Tech by VICE

Nintendo Updates the Switch With a Critical Feature for Visually Impaired Gamers

Every major console now comes with the ability to zoom in, a critical feature for many users.

by Matthew Gault
Apr 17 2019, 7:09pm

Image: Shutterstock

Nintendo rolled out the 8.0 update for the Switch on Monday and it's got a few features gamers have been asking for. Switch owners can now transfer save data between systems, sort the icons on their dashboard, and—most importantly, for gamers with visual impairments—zoom in.

Developer Dan Fischbach, who also volunteers his time for the International Game Developers Association Game Accessibility Special Interests Group, thanked Nintendo on Twitter for the update.

“I'm legally blind and can only see out of my right eye,” Fischbach told Motherboard in an email. “The Zoom feature—to me—is a welcome addition to the Switch and it is something I plan to use.”

From here on out, in Switch’s system settings, users just have to turn the zoom feature “on” then double tap the home button to zoom in on the screen. They can then move around the magnifying window and zoom in and out with the X and Y buttons. This small, but impactful, change is the latest in a long (and far from finished) march towards greater accessibility in games.

“Traditionally, if I needed to see something in more detail on a handheld console I'd either have to get better lighting, get a magnifier or, both,” Fischbach said. “As the years moved on backlighting became standard so one battle was won. Screen sizes haven't increased that much but the resolution sure has, causing finer details and smaller text which makes games slowly more inaccessible. The Zoom feature on Switch levels that playing field again, allowing me to read tiny text more easily while in handheld mode.”

Nintendo Switch zoom function
Zoom in action. Screengrab: YouTube/Vicvillon

“Nintendo endeavors to provide products and services that can be enjoyed by everyone. Our products offer a range of accessibility features, such as motion controls, a zoom feature, haptic and audio feedback, and other innovative gameplay options," a statement from Nintendo sent to Motherboard says. "In addition, Nintendo’s software and hardware developers continue to evaluate different technologies to expand this accessibility in current and future products.”

Before this update, Fischbach avoided using the Switch in the handheld mode. “This allows me more of the same freedom you may already have: to play the Switch comfortably anywhere,” he said. “I'm no longer waiting to play certain games on a big TV or monitor.”

Both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 also have zoom features on their consoles, and the Xbox One released a special controller for people with motor disabilities who may have a hard time using a standard controller.

“I have seen change this generation from all three major console manufacturers and it is welcome,” Fischbach said. “Something on the console side of things—such as the Switch's new Zoom feature—allows game accessibility even if the developers of a specific game haven't included accessibility features in their game.”

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Update: This article was updated with comment from Nintendo.