EA has had an interesting relationship with Nintendo in recent years. The company was initially a very supportive of the Wii U and promised to bring a variety of games to the platform. Only four ended up being released in the span of less than a year, and one of those was a FIFA title. It didn’t make any exceptional use of the hardware and was eclipsed by the other versions of the game. Now, FIFA is making a big return to Nintendo with FIFA 18 on Switch, which is set to launch in just a few days alongside the other versions. However, Andrei Lazarescu, the game’s producer, wants to emphasize that the Switch version should not be compared to the others. Mr. Lazarescu was recently interviewed by GamesIndustry and had a lot to say about the Switch version of FIFA 18.
Lazarescu and the rest of the EA Bucharest team have created a custom version of FIFA 18 on Switch. Basically, it sits between that of the PS4/XBO/PC version and the PS3/360 version. It runs on its own custom engine that was built specifically for the Switch hardware and features the Ultimate Team mode. Most of the experience is there, but it lacks the Story mode which is found on the current-gen platforms due to that mode being built with the Frostbite engine, which the Switch currently doesn’t support. Despite that, Lazarescu emphasized that his team has created a “really quality product”.
“I’ve been encouraging people to play it because then they will realise that it’s a really quality product. Although I’ve talked about it, and that team has talked about it, people see us as being biased. So hey, try it, and everyone who tries it says… ‘OK, I’m going to get this.’ We need people to get their hands on it. That’s the frustrating thing about it. I wouldn’t put this against the PS4 or Xbox One version, or vice versa, I would look at them as two individual football games. This one’s biggest advantage is that you can play it on the go.”
Mr. Lazarescu noted that the development team felt pressure over delivering a decent FIFA experience on Switch due to past releases on Nintendo platforms being less advanced than the other systems:
“This is the first FIFA I’ve made for a Nintendo platform, so I’m not in a position to speak about what has happened in the past.
People were saying we’ve never been able to pull FIFA off on Nintendo. Even the team was feeling the pressure from past years. But once they saw the plan and we decided what the game should be, we all rallied around that goal.”
But what I can say, is that for this one, before we started, we looked at what the platform is, what its audience is, and we looked at our own game and asked ourselves: What do we actually want to make? How do we want to make people feel? What we came up with was things like ‘fun’, ‘responsiveness’, ‘fluid’… things like that.”
He went on to explain why the Switch version doesn’t use the Frostbite engine, saying that it would have to be “dumbed down” to run on Switch and the team didn’t want to do that. That’s why it was decided to create a custom engine; it’s more advanced than the Ignite engine on PS3/360 but not as advanced as Frostbite on PS4, XBO and PC. Despite this, Lazarescu mentioned that the Switch version has ended up “very close to our ideal vision.”
Another thing Lazarescu mentioned was that the team sees FIFA 18 on Switch in its current state as a “foundation”. He did not promise if more will be added to it, noting that it all depends on how the game performs sales wise. If the team and EA see good sales, then there’s a high chance that development will be pushed harder. EA in particular is using FIFA 18 on Switch to decide whether or not it will truly support the platform in the long run. It will certainly be interesting to see how things turn out.