted some stunning third-party ports since launching back in 2017. Disproving the idea that third-parties and Nintendo platforms don’t mix well, Switch has attracted some truly excellent (and unexpected) games that manage to squeeze performance from the console’s modest mobile chipset that few believed was possible. Where there’s a will there’s a way, it seems, and a handful of porting houses have worked wonders on Nintendo’s hybrid handheld.
One of those developers is Feral Interactive, the studio responsible for bringing both GRID Autosport and Alien: Isolation to Switch. Both games are masterclasses in porting to the console and, incredibly, they represent the first two games the developer has brought to any dedicated home console since the London-based company was founded in 1996.
“Feral began with the aim of bringing AAA games to the Macintosh platform and we built up a lot of experience doing just that,” says Edwin Smith, Feral Interactive’s Head of Design. “Over the last several years we have extended our activities to include Linux, iOS, Android and most recently Switch. We started working with Switch because it seemed capable of handling some of the games that we had brought to other platforms.”
Given Feral’s history of quality port work on other platforms, it’s unsurprising that the end results on Nintendo’s console have been impressive. While there are benefits to working on a specific device, each one has its specific drawbacks, too. “Having a single piece of hardware to target simplifies the development and QA tasks, all other things being equal,” Smith explains. “Having said that, all other things are rarely equal…the Switch CPU is not as powerful as most recent mobile handsets so you have to eke out of it all the performance you can and that means lots of performance analysis and optimisation, and that takes time and effort.”