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Fortnite on the Switch is good enough to make Sony’s cross-play policy look even more stupid

Sony is blocking PS4 Fortnite players from transferring progress to the new Switch version — and it may backfire.

Part of The best of E3 2018

Fortnite Battle Royale is out now for the Switch, and while it’s obviously a big deal for Nintendo to secure a port of one of the biggest games in the world, Fortnite would be a great showcase for the hybrid console’s versatility no matter what. Epic’s Fortnite strategy has involved putting the game on every system possible, letting players share progress and items across each platform. The Switch version won’t be your best option most of the time, no, but its very existence makes it possible to play the game in even more situations.

Well, unless you’ve been playing Fortnite on PS4, that is.

In handheld mode, Fortnite on the Switch looks roughly similar to the iOS version running on a recent iPhone, except the screen is bigger and lower resolution. Performance is a little smoother on the Switch, or at least more consistent at maintaining 30 frames per second. Most importantly, of course, it’s a portable version of Fortnite that can be played with proper sticks and buttons rather than a touchscreen. The Joy-Con controllers aren’t the most comfortable, and it’d be nice if Epic would add support for gyro aiming like in Splatoon 2 and Doom, but it’s still a much better experience than you get with a phone or a tablet.

Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

The Switch feels like a completely new way to play Fortnite, at least in handheld mode. It’s the exact same game under the graphical downgrades, and it still looks pretty good on the portable screen. Fortnite’s cartoony, colorful art style goes a long way to flatter technical deficiencies. But with the Switch, you can play full-on Fortnite with proper controls anywhere you have internet access. Epic is even offering party chat through the headphone jack rather than Nintendo's convoluted app-based solution, though that's not coming until an update on Thursday.

I wouldn’t recommend playing it on your TV unless you don’t have another option, however. Fortnite looks vastly better on my Xbox One S, running at 60 frames per second with much more detailed graphics and longer draw distances. The Switch version is fine if it’s your first time playing Fortnite, but just know that a large TV screen will only blow up all its deficiencies.

The great thing about Fortnite, though, is that you don't have to play this version on your TV if you have a better way. The battle royale game is free, first of all, meaning there’s no reason not to install it on multiple systems, but, more importantly, your progress carries over. Fortnite Battle Royale is all about completing challenges and leveling up to unlock tiers of rewards across each season, which means you can contribute to your progress and use all the same hard-earned items with the Switch version when you’re away from home, even if you usually play on PC, for example.

Fortnite on Nintendo Switch error (screen render). Original photo by James Bareham / The Verge

The one caveat to all of this is that you can’t transfer progress to the Switch if you’ve ever used your Epic account with the PS4 version; Sony allows compatibility with PC and mobile but blocks the functionality for competing consoles. That sucks, frankly, because the PS4 is a big reason that Fortnite took off in the first place, and it means a lot of people won’t be able to play it on the Switch without creating a new account and surrendering their play histories and loot lockers — and the money spent along the way. Fortnite Battle Royale came out at the height of PUBG mania on PC, offering a free alternative with a console version at a time when PUBG had been announced for Xbox, and the PS4's large user base was quick to adopt it. This is going to affect a ton of PS4 owners who've also picked up a Switch.

This will drive people away from ‘Fortnite’ on PlayStation

Blocking Xbox compatibility is at least somewhat understandable from a business perspective, as the two consoles directly compete and Sony is in the stronger position. You can see why Sony would want to stop people switching from PS4 to the technically superior Xbox One X version, for example, annoying as it may be for the comparatively few people who own both consoles. But blocking the Switch is short-sighted and dumb. The Switch version of Fortnite doesn’t compete with the PS4 version any more than the iOS version does. If you have a PS4, you wouldn’t want to play the Switch version on your TV. From a PS4 owner’s perspective, the sole value of the Switch version is that it allows you to play Fortnite in situations that Sony's console isn’t able to serve. Is Sony really that worried about people buying V-Bucks in an airport?

All this is going to achieve is driving people away from Fortnite on PlayStation. Take me, for example: I only recently started playing the game. (Late to the party, I know.) I have a PS4 Pro and an Xbox One S, and ideally, I’d play Fortnite on the former system because I’d get better performance. Instead, I’d much rather go with the Xbox for couch play so that I also have the Switch option for whenever I’m outside of the house. That means Sony will miss out on its cut of any microtransactions I might want to make, even though as a platform I use PlayStation more than Xbox.

The bottom line is this: if you’re looking to get into Fortnite today, I can’t recommend the PS4 version unless you’re absolutely sure you’ll never want to play it on another console. Tying your Epic account to a PS4 means you won't ever be able to play non-touch Fortnite in your bed, on your roof, or in a tent on the side of a mountain with a Wi-Fi hot spot. Is that a trade-off you really want to make?

The best of E3 2018

  • Microsoft Xbox E3 2018 press conference 11

    • Microsoft is building a game streaming service and new Xbox consoles
    • Microsoft teases Halo Infinite for Xbox One and Windows 10
    • Gears 5 launches next year on Xbox One and PC
    • Gears of War is getting a Funko Pop-themed mobile spinoff
    • Cyberpunk 2077 looks incredible
    • See the first gameplay for Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, from the developers of Dark Souls
    • The first trailer for Devil May Cry 5 brings back your favorite platinum-haired demon-hunting family
    • There’s a new Battletoads game on the way
    • Jump Force is an all-star mashup of Dragonball, Naruto, One Piece, and Death Note
    • Ori and the Will of the Wisps is coming in 2019, and it looks magical
    • New Life is Strange game, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, is coming June 26th

  • Sony E3 2018 press conference 5

    • Watch the very first gameplay trailer for The Last of Us Part II
    • Spider-Man for PS4 shows off its open-world web-swinging in new trailers
    • Death Stranding’s gruesome new trailer has babies, toenails, and actual gameplay
    • Watch the first gameplay trailer for PS4 exclusive Ghost of Tsushima
    • The Resident Evil 2 remake is coming on January 25th

  • Nintendo E3 2018 press conference 5

    • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will feature every single character from the series’ history
    • Watch 25 minutes of Nintendo explaining what makes Super Smash Bros. Ultimate different
    • Metroid’s Ridley is coming to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on the Switch
    • Super Mario Party might be the most creative Switch game yet
    • Fortnite is now available on the Nintendo Switch

  • Electronic Arts E3 2018 press conference 5

    • Watch the trailer for Battlefield V, now with a battle royale mode
    • BioWare’s Anthem launches February 22nd, 2019
    • New game Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order will let you play a Jedi
    • Sea of Solitude’s haunting trailer is about humans who turn into monsters
    • Adorable yarn-based platformer Unravel has a sequel, and it’s out today

  • Ubisoft E3 2018 press conference 6

    • Jade makes an ominous return in Beyond Good & Evil 2
    • The Division 2 brings the apocalypse to Washington, DC
    • Ubisoft announces Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, set in ancient Greece
    • Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey steps in with the romance options Anthem lacks
    • Starlink features Nintendo Switch’s first wacky peripheral
    • Star Fox will be a Switch-exclusive playable character in Starlink: Battle for Atlas

  • Bethesda E3 2018 press conference 10

    • Watch the first gameplay trailer for Fallout 76
    • Fallout 76 is an online-only survival game coming out on November 14th, 2018
    • Fallout 76’s multiplayer will let you nuke other people’s bases
    • Fallout 76’s collector’s edition comes with a wearable power armor helmet
    • Bethesda teases The Elder Scrolls VI
    • The next Elder Scrolls game is a beautiful mobile RPG named Blades
    • Bethesda announces Starfield, its long-rumored sci-fi adventure
    • Doom Eternal is a sequel to 2016’s amazing reboot
    • Wolfenstein: Youngblood stars B.J. Blazkowicz’s twin daughters killing Nazis in 1980s Paris
    • Watch 7 minutes of Rage 2’s intense Mad Max-style action

  • Hands-on 9

    • Cyberpunk 2077 is part RPG, part shooter, part GTA-style mayhem
    • Spider-Man on PS4 nails the most important thing: web-swinging
    • Shadow of the Tomb Raider finds Lara Croft deadlier than ever — and reckoning with her power
    • Pokémon: Let’s Go is a simple game improved by its pricey pokéball controller
    • Starlink is like a kid-friendly No Man’s Sky with awesome spaceship toys
    • Five new things we learned about The Division 2 today
    • Destiny 2’s Gambit mode is the kind of innovative, intense fun the game needs right now
    • Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is even more of a traditional RPG than last year’s Origins
    • Sable looks like a Moebius comic and plays like Breath of the Wild

  • Interviews 11

    • Microsoft’s big plan to turn Gears of War into the next Halo
    • The Last of Us Part II will be a tale of revenge, its director says
    • Naughty Dog explains how it made that Last of Us II kiss look so real
    • Why Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was such a daunting game for its creators to build
    • Why Metroid Prime 4 wasn’t at E3 this year
    • EA on the backlash against women in Battlefield V: ‘Accept it or don’t buy the game’
    • Here’s what we know about Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s new battle royale mode
    • How a tweet brought cult classic Metal Wolf Chaos back to life 15 years later
    • Even Kingdom Hearts’ creator gets a little confused about the story sometimes
    • Kingdom Hearts III’s director says he’s putting equal effort into Final Fantasy VII Remake
    • The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit will pick up three years after Life is Strange

  • News 11

    • Fallout 76 sparks more fan anxiety about direction of series
    • Fans think West Virginia urban legend Mothman is in Fallout 76
    • Pokémon: Let’s Go’s pokéball controller costs $50, but it comes with a free Mew
    • Disney says it didn’t censor a gay kiss at E3
    • Fans think PT lives on in new Death Stranding footage
    • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will support GameCube controllers
    • Smash Bros. Ultimate fans can’t stand Snake’s redesigned butt
    • Sony is blocking Fortnite cross-play between PS4 and Nintendo Switch players
    • Fortnite fans are furious at Sony for ruining their handheld dreams
    • Sony issues weak response to Fortnite cross-play controversy on PS4 and Switch
    • Netflix is getting Minecraft: Story Mode later this year

  • Reports & Analysis 7

    • The 10 biggest stories of E3 2018
    • The 25 best game trailers from E3 2018
    • 10 things we learned about Fallout 76
    • Microsoft is getting ready for the next Xbox vs. PlayStation console war
    • Sony’s E3 press conference was a hyper-detailed gross-out fest
    • How Fortnite is transforming the gaming industry
    • Fortnite’s celebrity tournament felt like a trial run for Epic’s grand e-sports ambitions