The Porting Disaster? – Video Games In The Modern Age

Video game ports, a topic of major discussion in the world of gaming. An in-depth discussion about major topics and an answer to the big question: to port or not to port?

October 21, 2019

Video games are being ported from system to system, have companies lost their creativity or is this simply a process that is benefiting the players?

Ethan Prosser

Video games are being ported from system to system, have companies lost their creativity or is this simply a process that is benefiting the players?

Consoles – there are tons on the market currently. Xbox One. Nintendo Switch. PlayStation 4 (PS4). The likelihood of a consumer having at least one of these systems at home is highly possible in the modern age of video games. Entertainment companies survive on the idea that their game will sell for money in a wide and diverse market. 


In the Entertainment business, it is common for companies to port their popular games to other game consoling systems. Porting allows businesses to retain their audience when new gaming systems are released since players can continue to play their games on a new console.


A “Port” is the process of porting a game from one system to another, products of these processes are called ports or multi-system games. Some famous examples of these are: “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” “Cuphead” and “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.” However, a game remake and port are not the same. Ports reformat games for newer gaming systems, while game remakes are modern adaptations of previous versions of a video game to cater to both new gaming consoles and younger audiences.


A console with backwards compatibility – the ability to play games from other consoles – is becoming rarer nowadays, which makes porting the only option to make games available to all players. 


The companies who have been avoiding the porting of their major games onto platforms such as the Nintendo Switch, one of the biggest platforms for ports due to its portable nature, are most famously 2K Games, EA, and Rockstar Games. Most famous of these companies being EA with their famous quote from CEO Andrew Wilson’s earning’s report, “We have a lot of data that would suggest a great many Switch owners also [own] a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One or a PC and very often choose to play the games that we make on those platforms even though they have a Switch and they enjoy a lot of great content on the Switch.” 


Wilson’s comment brought about a lot of controversy around the topic as his claims are partially true, many Switch owners do own a PS4 or Xbox One. However, due to the massive successes that games such as “Fortnite” or “Hollow Knight” have been seeing on the Nintendo Switch, both hitting the top-selling games list for over a month once ported to Switch. Many gamers have been quick to argue with Wilson about his stance. 


While there may be evidence that the public is unaware of to support his claims, it is also a response that alienates many fans of the company, which has been under fire due to many unpopular decisions as of late: Is it better for them to not port over their titles? The answer is simply no! Some fans and customers are being alienated from EA’s franchises such as “Star Wars Battlefront” or “FIFA” due to their inability to purchase on a Switch. EA would not be losing much money either as it is quite affordable to port games onto the newest platform, but it represents an issue that will likely be unresolved for years to come. 


The Switch also had its fair share of controversy surrounding game ports. When the system was first announced, many fans were excited to see that Nintendo was fully incorporating third-party support. However, after about three months of announcements, many fans began to notice that many games that were being announced for the Switch were either ports from other major systems or deluxe enhancements from the Wii U, Nintendo’s previous console. 


At the time, this proved to be a divisive topic, where many were claiming that Nintendo was simply running out of ideas, others were delighted to see new life being given to games that were released on the underselling system. Titles such as “Mario Kart 8,” “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze” and “Captain Toad” have been given amazing remasters on the Switch with updated graphics and new content.


Unfortunately, this left the switch with few major exclusive titles at launch with even its best-seller “Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” is a semi-port. Moreover, the game was originally designed for the Wii U, but since the Switch’s release was near the timeframe, it was re-optimized to work for both platforms and was given a simultaneous release on both the Wii U and Nintendo Switch. This problem was not exclusive to the Switch either. Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 were notorious for not having the biggest game rosters at launch as they both had more game ports than original games.


Luckily for gamers today, companies have caught up with the demand for exclusive and modern content for their new systems. The recently announced Project Scarlett will be launching with Halo Infinite, a game designed for new hardware but will still be playable on Xbox One hardware as to not alienate those who have been waiting. 


Ethan Prosser
Fan-favorite “Cuphead” is joining the Nintendo Switch’s library after having originally been an Xbox One exclusive.

The Independent Developer (Indie) scene has stepped up in terms of the porting department. Developers Team Cherry and Playtonic Games have been porting their games “Hollow Knight” and “Yooka-Laylee” to almost every system. Quite possibly the most famous of these Indie ports is “Cuphead,” a game which was released as an exclusive for Xbox One, but has now been released on Nintendo Switch, Mac, PC and Tesla. 


Developers have been embracing porting games more and more, remastering old classics in bundles like “Crash Bandicoot N’ Sane Trilogy” has allowed gamers to experience games that they may have missed, or been uninterested in, while paying a smaller amount for a greater package.


While some have referred to the aspect of porting games as a laziness of the gaming industry, others have praised the industry for bringing games to new platforms. This expands the gaming audience and gives more people the opportunity for some amazing experiences. The “Porting Disaster” is more of a “Porting Renaissance,” bringing games old and new to all sorts of platforms.


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