The Nintendo Switch has generally been lauded as an excellent handheld system, but its top game, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, isn’t without some issues. As Digital Foundry noted when it tested the game, both the Switch and the Wii U often stuttered briefly when running around in the game world. What was odd, according to the DF folks, was that the Switch seemed to have problems in random areas.
Generally speaking, a game that bogs down in one specific area bogs down in that area in a very repeatable fashion. Granted, a badly programmed game may behave less well in this regard, but performance play-throughs are generally considered a reliable way to measure frame rate. If they weren’t, we literally wouldn’t be able to benchmark games (at least, not without an enormous number of play-throughs).
The Switch, however, doesn’t obey that rule, and NintendoLife thinks it knows why. One of its readers, JunkRabbit, claims that turning the Switch’s Autoconnect Wi-Fi feature to “Off” prevents these problems in Breath of the Wild, I am Setsuna, and Fast RMX. He writes:
I remember the Digital Foundry experts to have been puzzled how some of the worst framerate issues seem to occur so randmoly(sic), not area-specific. I believe these are not the fault of the game, but of the Switch trying to periodically auto-connect to WiFi where there is no network available. This is supposed to happen in the background, but it apparently does affect the game(s)…
I then delved into the Internet settings of the Switch, found the “Auto Connect” option and turned it off, and Voilà, no more FPS issues in Setsuna and FAST RMX! And only the “usual” minor ones in BotW in very specific (foliage intensive) areas, no more heavy random ones.
Nintendo hasn’t formally responded yet, but a developer contact at NintendoLife confirmed to that publication that the company is aware of the problem and working on a fix.
This makes fairly reasonable sense, especially on a platform as young as the Switch is. It could be that the Wi-Fi check takes longer than it should, causing the system to stutter briefly, or that the method of scanning for open Wi-Fi connections is set to a high priority level that interrupts the Switch’s rendering and causes noticeable lag. Because the handset scans for Wi-Fi networks every so often, this would explain why people don’t see the same slowdowns twice in the same area.
The Switch’s Wi-Fi is provided via the Broadcom BCM4356, and it’s possible that the driver for the hardware needs to be updated to work more effectively in this configuration.