Microsoft CEO Brad Smith has made a short statement that seeks to address some doubts fans may have had about the deal his company just made with Nintendo.
Yesterday, Brad revealed that Microsoft signed a ten year deal with Nintendo, to bring Call of Duty games to their platforms to the next ten years. This deal did not extend to other Microsoft owned games. However, it served as the latest sign of an ongoing relationship that the two companies have had, since Microsoft purchased Nintendo’s former development partner, Rare.
Today, in a press conference in Brussels following a closed hearing with the EU regulators, Brad made this statement about Call of Duty going multiplatform, as covered by Christopher Dring of Games Industry Biz:
“Smith is talking about multi-platform gaming, and the fact Call of Duty needs to run well on all consoles, including Nintendo Switch.”
Nintendo’s modern relationship with Microsoft is best traced back to 2015, when they published Minecraft to Nintendo’s Wii U and New Nintendo 3DS platforms. In the past few years, Microsoft has also published Cuphead, Ori and the Blind Forest, and New Super Lucky’s Tale to the Switch. In turn, Nintendo and Microsoft seem to have a mutual agreement when it comes to Rare games. Although this deal isn’t publicly known, we have seen some interesting game releases because of it.
For example, in the Wii U Virtual Console rerelease of Donkey Kong 64 in 2015, Jetpac, a British microcomputer game made by Rare when they were still called Ultimate Play The Game, was included as part of the game. Players needed to play Jetpac to finish Donkey Kong 64. In turn, Rare Replay includes many Nintendo 64 versions of Rare’s own games. Rare Replay and the games on it are not available on Nintendo Switch, though they have been published to the Xbox One.
Most recently, Goldeneye 007 saw a rerelease, which involved Microsoft, Nintendo, and Rare. Nintendo’s version of this rerelease is part of the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack subscription service. Xbox owners, on the other hand, got this game for free as a part of Rare Replay.
Brad’s commitment for Call of Duty games on Nintendo platforms would be more significant than that Activision have historically made for Nintendo themselves.
Call of Duty debuted on GameCube with 2004’s Call of Duty: Finest Hour, alongside the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. This and Call of Duty 2: Big Red One the next year would be the only Call of Duty games where Nintendo had parity with their competitors because the GameCube was approximately at the same hardware generation as the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox.
Through the seventh generation, Call of Duty made sporadic appearances on Wii, but has a surprisingly rich library on DS, as Activision genuinely attempted to bring their military shooter experience to the touchscreen handheld.
That relationship soured on the Wii U, with Call of Duty Ghosts on 2013 being the last game seen from the franchise on a Nintendo platform.
Brad’s commitment that Call of Duty games run well on Nintendo’s platforms might have been harder to fulfill on the Wii or Wii U, but not as much on the Switch. Nintendo’s current console punches well above its weight, seeing ports of games like The Witcher 3, No Man’s Sky, Nier Automata, and Doom Eternal. The reason this is possible at all is Nintendo’s adoption of Nvidia’s chips for the Switch. This also means that the Switch can utilize many of the same technologies used to ease ports of video games between the PC, PlayStation, and Xbox.
Given how well Nvidia’s tech has worked out for Nintendo, it’s likely that they will continue to work with them for the Switch’s successor, or at least find other partners that can provide the same or better.
What’s really important here is Brad making the commitment in the first place. That means that Microsoft will spend more to make sure that those Nintendo versions of Call of Duty games get made, and if they aren’t as good as other versions, they will still be worth buying for Nintendo fans. Hopefully they won’t just be cloud versions of those games. For what it’s worth, tying Call of Duty cloud versions to Nintendo’s Switch Online Expansion Pass would not be a bad idea at all.