Kingdom Hearts likely won’t make it to Switch in Australia. (Image: Square Enix/Disney)
The Nintendo Switch really is great, and has a killer games lineup, but there are plenty of games that require too much processing power or storage capacity to run natively on the console. In most countries around the world, these higher-powered games have a neat workaround: players can still access them via the ‘cloud’.
Cloud gaming is an alternative way of running games, where the processing power comes from remote servers. In the same way that Netflix streams movies, the cloud allows gamers to stream games from these servers, which take the bulk load of the processing needed to run games away from any one device.
Essentially, cloud gaming turns a device into a receiving unit for data being streamed from a secondary location. To access cloud gaming on a particular platform or device, a cloud computing server must be located nearby, or in a place that’s easily accessible via the internet.
In Australia, local cloud servers are extremely rare — and this is why we don’t tend to see local launches for ‘Cloud versions’ of Nintendo Switch games. It’s also why Australian fans are so disappointed by the announcement that the KingdomHearts collection will be cloud-only on the Nintendo Switch.
It’s just the latest in a long line of cloud games Australians miss out on.
To enable cloud gaming in Australia with a strong connection, minimal lag and solid performance, companies must establish local, accessible servers. Microsoft is one company that’s tackled this challenge already, establishing and testing cloud gaming via Microsoft Azure servers in 2020 and launching its official Xbox Cloud Streaming service in Australia in 2021.
Unfortunately, no such leaps appear to have taken place for Nintendo‘s version of the cloud, which currently allows gamers overseas to play high-spec games like Control and Hitman III.
An official reason for not allowing cloud gaming on Nintendo Switch in Australia has never been given, but it’s likely down to Australia being far away from existing cloud servers. Distance means there are no guarantee games will perform lag-free, and there’s no sense in Nintendo launching a game that won’t run well, or at all.
Cloud gaming is also fairly new for Nintendo, and has only really gained popularity over the last two years. It’s likely Australia is not a high priority for its rollout — and that our struggling internet infrastructure may prove to be too difficult and costly to overcome when considering permanent server establishment.
This is also likely to be the reason we never saw streaming service PlayStation Now launch in Australia.
While players are able to grab cloud games off the US version of the Nintendo eShop by creating a region-specific account and using prepaid store credit, that’s not the solution, either. According to tests run by Aussie gaming outlet Vooks, the US servers for these games are just too far away for the Australian network to cope. Games connected this way are either very patchy and laggy, or they don’t work at all.
For cloud gaming to truly work on Nintendo Switch, we need Nintendo to establish local servers. That means providing funding and resources for local sever creation.
As of 2022, it doesn’t seem like Nintendo has plans to rectify the cloud gaming situation for Nintendo Switch users in Australia. The company has yet to publicly comment on plans to establish these servers, despite mounting interest, and it means Australian users will continue missing out on Cloud versions of games as they release.
That said, the establishment of Microsoft and Nvidia cloud streaming is a promising sign for the future. As cloud gaming becomes more mainstream and understood, it’s likely Nintendo will investigate spreading the service to more markets.
Until a decision is made, Australian fans can only watch on as more titles get added to the meaty Nintendo cloud game lineup. The situation could change soon but for now, we can only hold our breath, and wait for more news from Nintendo.
This article has been updated and retimed in light of the release date announcement for the Kingdom Hearts franchise on Nintendo Switch.
Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows.
You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.