(Pocket-lint) - The Nintendo Switch is a unique games console that can be used both at home on a TV and on your travels thanks to its built-in display. However, portability comes at a cost - its mobile tech isn't quite as powerful as the hardware found in other games machines, not least the Xbox Series X/S and PS5.
That has resulted in some big name games exhibiting compromises when ported across, with many others not being released on the format at all.
Here we explain how it works and what "Cloud Version" games you can currently buy.
What is Nintendo Cloud Streaming?
Nintendo's Cloud Streaming service enables full games to run on Switch hardware in the same quality as other platforms without needing the same levels of CPU or GPU processing power. That's because, as with other cloud services including Microsoft's xCloud and Google Stadia, the game does not install on the console locally. It is instead stored on a local game server and streamed to the Switch over the internet.
The video of the game is streamed to the Switch, while control movements and button presses are sent in the opposite direction. The end result is that the game seems to play in real-time on the Switch, with low latency, but can be run from a machine with more advanced hardware.
But, unlike Stadia and other cloud gaming services, Nintendo's system is on a game-by-game basis. You do not sign up for a specific account (other than your existing Nintendo account) and simply purchase "Cloud Version" games individually from the eShop - as you would any other Switch game.
What games are Cloud Versions?
There are currently four Cloud Version games available:
- Assassin's Creed Odyssey (Japan-only)
- Hitman 3 (from 20 January 2021)
- Resident Evil 7 Biohazrd (Japan-only)
What are the pros and cons of Cloud Streaming?
The benefit of offering a game via Cloud Streaming is obvious. As it runs on hardware with more powerful processing and memory bandwidth, it looks and plays just like the same game running on a PC or higher spec'ed games console.
Another bonus is that a game does not need to be downloaded in full, so you only need to store a tiny file on your Switch to play it. Plus, the file is free to download, with a trial of each game available before you need to shell out for the full version.
The main downside is that you will only be able to play the game when you are connected to stable, high-speed internet. That means it will not be able to be played when you are on a Tube train, for example.
Some mobile data connections will be fine, but quality and availability may be hampered by a poor signal.
Also, as this is a game being played over the cloud, you may find a slight lag between pressing a button or direction and the corresponding action happening on screen. This is likely to be almost imperceptible, however.
Do you need to be a Nintendo Switch Online member?
You do not need membership to Nintendo Switch Online to stream a Cloud Version game, but may need a subscription if the game has online features - such as multiplayer.
You can find out more details on Nintendo's support pages here.