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Digital Foundry examines The Witcher 3 on Nintendo Switch


The definitive verdict is in for The Witcher 3 on the Nintendo Switch from Digital Foundry. It was always going to be an interesting read as the game was one of those titles that many thought would be completely unplayable running on the Nintendo Switch. Thankfully, this doesn’t seem to be the case. While there are huge compromises to get the game up and running on Nintendo’s latest system the team at Digital Foundry state that “Overall, Saber and CDPR hit an impressive bar of quality here. Clearly, performance can vary, but on balance it holds 30ps more often than I expected. The Witcher 3 Complete Edition pruned back everything it can to be playable, while still somehow retaining a lot of its best visual features. Graphical points like reflections, light shafts, water physics, and even a high NPC count are incredible to see on a handheld.” Here’s a summary of what can be found via Reset Era members chandoog and alr1ght:


720p is the highest we’ve seen the game render at while docked, dropping to 960×540 in our tests at lowest, seen while panning past the city in Toussaint.


Handheld play works the same way as docked – a dynamic pixel count that adjusts based on load. Here Switch uses 960×540 as the top number, but drops steeply where it needs to. Pick a busy street in Novigrad for example, and the lowest reading comes in at just 810×456

NPCs are drawn at half frame rate at distance:

their draw distance is compromised on Switch, but the rendering range on NPCs is generous enough to cram everyone in. The only snag is that the frame-rate on characters is halved towards the distance.

Pop in issues:

Beyond the inevitable blurriness, there are further downsides. The first is pop-in; often it’s well-handled, but Switch has limits in how quickly it can draw everything in. The big trouble spot is cut-scenes; fast camera cuts overwhelm the system, and the way geometry flickers in and out can be pretty glaring. Detail-rich areas such as Novigrad can also push the streaming systems hard, resulting in pop-in that varies on repeat tests.

Textures, filtering and sound quality also take a hit:

The Witcher 3’s drive for compression also has an impact beyond FMV quality. Textures and sound also take a hit. Texture assets and filtering are of a notably lower quality, where a form of trilinear filtering is used which adds to the generally blurry look

Foliage density compared to PS4:

There are few surprises in terms of console comparisons. Beyond the resolution drop, shadows, textures, and LODs are altered. Panning around the outskirts of Novigrad, foliage density is pruned back significantly. It’s all reined in, creating a generally less filled out world – at a distance anyway – on Switch. It’s amazing what’s achieved on a smaller, less powerful system, but the trade-off to make it happen can’t be overlooked.

Docked performance:

And while there are some notable dips, the bulk of the time in areas like Velen – at least outside towns – delivers a mostly solid 30fps. Docked play is solid, but dense areas like Novigrad will see performance drop to something closer to 20fps.

Portable performance:

Portable play is similar, but not quite as robust overall. Once again, we’re looking at 30fps, but when taxed in stress points it’ll go into the 20s
  • 720p max, 540p lowest
  • 30fps with drops
  • Settings lower than PC low, select animations missing
  • 720p cutscenes, with compression artifacts
  • Pop-in more noticeable than PS4 (cutscenes most problematic)
  • Textures, sound, LODs (foliage) pared back/compressed
  • Water rendering looks good
  • NPC count is similar to PS4
  • AO, light shafts, motion blur (can be toggled), AA
  • Grass doesn’t animateHandheld
  • 540p max, 810×456 lowest
  • 30fps with drops, more drops than docked


5 thoughts on “Digital Foundry examines The Witcher 3 on Nintendo Switch”

  1. It’s an incredible achievement none the less.
    I will be getting this for sure and it’ll be one of the top switch games to own.
    AND they’ve crammed it all into one cart. Brilliant!

  2. I think I remember someone from CD Project Red said something like “resolution is just a number” when people talked about the Xbox and PS4 version of Witcher 3… and then you get this kind of articles all over the Net xD

  3. I can finally finish the game without waiting to get home from work. Here is another review of the game on switch if you want more info. GOTY

  4. Just watched a comparison video of skyrim running on PS4, PC and Switch and there are quite similar cuts made in the environment. But after 200 hours of Skyrim on the Switch I can claim it never looked bad at all. Actually I many, many times got surprised how great some areas of that game still hold up and didn’t really care if they would look even better on other hardware.

    With the Wicther it might be a bit diffferent as it’s also the resolution that sees cuts but I am pretty confident that it’s going to be way better when playing the actual game than watching YT videos.

    Still have to finish Skyrim’s main campaign (2 years weren’t long enough for that lol) but then I’m gonna get this.

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