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The team at PopCap ported its latest game, Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville, to the Nintendo Switch. And producer Melvin Teo talked with the How Games Make Money podcast to explain what that process is like. Challenges include getting the Frostbite Engine that powers the PVZ shooter to run on the Switch for the first time. Teo also talks about working with a porting studio and about his hopes for reaching a new audience on Switch. Listen to the interview on the player below.
Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville’s Switch plans started like a lot of other recent ports. The original developer had the platform in mind, but they didn’t focus on it for the initial release. We’ve seen companies do this repeatedly with games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 and Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. And Teo says that they were thinking about this game on Switch from the beginning.
“I mean we wanted to do this for a long time,” Teo told How Games Make Money host Jeff Grubb. “When we first started Battle for Neighborville, that was always the plan. But we never had the time or the opportunity, so we didn’t when we first launched it back in 2019. But yeah, then we spent the last year and a half bringing it over to the Switch and making sure that frostbite worked on the platform because we are the first-ever Frostbite title to be launched on the Nintendo Switch.”
For this port, the studio is primarily adjusting how the in-game economy works. The game is launching on Switch as a “Complete Edition,” which means all of the content is included in the game, so you don’t need to pay any additional cost for it. And that works online or offline. And PopCap made those changes with Switch players in mind.
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But the biggest challenge was getting Frostbite to run on Switch.
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The Switch is a significantly less powerful console than the hardware from Microsoft and Sony, but it’s also a sales beast. And it’s putting publishers like Electronic Arts into situations where they want to support the console, but their games often won’t run well on the slower mobile processors. This means it’s a lot of work to get something like Plants Vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville to run well on Switch.
“It was a massive technical undertaking,” said Teo. “I remember when we first started and we managed to get the game to boot up and run. And it hit like 2 or 3 frames per second. It was a slideshow, and we had a lot of work to do.
PopCap worked with porting studio QLOC SA. This is a support team that is known for its port work. Good examples of its work include the Switch ports of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen.
And together, QLOC and PopCap had to figure out ways to work around Switch’s hardware. In particular, the system’s measly 4GB of RAM is an especially challenging limitation. But the companies are happy with where they ended up.
“We made a lot of really smart engineering decisions and optimizations to make it run at a steady 30 frames per second without compromising the visual quality of the game,” said Teo. “The visual look and feel of the game is a big part of what gives you Battle for Neighborville — and PVZ in general — its charm and quality.”
And now everyone will get a chance to try Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville on Switch. The game launches March 19 on Switch for $40.
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