Call of Duty on Nintendo Switch only sets up players for disappointment

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
(Image credit: Activision)

Call of Duty games are coming to Nintendo Switch – and we don't mean remastered old-hat games from past consoles, but brand-new, top-of-the-line Call of Duty entries that will be releasing simultaneously on both the Switch and far more powerful home consoles. Is anyone else worried?

The news came on February 21 from Microsoft President Brad Smith, who tweeted that Nintendo had agreed to a "binding 10-year contract to bring Xbox games to Nintendo's gamers" – noticeably Activision's Call of Duty franchise, with "full feature and content parity" across Nintendo consoles. That means no shortcuts, no excuses, and nowhere to hide if the end result falls short.

While the announcement is light on details, it feels like a pretty strong warning shot to PlayStation, who could seriously suffer if Microsoft pulled Call of Duty from its direct rivals' consoles or made playing the franchise on Xbox and Switch too good a deal to pass up (cough, Game Pass, cough). Call of Duty is naturally a big money spinner for Activision, and in the wake of Microsoft's acquisition of the publisher – still pending approval from regulators – it's unsurprising that the company is looking for ways to leverage their new position in the industry.

But it's still somewhat shocking that next-gen Call of Duty games will be launching day 1 on the underpowered, if versatile Nintendo Switch – given the huge disparity in computing power between the Switch and its Xbox Series X / PS5 rivals. Getting a AAA shooter running on the Switch is a notable achievement – something that Bethesda, for example, has done pretty successfully with Doom Eternal or the Wolfenstein games. But there's no denying the tradeoffs of those ports, with reduced resolutions, worsened frame rates, and an overall lack of detail, thrill and vibrancy compared to the way these games play on souped-up home consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X.

We can only imagine that the Switch will rely on cloud technologies to offload that processing work, for example, something it doesn't exactly have a great reputation for. Cloud performance is hugely dependent on internet streaming speeds too, which limits the portability of the console, and is held back further by the graphical capability of the Switch's compact 720p screen. We've seen some streaming card solutions from third-party providers, but running a capable gaming PC in the background in order to stream to a nearby Switch doesn't seem like a workable or desirable solution for most.

The announcement of Call of Duty on Switch consoles will be exciting for some, but is simply unlikely to offer the experience that players expect from these massive, annual AAA games.

Switching for more

Warzone Fortune's Keep

(Image credit: Activision)

"The elephant in the room is, of course, the Switch 2..."

The elephant in the room is, of course, the Switch 2 – seemingly hinted at by a redacted CMA report earlier this week. We know a successor to the Nintendo Switch will be coming at some point, and it's likely to see a boost in power and capabilities – possibly support for 4K – even if the end result still lags behind the latest Xbox and PlayStation models. 

An improved Switch model coming in 2024 or beyond could be better placed to deliver the promises that Microsoft and Nintendo are currently making – though the kind of trigger-happy reflexes and impressive frame rates that really make a game of Call of Duty likely won't be recreated with much success on Nintendo's handheld. We likely won't see a new Call of Duty in action for a little while – while last year's Modern Warfare 2 is getting an expansion at the end of this year, we won't get Treyarch's next full title until some point in 2024. So there's time, and room, for new solutions or workarounds to emerge.

As ever, it will fall to players' whims, and whether they're content paying for a reduced version of their favorite FPS franchise on a compact handheld screen – likely at full price to boot. But no-one should expect an equivalent experience, or a real reason to jump from the PS5 to any Nintendo model. Not for a Call of Duty game, not anytime soon.

Here are the best Switch games you can play right now 

Freelance Writer

Henry St Leger is a freelance write who has written for sites including NBC News, The Times, Little White Lies, and Edge Magazine, alongside GamesRadar. Henry is a former staffer at our sister site TechRadar too, where started out as Home Technology Writer before moving up to Home Cinema Editor. Before he left to go full-time freelancer, he was News and Features Editor reporting on TVs, projectors, smart speakers and other technology.