Capcom will give Japanese Switch owners a chance to play last year’s Resident Evil 7 on the Switch later this week. But the port will only be playable as an online stream running on Capcom’s own servers, rather than a downloaded version that would run directly on the Switch’s relatively low-powered hardware.
On May 24, Biohazard 7: Cloud Edition will be offered to Japanese consumers as a 15-minute free trial and a 180-day, ¥2,000 (about $18) streaming “play ticket,” according to a trailer posted by Nintendo Everything. The 45MB download includes streaming access to all of the game’s DLC but not the English-language translation, so most Westerners shouldn’t even bother trying to play from across the ocean.
Earlier this month, Sega’s Japanese Switch port of Phantasy Star Online 2 used a similar cloud server structure to stream gameplay to the system. This seems to be the first time an exclusively single-player game is being streamed to the Switch rather than ported as a direct download, though. There have also been cloud-powered versions of Final Fantasy XIII and Dragon Quest X for Japanese smartphones in recent years.
From the outside, it seems a little odd to require a low-latency, high-speed Wi-Fi connection to play an old single-player game on a console that’s at least partially portable. The existence of playable Switch ports for the likes of the 2016 Doom reboot and Bayonetta 2 also suggest that some sort of direct port of Resident Evil 7 would have probably been possible on the Switch (especially considering the game was already designed to run at lower graphical detail and resolution on PlayStation VR).
But such a port would have required time and programming resources that Capcom might not have been willing to spare. With cloud streaming, on the other hand, getting the game onto the Switch is likely just a matter of setting up some servers to run the existing PC version, then writing a simple client to stream inputs and video/audio to and from the Switch. Streaming to the Switch means not having to compromise on graphical detail, but it could lead to stuttering and frame rate issues if the Internet connection isn’t absolutely solid.
While there are yet no signs Nintendo is interested in following in Sony’s PlayStation Now footsteps for an institutional, system-level game streaming solution, that isn’t stopping other Japanese game makers from trying it out. If Capcom’s Japanese experiment catches on, it could prove the worth of streaming as a relatively easy way to get graphically intensive games playable for the 18+ million people who own the Switch’s relatively low-powered hardware (or at least for the subset who have high-quality Internet connections).
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