Patch limitations raise another concern for third party games on Nintendo Switch

Posted June 26th, 2017 at 12:30 pm

It has now been over six weeks since NBA Playgrounds released and yet half the game is still missing. A patch to add online play originally promised for a few days after release remains in limbo. Meanwhile the other versions of Playgrounds on XB1, PS4, and PC have received multiple updates improving the game and adding other features. The president of development studio Saber Interactive has made comments on Facebook providing insight on why that is, and it appears Nintendo is at fault for extremely restrictive patch guidelines. 

Despite the patch that carries with it online functionality having long ago been completed Nintendo has refused to approve it and there is now no expectation for when that patch will go out. It’s fair to wonder if it will ever happen given the ongoing struggles.

There are certain elements of our patch that are absolutely essential but that are out of normal Nintendo guidelines. If Nintendo were to approve the patch it would be released immediately, but we are in the midst of a long process of back-and-forth to get small matters waived. It isn’t that we aren’t working on this. In fact, getting this relatively simple patch out has consumed more of our time than making further improvements in additions to the game. When I say it is entirely out of her hands I mean that.

There are certain size requirements that you can’t exceed in a patch. It took us almost 3 weeks to get an exception to allow our patch to be larger than the normal size. And the reason it is larger is due to the technology we are using and is beyond our control. In fact, we proposed reducing the entire file size of the game from seven gigs to 3 1/2 gigs but because the platform is so new it doesn’t support it now and that can’t be done.

What Saber Interactive can’t do is blame Nintendo for releasing a half-finished game. That falls on them alone and they should own the criticism that deservedly is being sent their way. However if Nintendo has placed unrealistic limits on patch sizes that is going to affect all games going forward and potentially add another point of inferiority when third party games are compared to their companions on the other consoles.

Consumers now expect sports games to be updated regularly throughout the year. The biggest games like Madden, FIFA, and NBA 2K are patched anywhere from 5-10 times over their lifespan. If developers are unable to produce the same type and quality of post-release content, whether it be fixing issues and making improvements or adding new features, that could contribute to irreparably damaging the viability of the genre on Switch.