Once, long ago, buying and playing a video game was pretty easy. You bought the disc or cart, stuck it in the console, and hit play. Not so much anymore. Case in point: The not-so-great cloud-streaming-only versions of Kingdom Hearts released on Switch earlier this year recently got an update, and now feature a warning letting you know if it’s not a good time to play the single-player games you already bought. Welcome to the future. It sucks.
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Released yesterday, update 1.03 for all of the Kingdom Heart games on Switch seems to mainly add two features. In Kingdom Hearts 3, players can now choose between two performance options: “Prioritize Performance” and “Prioritize Graphics Quality.” These settings can be selected before you start playing and allow the game to either focus on a more stable framerate or higher-resolution visuals, an option a bunch of games offer these days.
However, the patch’s other new feature is mostly unique to the Switch’s controversial, cloud-streamed Kingdom Hearts games. Now, new messages on the game selection screen warn you of any “server congestion” that the titles might be experiencing. If a game you want to play is currently dealing with busy servers, you can still try playing it, but it likely won’t be a great experience.
While it’s nice to know before playing if a game will work properly, it’s also terrible that this even needed to be added in the first place and a solid example of why so many folks aren’t sold on streaming games via services like Stadia or Amazon Luna. That’s not to say it isn’t a useful or powerful technology; I think what Xbox is doing with its cloud streaming and Game Pass is awesome, letting you play fancy games like Gears 5 on a phone. However, Microsoft also lets you install all of its games, so if the servers are slow or you don’t want to deal with lag, you can just play a native version of the game on your local machine. (This is also very important for game preservation!)
The problem is, unlike with Microsoft’s Game Pass streaming, Square Enix is only selling cloud-streamed versions of the Kingdom Hearts games on Switch. There is no way, currently, to download and install any of them on your actual console. And considering these versions aren’t great even when you can play them, and also charge a premium price, it seems like a bad deal all around. And now, Square Enix may just tell you to not even play the games you already bought? That’s just a very 2022 thing, ain’t it?
I look forward to Square Enix figuring out a way to cram NFTs and blockchain tech into future cloud releases, just to really make this whole experience that much worse. In the meantime, you should just buy Kingdom Hearts games on PS4 or Xbox if you want to play whenever you feel like at a consistent quality level without having to worry about if the servers are “congested.”