Bethesda: only tech specs were holding back past Nintendo support, kept Switch in mind for Doom’s development, more
Bethesda’s Pete Hines had quite a few interesting things to say about Switch during a panel at PAX Aus 2018 last week. We already heard Hines mentioning that the company is considering the console for its games in almost every case, but he actually had much more to say about Nintendo’s platform.
Hines first spoke about Switch support in general and why the publisher has been putting as many games as it has on the platform thus far. The big takeaway is that the primary reason for the lack of Bethesda support on Nintendo platforms in the past was simply due to tech specs. For Switch, what the system is capable matched up fairly well with what Bethesda is doing and the developers have allowed for these games to happen.
Hines shared the following:
“So we did get to see a pretty early prototype of the Switch sometime before they announced it and I think from them we were pretty well sold on the idea. For one thing, we couldn’t have a platform without Skyrim on it, so… but myself and Todd Howard and Todd Vaughn and a few other folks in the company saw it and they had some rough demos.
But I mean, for us we’re all gamers for life. I’ve been playing since I was 12 or 10 or whatever it was and the idea, like I remember having a SEGA Nomad for a period of time back in the early days of my career at other places and the idea of having games on the go, being able to play a SEGA Genesis game on a plane with the massive battery pack that I had to have on the back to give it another hour charge.
So the idea of being able to take something like what we did, looking at the tech specs, and going, ‘That’s actually really close to like what we kind of do now.’ That was always the big barrier for us with Nintendo stuff. It wasn’t that we didn’t like the Wii or we don’t like this, it was just this is the stuff that we make, and as many things as will run that, we’ll do it. So as we looked at the specs, we started looking at games like Skyrim and Doom and Wolfenstein, and we were fortunate enough to either have really talented devs who were also very keen on making it which I think is important or finding a great partner in Panic Button who had the ability to take what we were doing and say, ‘Yeah we can make that happen on a Switch.’
And we just think it’s a really cool piece of tech… Nintendo still does really well with Nintendo things. Don’t get me wrong. Everybody else is a distant second, but you can still be in really good shape being a distant second on the Switch because so many people are buying it and playing it, and so again, they’ve been great partners with us, they’ve been very enthusiastic. And we’re very enthusiastic. Again to my point, that’s a whole audience that really doesn’t know us very well in terms of games on their platforms, so the chance to bring what it is we do to them has been awesome and fun and rewarding and we’re going to keep doing it.”
Later during the panel, Hines revealed that as id Tech 6 was in the works alongside Doom 2016, the team kept Switch in mind during development so that a port would be possible. This has also paved the way for the Wolfenstein games on the platform as well as the upcoming Doom Eternal.
“The benefit for us was that id Tech 6 was really built and we knew about the Switch during the development of Doom 2016, so they were able to make some choices to make sure that it was scalable so that it would sort of not be too far out of line with what the Switch was doing. The benefit there was that it allowed both Doom 2016 to happen on the Switch as well as Wolfenstein: The New Colossus, because that was built off of the tech that ran Doom 2016 so that was sort of a two for one there, and that’s also why the next Wolfenstein is gonna be out on Switch as well and that’s why Doom Eternal was announced. In that case not just as a port, but as something that for the first time we’re building a game from scratch that really has the Switch in mind. That was honestly… that tech allowed us to do a lot of things across two different franchises. I don’t know how the hell they made Skyrim run on the Switch, but they did it. It looks great, it’s fun. I have played more Skyrim than a lot of people, but I still play it on my Switch because it turns out it’s pretty cool to be sitting on a plane and fighting a dragon.”
Hines later added the following when asked about what discussions with Nintendo were like given that Bethesda’s games mainly target a mature audience:
“Well I can tell you one of the first things they said was, ‘Hey, do you have anything where there’s not a lot of blood and violence? Because there’s a lot of blood and violence.’ And we were like, ‘Yeah, there’s this (Fallout) Shelter thing, it’s cute and cartoony – we’ll do that too.’ But our belief – and it has been proven out in discussions with them as recently as… either last week or the week before – they came out and we caught up with them and in terms of their demographics, getting older. Guys like us are still playing games and playing stuff on Switch, so their stuff has traditionally skewed pretty young, but you can start to seeing that curve moving up, 18 to 24. I’m really close to that 50 and up bracket and like it used to be that there were no people in that age range for Nintendo devices, and now there is, and it turns out there’s a pretty good number and those folks are looking to play games. So having stuff that’s more mature both serves them really well and helps us continue to serve an audience that’s looking for games, that has disposable income, that says, ‘OK, I’ve played Zelda, I’ve played Super Mario World, what else is there for me to do?'”
As a couple of other tidbits, Hines said Bethesda’s games have been doing well and the company has talked with Nintendo a lot about eShop discoverability. The Big N didn’t really have an answer when it comes to promoting free-to-play games like Fallout Shelter, so there have been many discussions in that area.
Finally, Hines shared an interesting note on ports, remasters, and remakes. He acknowledged fan interest in things like Fallout 3 on Switch, but indicated that these types of projects are unlikely. That’s because it takes a lot of work to get older games working on new platforms, and teams are better off (and more interested in) focusing on new games instead of working with past releases.
We’ll have more coverage from Eric’s appearance at PAX Aus over the next couple of weeks, including several exclusive interviews. For those who missed it, we have off-screen footage of New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe on Switch here.